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  • Writer's pictureThiago Assuncao de Faria

Valentina Colombo, a Community Manager in Amsterdam

Meet Valentina Colombo, a freelance tech community manager based in Amsterdam who boasts over 10 years of diverse experience in the field. Her expertise spans organizing large-scale developer conferences, building awareness around design tools, creating the first nationwide community for data scientists and AI practitioners in the Netherlands, and nurturing curated CTO networks. In this interview, Valentina shares the pivotal role the tech ecosystem has played in her life, both personally and professionally, highlighting the lessons learned along the way and the transformative power of connecting individuals within the tech ecosystem.


Valentina smiling while holding a cotton candy In a green area with forests behind.
Valentina Colombo

Q0) Congratulations on joining the Lovelace Series, Valentina! Would you mind sharing a bit about why? And any teaser on where you see the site/idea/concept going?


Thank you! It's a pleasure to be part of this project. I've known Thiago for many years (we worked on a community together!), and at the end of 2023, I noticed he was seeking co-founders for the Lovelace Series initiative. Having had a fantastic experience working alongside him and admiring his contributions to the tech ecosystem, I promptly reached out to him. And here we are. The rest is history! 😊


The reason I decided to be involved in this project is my constant search for female stories that inspire me, combined with a passion for community-led initiatives that contribute to helping others. The Lovelace Series encompasses both elements, making it clear to me that I wanted to contribute to its growth alongside the team.


Speaking of growth, this is a young but promising community, and we hope to achieve numerous goals in 2024. While still focused on a series of written stories about diverse female profiles, we envision it evolving into a platform that offers mentoring, events, and job opportunities for all women in tech and aspiring women in tech. I believe giving back is an integral part of growth, and I feel both humbled and grateful to contribute to the Lovelace Series.


Q1) Can you share a bit about your background and your current role?

 

Certainly! I have been actively involved in the tech industry as a community manager since 2013, taking on roles as both an employee and a consultant. The primary focus of my work is to foster vibrant communities by bringing together individuals who share common passions and interests.

My day-to-day responsibilities revolve around engaging members of the communities in which I am involved, and this includes organizing events, providing valuable content, and monetizing community initiatives by securing suitable sponsors.

Currently, I devote a significant amount of time to alphalist, a Germany-based CTO

community that enables technical leaders to get advice, mentorship, networking opportunities, and best practices from fellow CTOs.

 

Q2) How did you first become interested in technology, and what led you to your current role?

 

I have always been passionate about bringing people together, and I consider myself

fortunate to have turned this passion into my profession. My foray into technology began when I realized the transformative power of connecting individuals within the tech ecosystem.

The journey took a specific turn when I had the opportunity to host my first in-person event, bringing together startup founders and investors during my early days at a startup accelerator.

This initial experience in the tech industry revealed the magical dynamics that unfold when individuals with synergies come together, supporting and collaboratively enhancing each other's endeavors.


Having witnessed the power unleashed when people with common ambitions gather in a room to learn from one another, I never looked back and dedicated my professional career to cultivating meaningful relationships that enrich individuals on both a personal and professional level.

 

Q3) What main challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?

 

I don't have formal technical training, nor do I code. Initially, this made me question whether my role in the tech community was feasible, given my lack of technical skills. However, I quickly realized that leveraging my skills in service to the community was key.


A technical community often possesses ample technical knowledge internally but might struggle to shape and present it effectively. This is where my skills have proven valuable. By learning, listening, and asking the right questions, I gained a better understanding of the environment and the knowledge I lacked. Fortunately, I also encountered individuals willing to share their technical expertise, enabling me to organize community activities tailored to their needs.

I always say that the community holds the answer, and I am merely a messenger for it.

Another mantra of mine is that there are people who build things, and then there are those who ensure that what's built reaches the right audience. I proudly belong to the second category, and the people I have met have been instrumental in helping me overcome any obstacle.


Q4) Who or what has been the most significant influence or support in your tech journey?

 

Once again, people. My job is deeply rooted in supporting individuals and providing them with the right tools and resources, and the same applies to me. I have been fortunate enough to have mentors and people I look up to, from whom I endlessly learn.

To this day, attending community events continues to inspire me, helping me become a better professional in my field and improving my job performance.

It couldn't be otherwise – I am a big fan of knowledge sharing, togetherness, and learning with and from others, whether it's a mentor, a community of community managers (yes, that's a thing!), or a piece of feedback from a community member. To me, it all comes down to people.

 

Q5) How have you seen diversity and inclusion evolve in the tech industry throughout your career?

 

Over the years, I have witnessed encouraging shifts in the tech industry's approach to diversity and inclusion. Once again, I firmly believe that communities play a pivotal role in driving this positive transformation. Whether it's a community focused on women or one dedicated to supporting underrepresented groups, the beauty of communities lies in their diverse and multifaceted nature. They are capable of amplifying and giving voice to those who need it, serving a broader purpose by bringing people together.

Communities also function as architects of inclusivity, welcoming individuals regardless of their religion, ethnicity, or personal beliefs. The universal thread is a common passion, allowing differences to gracefully fade away while celebrating unique identities.

Q6) How do you manage the work-life balance in the tech industry?

 

As I always say, the community never sleeps! Working with and for people can be emotionally taxing, and this job often blurs the lines between professional and personal relationships. Mastering work-life balance in my professional career has been an evolving process, definitely far from perfect, especially in the consultancy field, where the demands can be relentless, or during the event season, when lots of community activities are planned.

Recently, I have adopted a new trick: dedicating equal time to my personal and professional life. Engaging in hobbies completely unrelated to my job has rejuvenated me and sparked creativity.

Simultaneously, I have invested time in my mental health through meditation. This practice grounds me, both as a human being and a professional, and equips me with valuable tools to maintain balance during hectic periods throughout the year.

 

Q7) What skills do you believe are most important in today's tech world?

 

Adaptability, problem-solving, and effective communication. While technical skills remain essential, the ability to collaborate, learn rapidly, and articulate complex ideas to diverse audiences is equally vital. Mastering a variety of soft skills not only enables you to use your existing skills effectively but also fosters consistent development and growth over time.


Q8) Can you share a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career? 

 

I have had lots of cool moments in my career, but one I really love is from when I worked as a Community & Event Manager at a popular coding academy in Amsterdam. Some of the people I met along the way have become dear friends, but the true accomplishment lies in the community's impact on the students.


Individuals from diverse professional backgrounds joined the academy to learn to code and train to become developers in just eight weeks. Each day, students not only learned from trained professors but also actively participated in various community activities.

These included meetings with alumni, free coding workshops to delve deeper into specific technologies, and networking events with tech companies to explore employment opportunities after completing the academy. Many alumni not only forged valuable connections at these events but also initiated their tech careers, landing their first jobs as developers.


To this day, this remains one of the most powerful examples of community's transformative impact, and it fills me with pride to have contributed positively to the lives of these individuals.

 

Q9) What are your future goals, and where do you see the tech industry heading in the next few years?

 

My future goals involve actively supporting communities that drive cutting-edge technologies, as well as those dedicated to championing Tech For Good. I am fueled by the ambition to both advance and give back at the same time.

 

Q10) What advice would you give to other women considering a career in tech?

Never underestimate your capabilities. The tech industry thrives on diverse voices, and unique perspectives contribute immensely to innovation, growth, and progress. It all starts with a single step, and I always like to think that there’s an invisible group of people pushing us in the right direction—women who have been there before us and understand our fears and doubts.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, reach out, and seek to connect with those who have walked the path before you.

Sharing and learning from each other is crucial; this mindful determination backed by collective knowledge will propel you faster, allowing you to get where you are going.


Q11) Let's continue the flow... who would you like to read on the Lovelace Series?

 

I would love to hear from my dear friend Vanessa Ho, Engineering Manager at IKEA, who

has a truly inspiring story and is one of the women in tech I look up to.

 

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