Office Hours: Over 2,500 women have graduated from our Web Development and UX bootcamp in Latin America. I’m Mariana Costa Checa. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Mariana Costa Checa and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Laboratoria, where we are working to shape a more diverse, inclusive and competitive digital economy in Latin America that can create opportunities for every woman to develop her potential.

When I came back home to Peru in 2014, I was surprised to see how few women there were in the Peruvian tech ecosystem. Since then, I’ve made it my mission to empower women who dream of a better future to start and grow transformative careers in technology.

We provide an immersive six-month bootcamp in technical and life skills for women who have not been able to start a professional career yet. After the program, we connect our students with jobs to kick-start their careers and foster a strong community of alumnae who support each other’s growth as future leaders of the tech sector.

Our initiative has gained widespread recognition, receiving praise from Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama, among others.

Before launching Laboratoria, I worked in international development for many years.

During my spare time I love to spend time with my kids! I have three of them - 6, 3 and 7 months - so no spare time, really 😂. I love being their mom, and I’m passionate about finding ways to make ambitious careers compatible with family life. I also love to walk and run in Lima’s boardwalk. Although it's a bit gray in winter, I love living by the ocean.

Ask me anything about breaking into tech, LatAm’s tech talent, social entrepreneurship, the future of edtech, being a mom and an entrepreneur, or anything else!

ElphaStaff's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much for joining us @marianacostacheca!Elphas – please ask @marianacostacheca your questions before Friday, July 8th. @marianacostacheca may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
milagrandes's profile thumbnail
Hello Mariana, I love your story! It's very inspiring and we are neighbors! I'm Ecuadorian. My question is a bit awkward. And may not be that clear for people outside the region. What inspired you to stay and fight for the well-being of your country? Was there a moment, that inspired you to make the decision to stay in Peru and be an agent of change?
marianacostacheca's profile thumbnail
Hi Mila!! I love your question as this has been a guiding principle throughout my life. Growing up in a privileged context in a country with profound inequalities and challenges has defined who I am in many ways. I moved abroad when I was 18 and spend +9 years living in the UK and US and while I loved my time there, I always felt a profound commitment to return and try and somehow give back. After finishing my masters program I decided it was time to give it a try, and although it has not always been easy, and I am so happy I moved back. We need tons of talented people in Latam invested in building a better future for our region!
milagrandes's profile thumbnail
Thank you for your reply, Mariana!Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle, and it is a privilege to even have options to consider other countries. Thank you for staying!
Josefina's profile thumbnail
Hi Mariana! Thank you for offering your time to do this! I've been a fan of you and what you've accomplished with Laboratoria for some time now :) My questions are: 1. What have you found to be the main obstacle or entry barrier to tech for women in Peru?2. As an entrepreneurial mom, what has worked for you in terms of making an ambitious career compatible with family life?3. What is your favourite restaurant in Lima? I have a cousin who just moved there and is constantly baiting us to visit with pictures of food she's eating – not that there's a lack of reasons to go to Peru! It's definitely at the top of my list of places to travel to.Thanks again! <3
marianacostacheca's profile thumbnail
Thank you Josefina!! 1. I think it is the profound stereotypes and the not particularly welcoming learning environments that have kept women away from pursuing studies in STEM fields. Most traditional education providers have made little effort to attract women and make diversity and inclusion a real priority. 2. Uff, this is a big one! It is incredibly challenging to thrive in both worlds. I think three things have been key for me. First, I have a partner willing to learn (and unlearn) with me so that we can truly share the load. Second, I have a full-time nanny that is amazing and has enabled me to fully focus on my job 9-5 since I became a mom. Third, at Laboratoria we have build a company culture that understands that parenthood is part of work life as well, and is flexible to accommodate to the needs all of us raising families have.3. Peruvian food is the best in the world, for real!!! Not only because I'm Peruvian 🙈. I would recommend El Canta Ranita in Barranco. It is inside a market and serves the best seafood. Come visit!!!
Josefina's profile thumbnail
Thanks for these great insights, Mariana! Taking note of your Peru rec's for when I visit! :)
emilypatterson's profile thumbnail
Hi! This is so inspiring! I recently started a product manager incubator program with a similar mission (inthelabpm.com) and I have been struggling with the "job connections" piece you mentioned. Do you have any advice for approaching hiring managers or HR folks to make those connections?Thank you for all you do! Latinas are lagging so far behind in tech, it's encouraging to see this ❤️
marianacostacheca's profile thumbnail
Thank you Emily! In the Lab looks great!! I would say a few things have helped us build great relationships with hiring companies. 1) We've been good at PR to share more about our work, impact and value proposition in every market where we operate. This has helped us become a known player when it comes to tech talent (in some countries more than in others), and we've made a consistent effort to build our brand in this space. Many many companies come to us directly to hire. 2) We've iterated multiple times our value proposition for companies, developing services that include talent placement but go beyond. This has given us flexibility to have multiple ways of engaging with companies and grow our network. 3) We have a business development team fully focused on nurturing our partnership with key hiring companies, on building a solid content strategy to attract new leads, and on constantly improving our offer.4) Finally, scale has helped! With +2,000 developers placed in the market, our graduates have been the best proof of the value we create. They have done amazing and encouraged their companies to rehire :)
DaniellaGennaro's profile thumbnail
@marianacostacheca hi Mariana! Thank you for sharing your passion with Laboratoria! I am excited for a new role I'm about to start in the tech internal consulting/strategy space for a global hardware company. My question is - there is plenty of "let me know if you have any questions help" available, but I don't feel that there's a support system in place where I can truly learn. How do you think I am able to start this or express the need for this?
marianacostacheca's profile thumbnail
Congrats Daniella! Within your company, I would suggest being super explicit with your manager about your learning aspirations. Can she/he help you? Can you get a mentor? Can you access any sort of learning credits to study somewhere you like?Then, outside your company, I would really encourage you to meet others with similar experiences and interests and build your tribe! It is such a pleasure to join professionally in the company of others :)
Catherin3's profile thumbnail
Hola Mariana,So happy to read your story and hear about Laboratoria. I'm from Costa Rica and this is truly inspiring. Here are some questions:- What was it like to start a business that focuses more in Latin America? Most startups and business are focused in the USA market and tweak a little bit for the other markets.- Can you talk about how your initiative has gained widespread recognition? I'm so happy to read that people like Barack Obama and Mark Z have praised all the amazing work that you do.- Can you talk about the different ways you have found to make ambitious careers compatible with family life? Thanks for answering our questions.
marianacostacheca's profile thumbnail
Thank you Catherine!!! 1) I have loved starting my company in Latin America and building something that truly addresses our pains here. I'd actually love to open our programs to the Latino community in the US some day, and go through the typical journey the other way around :)2) I think luck has played a major role here! But it has found us prepared. We were lucky to start Laboratoria at a time where bootcamps and the diversity in tech discussion were in their early days. This meant we were novel in many ways. Then, we worked really hard to have solid results, and by some major doses of luck ended up in the eyes of some really great people!3) Besides from my response on the earlier thread by Josefina, I would mention a few things. 1) Being patient. I have become really patient both at home and at work (at least much more than I used to be!). Not every week I get to be the mom or the CEO I aspire to be, and that is OK. 2) Putting some limits. I really try not to work after 5.30pm, and rarely work on weekends. I try to be as efficient as I can be during the day, because my kids need me at night. 3) Finding a great support group and being open about my aspirations and fears. I don't feel alone in this journey, and that makes it so much better.
Catherin3's profile thumbnail
Such great lessons here. Thank you Mariana.