Being a pioneer is nothing new to Sofia Palamarchuk. Her journey to Silicon Valley started in Montevideo, Uruguay when she joined an up and coming company called Abstracta as a performance tester. She was their ninth employee and the second woman they hired. In 2017 she was made a partner and ultimately joined the board of Abstracta as its first female executive director in January 2018.
Her roots in performance testing have stood her in good stead. “I learned a lot from those years as a performance tester and consultant; it was super intense! I was involved in several big projects for companies and banks in Uruguay. At the beginning of 2014, I began to make the transition to the sales team, and soon after I was thinking about expanding our footprint in a new market.”
Palamarchuk saw the opportunity for expanding the business beyond Uruguay. “Venturing into business outside of Uruguay, thinking that the sea of startups in San Francisco would be interested in partnering with us, was something Abstracta founders and I mutually agreed on,” she said.
In November 2014 she took her first solo work trip to Silicon Valley and saw the need for someone in Abstracta to move there. “We knew even then that to achieve our goals, we had to be here. There is no place like the Valley if your customers are tech companies,” she said.
After two years of attending conferences, meet-ups and hundreds of meetings in the Bay Area, in March 2017 she moved permanently to San Francisco.
During the last five years, Palamarchuk’s role in Abstracta has evolved. “Expanding the company in a brand-new market for us was like building a new startup. I was the CEO in the US and was wearing many hats, from taking care of all sales and marketing operations, to customer success, managing the first projects and payments. It was challenging but looking back, I know that today I wouldn’t be leading the strategy at a new startup – Monkop – if it wasn’t for those years being in the trenches.”
Palamarchuk says one of the biggest differences between working in Uruguay and in San Francisco is the ability to build confidence faster. Abstracta focuses on software testing and quality engineering services, and as consultants, they need to earn customers’ trust first. “It is not possible to offer a free trial. What we do is to bring quality into the development process, so they have to trust that we are capable of that,” she said.
The move has also enacted change in Palamarchuk herself as an entrepreneur. “While living in Silicon Valley, I have access to many networking and learning opportunities and the chance to meet face-to-face with world-class entrepreneurs and executives. I was able to build a network of friends and mentors that pushed me higher and I wouldn’t have been able to do so if I was living somewhere else,” she added.
Palamarchuk says her greatest lesson is that if you give your best every day, the opportunities will be there, and you have to be willing to take them. “I never imagined I would be where I am today. My life changed drastically in the last 5 years.” A believer in the idea that that everything happens in the right time for a reason, Palamarchuk says the only thing she would have changed is moving to the Bay Area earlier. “There are a lot of things I’ve learned related to my industry and my current role that I wished I had learnt before.”
Palamarchuk’s hope is to see growth in the number of Latinxs founders and VCs making their mark in the US. “I’m hopeful that in the next years we will see a rise in our participation in the tech industry. Being a Latina in tech in Silicon Valley – we are few – I have been invited to give different talks. This year I want to take on more opportunities in which I can share my story and encourage more girls and young women to study a career in STEM.