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Life is what you make of it

Published January 5 2022
Alexandra Sánchez Luna, Lead of the Product Practice
Alexandra Sánchez Luna
Lead of the Product Practice
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My journey to empowerment

 I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and I began studying French at age 13 through a program offered by Alliances Française, which I attended every Saturday. By the age of 17, I had studied abroad twice and had earned my first degree in French. However, living in Venezuela, I had very little opportunity to speak French in my day-to-day life. I went on to study electrical engineering in Caracas, with a passion for technology and armed with a forward-looking vision of combining those skills with the business world. Never could I have imagined back then that my passion for French, combined with my passion for technology, would lead me to Quebec, and to the Alithya family.

Empowering women

As a woman, my experience in Venezuela studying electrical engineering prepared me for a male-dominated IT landscape, where I have embraced the challenges and have felt quite comfortable. To women aspiring to work in the field, or who are already working in IT, I would say that it is very important to remain confident, to keep your priorities clear, and to never allow yourself to be put at a disadvantage. Sometimes the barriers are within ourselves, and as mothers, as women, establishing your boundaries will help you to move forward. I stand up for what I believe, what I want, and what I want to accomplish every day. The opportunities are out there, and women should embrace them.

That being said, I felt that it was very important for me to become involved with Alithya’s Women in Leadership program, and I currently serve as co-chair of the WIL committee for English Canada. More women are needed in order to contribute to better workplace diversity, which I strongly believe will produce better results. I want to help empower those women and to provide them with the tools they need to follow a different path. Helping women to pursue that path, and to achieve their loftiest goals, would really make my day. I want women to understand that they can have a family and a professional career at the same time, and to know that they can enjoy a healthy work-life balance while helping to further digital transformation in the world.

My bold adventure

I graduated in 2006 and went on to pursue an MBA while working in Venezuela’s oil industry. Five years later, an industry slowdown allowed me to take a short sabbatical to join a friend working in the Business Intelligence field for a telecom company. I accepted a short contract that positioned me as a link between the development team and the client, learning the ropes of business solutions and product development. That was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I went on to accept a permanent position as a business analyst developing digital solutions.

As the political climate in Venezuela became fragile, I began to look at opportunities outside of the country to pursue a more stable life. Despite my passion for learning French at a young age, I actually knew very little about Canada or the Province of Quebec. As I began to learn more, I was inspired by the thought of actually putting my linguistic skills to use! As a young, French-speaking professional, I was accepted to become a permanent resident through Quebec immigration programs, and I arrived in Canada in 2013. As someone focused on maintaining a clear vision for both my personal life and my career, I was committed to being a Canadian citizen, and to making Quebec my new home. I adapted quickly to the Québecoise language and culture, and I realized that the choice I had made at age 13 had provided me with a whole new world of opportunities. I also reflected gratefully on the full support that my parents had provided me with, and I am so happy to have them here with me now after they became Canadian Permanent Residents.

As I built up my LinkedIn profile, I was focused on leveraging my experience in project management and product development. I was already working on the product side of things, and that opened the door to new Product Manager and Product Owner opportunities.

A golden opportunity

In 2019, I gravitated to Alithya and teamed up with Julien Jarles to pursue the ambitious goal of developing a new product practice. I joined the company as an Agile & Product Coach, and we embarked on a journey to develop something that I embraced as an opportunity to help create something new. As things began to unfold, the practice evolved further than I could have imagined, and we in December 2019 we were able to add the first Product Owner to the team. Within 6 months of doing so, that position was held by 8 people. In collaboration with Directors, Coaches, Product Owners, and Scrum Masters, I then became involved in creating new product offers, new training programs, new processes, new structures, and new recruitment pathways. I still held the position of Product Coach when we were forced to transition to remote working.

In June 2020, I was asked to lead the Product Practice. It helped that we were already a very close-knit group, because becoming a new manager in such unprecedented circumstances was a big challenge. Nevertheless, with the support of amazing colleagues, we were able to overcome the challenges and to seize new opportunities, and the team has since grown to include more than 30 professionals in three major areas: Product Management, Product Ownership, and Business Analysis. I have also learned how to navigate this unprecedented reality, and I have cherished the opportunity that it has provided me with to spend more time with my family. As difficult as this period has been, it has provided me with a work-life balance that has enabled me to mature as a mother and a manager at the same time.

A debt of gratitude

At Alithya, I love the fact that nothing remains linear. New acquisitions and new challenges enable me to push my boundaries and to find myself in ways that being written in stone would not have allowed. I think that my commitment is reflected in my work in the Product Practice, and I am working hard to ensure that the practice evolves in ways that inspire my team and rise to the needs of Alithya’s ever-growing business.

I will always love my native Venezuela, and I appreciate all that it gave me. But I am someone who is determined to always finish what I start, and I have never looked back or regretted my decision. I am grateful for the personal and professional opportunities that Quebec and Canada have provided me with…except for winter!