Passionate, innovative, determined, inspiring. These are words people have used to describe UW-Eau Claire alumna Beatris Mendez-Gandica. Mendez-Gandica graduated from UW-Eau Claire in the spring of 2013, but her journey to success started well before then.
Beatris was born in San Cristobal, Venezuela, a city in the Andes Mountains. When Beatris was 12, she moved to Miami before returning to Venezuela and graduating with a international baccalaureate diploma. Beatris received dozens of scholarships for either academics or basketball. After a long process of weighing her options and receiving advice from her aunt, she decided to attend UW-Eau Claire.
While attending UW-Eau Claire, Beatris got to experience a variety of high-impact practices. She participated in study abroad by traveling to China for a semester. She also did collaborative research in India, where she studied the impact of business process outsourcing and its effects on culture, customs and lifestyle. In addition to study abroad, Beatris was active in the Blugold Beginnings program.
“Blugold Beginnings was one of my favorite things at UW-Eau Claire” Beatris said. “I really enjoyed talking to kids about my life experiences.”
Beatris would visit a variety of elementary and middle schools in the Chippewa Valley to teach young students about the Venezuelan culture.
After graduating from UW-Eau Claire with a management information systems and international business degree, Beatris moved to Seattle, where she began working for Microsoft as a program manager. In addition to her full-time job for one of the largest technology companies in the world, Beatris continues to be a lifelong learner.
“At Microsoft we have this idea of a growth mindset," Beatris said. "This means that you can always be learning. Whether it is just sharpening your skills in an area of your expertise or learning a completely new concept. I always encourage people to keep learning even after graduation.”
Beatris has taken a variety of online professional development courses, such as business strategy and financial acumen, executive education and business model innovation. She also is pursuing a master’s degree in management information systems from the University of Arizona, which she will complete in the spring of 2018.
Beatris is not only dedicated to her work and education, she is passionate about inspiring the next generation to get involved in the STEM fields, especially women.
“I want to inspire every girl out there and show that IT is super fun,” Beatris says. “Science and technology are great fields of work. There are a lot of opportunities in this field, and there are no limitations. Technology has no barriers; you can code and configure whatever you like or want. It is like magic, but real.”
Beatris is involved in multiple organizations, such as the National Center for Women & Information Technology and its TECHNOLOchicas 2.0 campaign. She also travels around the country to speak at conferences at various Microsoft campuses and events.
Why is she so involved in these organizations? For Beatris, it is tremendously important that more women join the STEM fields. Her personal goal, that mirrors goals of the NCWIT is to “increase the meaningful participation of all women — at the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, age, sexual orientation and disability status — in the field of computing, particularly in terms of innovation and development.”
Beatris believes these organizations give women the empowerment to fulfill this goal.
“This empowerment will drive young women to create great things in the future through the use of science and technology,” Beatris said. “Anyone can do anything as long as they are willing to learn and open their mind up to new experiences as well as overcome their fears and intimidation.”
If you talk to any of Beatris' colleagues, you get a sense of how devoted and motivated Beatris is to reaching these goals. Dr. Jean Pratt, information systems professor at UW-Eau Claire, describes Beatris as “a unique combination of passion and intellect. Her heartfelt laughter and tears are matched only by her determination and discipline to do what is necessary to succeed and help those around her succeed.”
Sonali Gururaja, principal engineering manager at Microsoft, said, “Beatris is a role model for recruiting and mentoring young women. She has this great ability to connect with people. To me she is very inspirational; I draw energy from her.”
Lastly Dr. Judy Sims, professor emerita of communication and journalism, was impressed with Mendez-Gandica’s decision to enhance her education with international cultural immersion and study abroad experiences in Germany, India, and China. Sims described Beatris, a student of intercultural communication, as “a responsible communicator, smart, culturally intelligent, respectful, self-motivated, determined, and capable . . . a technologically advanced young woman with a developed understanding of international business.”
Beatris is a great role model for anyone looking to get into the STEM field. She is someone who is not only passionate about what she does, she is also passionate about helping others move forward. From her time at UW-Eau Claire working with Blugold Beginnings to now working with a variety of organizations that empower a younger generation of women, Beatris truly lives out her passion and mission one day at a time.
To learn more about Beatris and her involvement in organizations such as the TECHNOLOchicas campaign, check out the video above that highlights her accomplishments.