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Women in Leadership
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Women in Leadership: Eliana Lindner

Eli Lindner is a woman of soft sciences living in a world of code, branches, and releases. But far from discouraging her, the adventure of facing this new world motivated her from the very beginning of her Avature journey, which dates back to 2014, when she joined the company as Translations Manager.

In an industry that was new to her, she learned to speak a new language, that of software development, and this allowed her to build a team from scratch and maximize its scope and impact to contribute to the growth of Avature and—what she finds even more enriching—the growth of the people who work with her every day.

In this interview, we go over her professional journey, how her curiosity and determination led her to become a manager, what she finds more enjoyable yet challenging about the role, and the principles that guide her leadership style: empathetic, supportive, and focused on people.


How did your Avature story start?

It started 10 years ago. At that point, I was working as an executive assistant for a company that provided coaching, leadership, and team building workshops. I was also working as a freelance translator and I enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of that job.

But then a colleague referred me to Avature and I started interviewing for the Translations Manager position. The role really caught my attention: I had to apply all my translation knowledge and skills to build a team from scratch, taking into account what the company needed. That was new to me, very different from what I had been doing so far, and as the curious person I am, the challenge got me in.

So you already started your journey here in a leadership position, right?

Well, at first, I didn’t see it as leadership, because I was technically a manager, but the team was just me. I took care of our translation process, which meant handling the requests to translate our code and some commercial documents into new languages. But with time, the team started growing in scope and impact, gaining more visibility across the company, and I worked proactively to not only take care of the translation process, but to analyze and enhance it. So to achieve new goals, we eventually needed to hire more people and then I became their manager.

At that point, did you have any previous experience leading a team?

I hadn’t worked as a manager before, so at that moment I thought it was all new to me. But now that I look at my journey in retrospect, I see that my first experience in leadership was actually as an English teacher. Teaching means working very close to people, supporting them as they grow, spotting challenges and opportunities. And that’s what leading is about too. It’s not about bossing around, but supporting and guiding people as they grow. In that sense, teaching helped me build the skills and capabilities to become the leader I am today.

Now that you’ve been a leader for almost a decade, what do you enjoy the most about it?

If I had to think of what I enjoy the most about my day to day, it’s that moment when someone new joins the team and you have to teach them what you know, that pedagogical side of the role. I found that it was very helpful to analyze my own learning process to understand the challenges I faced and be able to anticipate them and facilitate the learning experience of others. You can use your own experience to boost the knowledge transferring process, but always keeping in mind what each person needs.

Also, over the years, I learned to read people to understand their unique needs, and that’s something I truly enjoy too. My one-on-one meetings with my team members are all about paying attention to what they enjoy the most, what makes them happy, and helping them work towards that goal. I built the Translations team from scratch and that meant gradually understanding what type of professional profile Avature needed for the team but, at the same time, what those people wanted for their careers—something I later kept putting into practice when I took on the role of manager for the Technical Writing team too. To work for these two things to fit together and bloom is truly gratifying. When you are happy with your work, you can achieve more than you can even imagine. And contributing to that feels amazing.

At this point in your career, what would you say is the key to becoming a good leader?

Well, I’ve always been very sensitive to what the people around me are going through and I believe this is key for leadership. I don’t see my role only as making sure things are getting done, but also as paying attention to how people want to grow, what they’re finding hard to deal with, and how we can tackle it. Those are the kinds of conversations that make my day.

I think there’s actually no other way to lead than accompanying, empathizing, sharing, giving space for people to bring questions, being accessible and open, and learning to anticipate what they may need and the challenges they’d probably find along the way. This makes the engagement to their tasks, the team, and the company's vision stronger. And it’s so satisfying to share the process as they overcome challenges and become better versions of themselves. After all these years, I look back at the team I built and see people happy with their paths, and that means the world to me. It’s something I’m both thankful and proud of.

You're now a senior manager leading two teams to make them grow. What do you look for when you hire new team members?

What I always look for is engaged professionals who are eager to learn and who can also bring new perspectives to the table. I think over the years I developed a great skill to identify personalities and see the potential in people, and I use that skill in my favor when I interview candidates to join my teams. I don’t look for people who are “just like me”, but on the contrary, I want people who have different skills and interests and who can add something new to the team. I have to say I was very lucky with the people who worked with me throughout these years.

Part of your senior manager role involves guiding new leaders through their own paths. How do you find that responsibility?

I’m thrilled about sharing my own leadership experience and approach with other leaders! I want new managers to follow a people-centric approach, to be open and receptive to feedback, and to learn from those they’re surrounded by and their unique perspectives. I believe that’s the best way to be a manager and I work to transmit that mindset to new leaders.

Looking at the context in which you built your career, what challenges have you faced as a woman in the software industry and how did you overcome them?

I’ve never felt uncomfortable being a woman in any job. I didn’t feel it conditioned my path, or that I had to make an extra effort to make my voice heard. But I do see that my own experience is probably influenced by the fact that I grew up in an environment full of strong, independent women.

I believe my challenge in the industry had more to do with my academic and professional background. I came from soft sciences and humanities, and one day I found myself building a path in a much more hardcore environment, surrounded by code and merges and releases—all of which was new to me. I had to ask lots of questions to subject matter experts (most of them men) in a context that was out of my comfort zone. I made an effort to overcome those moments in which I felt uncomfortable, but the real challenge was to remain true to myself in the process. In that sense, I was lucky never to come across anyone at Avature who told me I should change who I was. In fact, it was the other way around: I take pride in saying that I positively influenced many people on the way!

And this is one of the experiences I try to pass on to my teams, because what most of us have in common is that we do not come from the software industry. So I encourage them to always ask many questions, to never feel ashamed of not knowing or not being familiarized with technical things. And I believe that building these bridges is a key part of my role.

It’s worth mentioning that the people who work with me usually come from soft sciences, where most of the people are women. So that means that making my teams grow is equal to more women joining the software world, which makes me feel proud.

You mentioned that you were raised in an environment full of strong women. Who would you say were the female mentors in your career?

Well, from a personal perspective, my mom is my role model, because she taught me to be independent and to face up to the challenges life puts on your way.

In a professional regard, I’m not sure if I had specific mentors or role models, but I do believe that my friends pretty much filled that role for me. Throughout the different moments in our lives, we talked about our roles in the different worlds we were part of, how more or less normalized it was for women to be in leadership positions in each of them, or the challenges we all faced in spite of our different careers. We also discussed how hard it becomes sometimes to trust your own self and hunch, and how relevant it is not to underestimate your own opinion and perspective. How important it is to pay attention to spot sexist behavior and never let it dim your light. Even though we work in different industries, we always share our experiences and what we’re going through while we grow together, and that support is priceless.

Now looking into what’s to come for your professional life, how would you say you’d like to keep growing?

Oh, I really don’t know! I never in my life imagined working in the role I work now, or that I would enjoy so much building teams and helping people grow and achieve their goals. Sometimes it happens to us managers that we end up the day feeling we didn’t do anything, because we didn’t close a case or got “hard” stuff done. But if we look at it from a broader perspective, when the people around us are happy with their work and growing, and the huge impact this has on the quality of the product we build, that means we’re doing a lot. And I find that immensely gratifying. I can say that’s definitely something I want to continue doing in the future—helping people grow and inspiring them.

To wrap up, what advice would you give other women who want to pursue a leadership path?

My advice is to be brave. To ask a hundred questions. Because that’s the only way to learn and grow, and because we should never be afraid of showing that we’re vulnerable. But also, to be confident about their own skills and capabilities. Remember that you’re in the place in which you are right now because you earned it and because you deserve it.

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