Mónica Retamal

Democratizing technology

Facilitating access, particularly for women, into quality work spaces granted by the technological sector and achieving the inclusion of computer programming in the Chilean school curriculum are the principal campaigns that Mónica Retamal has been fighting for over the last 2 years since founding her first social enterprise, Fundación Kodea.  As a technological business woman for 20 years, Mónica Retamal is convinced that Chile has all the necessary conditions required to take advantage of the digital revolution, end their dependence on commodities and make a solid contribution to the knowledge economy through the massification of digital skills such as programming.

In the mid-90’s Mónica Retamal began her professional career as a journalist, but a life-changing opportunity soon presented itself: she began to work for a technological company where she visualized the world to come.

After two years as an employee, the Universidad Diego Portales communications graduate had a radical career change.  Mónica Retamal decided to go independent and dedicate herself to consulting and developing multiple websites, contributing towards defining online strategies for a number of Chilean companies.

In 2008, after fusing her business with another Chilean company, Mónica Retamal founded Ki Teknology alongside 3 partners and directed their commercial strategy and internationalization to the USA.  In 2012 Ki Teknology signed an agreement with Nisum Technologies, a North American company based in California.  The aim of the agreement was to create a development center with an initial focus on making software in Chile for the USA, therefore satisfying demand from American clientele belonging to the Fortune 500 and among the 50 largest retailers in the world.

Today, Nisum Chile has over 250 employees and during her last executive post -which she left a couple of months ago- Mónica Retamal worked on the development of their value proposition in the national market to support large Chilean companies in the digital transformation process.  Currently, Mónica Retamal is a Nisum stockholder and consultant for the board of directors, although she is fully occupied launching Kodea initiatives.

Kodea’s mission statement

Since its creation, the chief focus at Kodea has been supporting technological skills education in schools.  With this aim in mind, Mónica Retamal became the Chilean ambassador for the international initiative “Hour of Code” which has had impressive achievements.  Hour of Code seeks to promote teaching programming to children and young people through interactive, simple tutorials which aim to discredit the myth that programming is exclusively for geniuses and instead communicationally install the idea that everyone can learn how to programme.

Between 2015 and 2016 over 250 thousand children have taken part in an Hour of Code in Chile and in 2017 Kodea is training 6 thousand teachers in computational thinking throughout the country.  “Chile needs to develop and support digital and technological skills in young people.  It is urgent that the country generates an environment which enables children to become interested in the STEM (science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and in particular computational thinking.  This should be a universal crusade, as it is the only way in which future generations of Chileans will be able to make a solid contribution to a knowledge society”, states Mónica Retamal, in an opinion piece published in Kodea’s portal.

The other area the foundation explores is the preparation of technological human capital through promotion of training in technological occupations.  In September 2017 the second generation of Mujeres Programadoras (female programmers) graduated, an initiative which trains women between the ages of 25 and 40 in computer code with the aim to end stereotypes related to women’s ability to work in the industry.  Over 1000 women signed up over the two versions of the initiative and in both cases over 70 women were trained over 4 months and the majority went on to find good jobs in the IT industry and their lives were improved thanks to the programme.  Today, this project has become a kickoff and a benchmark for success provoking a series of public policies being announced which will strengthen and increase support for talent within the national technological industry.

Mónica Retamal is an active trade union participant and has worked closely with the exportation boards of associations in order to allow small and medium technological businesses to export their services, coordinating a permanent dialogue between companies in this sector, entities and government institutions.  She has received quite a number of awards.  In 2015 she won the “Mujer en Tecnología” (Female in Technology) from Chiletec, in 2016 she won the “Servicios de Exportación” (Exportation Services) prize from SOFOFA, and the “Premio 100 mujeres líderes, categoría Social” (100 female leaders, social category) from El Mercurio.  In 2017 she was shortlisted by Revista Caras as one of the 16 most influential women in Chile and has just won an Effie for the Hour of Code campaign, in the social campaign category.