Interview with Sandra Ponce de León
Sandra has a broad marketing background that crosses consumer and business markets. Her expertise spans SaaS, ad-tech, social business, consumer mobile and AI. She is a strategic marketer with an influential and extensive network. Sandra's long history in Silicon Valley has enabled her to forge friendships and business relationships with the industry's top tech leaders and influencers. Her expansive marketing toolkit includes brand development, GTM, acquisition and retention. She has led corporate marketing strategy, demand generation and product marketing activities that have fueled company growth and trajectories.
Sandra's side hustles include the Popping the Bubbl podcast
, SF New Tech, SF's long running tech event and actively contributing content to #LatinaGeeks.
Hello Sandra, could you please introduce your work as a Strategic Advisor and some of the recent projects you've completed with your clients?
Hi, my name is Sandra Ponce De León and I'm a strategic advisor here in Silicon Valley. And I work with companies here and globally and a variety of different tech fields like IOT, A.I., Blockchain and innovation, and primarily I help companies with their marketing strategies. Some of the clients I've worked with in the recent past include a company called Bruviti which is an IOT platform that helps smart appliance manufacturers service their clients faster through predictive analytics and also provide a better customer experience. I've also worked with Ben Bartlett recently who is the vice mayor of Berkeley and he's running the city of Berkeley's first ICO which is an initial coin offering and company called Nori which is looking to reverse climate change by putting a carbon removal marketplace on the blockchain. And right now I'm working with a company called LiftIgniter which is a real-time personalization platform that leverages machine learning and a technology very similar to what YouTube is using to provide personalised recommendations in their videos. But leveraging that for companies that are media companies, or e-commerce companies and CPG brands to provide personalised experiences and results to their customers that are visiting their site and really providing a true personalised end to end customer experience. The type of work that I do for companies is all marketing strategy developing integrated marketing strategies that start with positioning and messaging to content and social media strategies as well as growth and demand generation.
As a Strategic Advisor, you have to be up-to-date on all of the trends and innovations affecting the SaaS, ad-tech, social business, consumer mobile and AI ecosystems. How do you stay up to date on the latest trends affecting your field?
The question is how do I stay up to date on all the latest trends in technology. And the fact is that I call myself a 'tech passionista' for a reason and that's because I love learning about emerging technology trends and I happen to live in a place that really is one of the epicentres of where all of this innovation is happening so it's very exciting to be here. I'm very fortunate in that I'm able to interact and meet entrepreneurs that are creating amazing new technologies that are going to change this world every day. And that really gives me a lot of passion and fire and I've also been an entrepreneur myself. So I think the key is having a voracious appetite for learning and knowing that you can never know at all. So there is so much information out there that you can tap into. And it's not all just reading books but it's also attending events and seeing what entrepreneurs are up to. I'm part of a group called #LatinaGeeks which is all about educating Latinas on the latest emerging tech trends. So I write about emerging tech trends. I also have a podcast called Popping the Bubbl in which we interview entrepreneurs and founders here and learn about tech trends through those conversations. So I'm very fortunate in that I'm quite immersed in the ecosystem here and it's something that I seek out actively and get very excited about because I would consider myself also a techno-optimist and to really feel that technology has the power to really positively impact our future.
You're also extremely involved in the Silicon Valley startup ecosystem. What, in your opinion, needs to change in Silicon Valley to allow more room for diversity, new voices, and financial equity?
The question is what needs to change to have more diverse voices have a seat at the table in the technology ecosystem. And what I've seen happening recently is that there are a lot of changes afoot. There are a lot of new positions now that are really just dedicated to bringing diversity inclusion into these larger tech companies. And I'm seeing a lot of collaboration and partnerships between the large tech companies and groups like #LatinaGeeks. We have a wonderful partnership with Microsoft that sponsors our coding workshops and educational workshops and I think that what really needs to change is people need to see and understand that diversity actually strengthens companies and products. When you have a diverse team building a product from engineers to even within a marketing organization itself you are able to provide a better perspective because you have those different voices at the table and included in the development of these products. So I think that what needs to happen is more concerted efforts, more dedication to the cause, more collaboration and as these products come to market really singing the praises of the teams that are diverse and that are bringing these products to market so that other companies can see that diversity is actually a strength and can really help the bottom line. So that's what I think needs to happen is really highlighting that and showcasing the stories of diversity and how those have in the end created stronger teams and products.
What led to your founding the Popping the Bubbl podcast, and who have been some of your biggest interviewees and listener bases?
Popping the Bubbl is a weekly tech podcast that I do in partnership with Pete Turner and our aim is to demystify Silicon Valley tech culture for the masses. And the genesis of the podcast came about over lunch one day with Pete when I was gushing about my network and how fortunate I was to have the types of people that I'm able to speak with on a regular basis and count them as friends and acquaintances and people that I've worked with over the course of the years and through that conversation we thought why not make those conversations that are happening on a day to day basis every day here in Silicon Valley and make them more widely accessible to the public at large. So that was really the genesis. And we have had some amazing people on the show really fortunate and lucky to have people like Brian Solis who is a serial author and entrepreneur, a world-renowned analyst and speaker. We've also had Amber Case who is a digital anthropologist and also world-renowned speaker, Rania Hoteit who is a fearless female founder and has been recognized by the United Nations as well as Inc magazine on her work with ID4A for as well as on bringing diversity inclusion and inclusion into technology. Lisa Wang who's the founder of She Works and is helping women get funded. Andy Weidlin the former CEO of BuzzFeed and so many more amazing people Arvind Gupta the founder of Indie Bio which is helping scientists become entrepreneurs. Really the list goes on and on and we're just so lucky to be able to have those conversations and present them to our Popping the Bubbl audiences.
You're also the Northern California Chapter President at #LatinaGeeks (awesome!)! How have you grown the chapter's activities and partners? What are some of the biggest challenges for Latinas looking to work in the often insular world of Silicon Valley?
#LatinaGeeks is an organization that is all about helping Latinas embrace our inner geek and I think that some of the challenges that Latinos face are not really having enough role models of women that look like them. When I was coming up in my career I really didn't know any Latinas in technology at all. It wasn't only until recently that I've been able to expand my Latina network in technology and I also think that some of the differences that we may have culturally. Traditionally Latino families are very traditional in terms of the roles that men and women have in the family. And so I think that's probably also very hard for us to overcome. Beatrice Acevedo, who is the founder of Mitu points to a phrase that we have in Spanish and it's "Calladita se ve mas bonita". And what that means is when you're quiet you look prettier. So I think that is very indicative of the types of cultural challenges that we have to overcome as well as the challenges that we have to overcome as women in terms of the inner struggle and wanting to express ourselves in a different way than I think what is culturally acceptable in a professional environment and really understanding that it's not we don't have to embrace competitive male-dominated mindset but that we can be collaborative as we enter the workforce and we are actively growing our member base here in Northern California. We recently had our coding workshop and we're really excited to have 50 Latinas come to the table to learn how to code. And that was in partnership with Microsoft. So we look forward to continuing to do more events of that nature to grow our base.
What's next for your work as a Strategic Advisor, as well as your podcast and #LatinaGeeks? What are the main projects you'll be focusing on in 2019?
Well, 2019 is right around the corner and I am really looking forward to continuing my work as a strategic advisor with the companies that I'm currently engaged with and helping them grow their audiences and build upon foundations that we've started on. I'm also looking forward to bringing more amazing guests on to the Popping the Bubbl podcast. And of course growing the Northern California chapter of #LatinaGeeks and personally I am interested and looking forward to continuing to engage in interviews of this kind and telling my story and and sharing with other people that may be inspired by the work I do as well as pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and seeking some speaking opportunities whether that's panels or as a moderator or even leading sessions myself. So those are the kinds of things that I'm looking forward to in 2019. More growth and success for the companies that I'm involved with. And thank you so much for the opportunity to provide my story and tell what I'm about. Thank you.