On a university scholarship in Madrid, Aida López combined her studies in chemical engineering with a four-year internship in research. After qualifying in 2007, she joined Alma Consulting as an intern, rising to Senior Consultant in 2011. Aida became Senior Manager In 2016 – when Ayming was formed (from the merger of Alma and Lowendalmasai) – and then, three years later, our Innovation Director in Spain. A champion of her team’s professional development and of women as leaders and innovators, Aida urges them not to compromise on their ambitions or continuous learning.
“I have never said no to a challenge or project during my career.”
At what stage did you become interested in engineering?
I have always been drawn to the sciences, and at 18 decided to study engineering so I could use this passion to follow a technical path. Everything I had learned from my Chemistry and Math teachers inspired me to opt for a career in chemical engineering. I made this choice in spite of advice from several tutors to pursue a career in medicine instead, because of my good grades.
What challenges have you had to overcome in your working career?
I began in the consulting world at the age of 22. The biggest challenge was to demonstrate my abilities to both clients and colleagues despite being so young. However, I soon began to learn how to communicate with Directors and Managers and adjust my work methods to suit their needs. I have never said No to a challenge or project during my career, and I believe that has given to me the necessary skills to continue growing as a professional.
Which qualities in particular enabled you to advance?
My willpower to face challenges and achieve all the goals I set for myself has been fundamental in my career. My team and my close relationship with them is another significant factor in my success. This requires empathy when working with them on projects, while still maintaining a leadership role.
What are the values that direct you in your working life?
A strong work ethic, responsibility, maintaining good relationships with people, and respectfully managing a team. Also creativity, being proactive in the search for new ideas, and having a clear sense of purpose for achieving objectives.
Which person most inspires you, either personally or professionally?
My mother has been a shining example for me every day. Her strength, her ability to improve herself as well as help those around her, and of course, her advice guide me in my personal life and professional career. Also, she overcame many obstacles in her own career and today she is a strong female influence in my life. Despite achieving the best grades in her economics degree, she wasn’t selected after interviews with several companies. An interviewer at a top management consultancy admitted they chose a man who was not as well qualified. So, my mother did a Government competition exam, where the evaluation committee only had an ID code and didn’t know if you were a man or a woman. Again, she got the best grades and this time the job. It was the result of her willpower and strength.
Do obstacles still make it harder for women to succeed?
In my opinion, yes. Given equal conditions and technical capabilities, a man is still often preferred over a woman. It is believed that a woman is weaker and that a man is more of a leader, although in many cases it is quite the opposite. Companies should set an example and provide opportunities to all people equally, without prejudice or bias, and reward the efforts and work accomplished. The first step to true equality is an equal distribution of men and women both in managerial positions and at lower levels.
Have you balanced life and work so far?
With difficulty. A managerial position requires many hours of dedication, not only at the level of developing business strategies for the company, but also in supervising and supporting the work of the rest of the team. The most important thing is to be organised, and place more value on actual productivity during work hours, rather than the total hours one physically spends on the job.
What skills are needed in your role?
The three fundamental pillars when it comes to work are efficacy, efficiency and economy. It is essential to think outside the box and also from the point of view of the rest of your team, with the objective of achieving a position of natural leadership, which does not seem imposed.
What’s the biggest misconception limiting young women in their careers?
The belief that goals cannot be achieved and settling for what you have now, instead of continuing to grow and learn. And especially, don’t believe that you have to choose between being a mother leading a life dedicated to your family or growing professionally and reaping success at work and in your career. You need to have a balance and don’t say No to a professional challenge.
What attracted you to consulting and Ayming?
A role involving close relationship with clients, the possibility of managing projects in multiple sectors, and the variety of job opportunities available to me. This opportunity could not only give me technical knowledge but also develop other types of social skills. For example, within a short span of time in consultancy I was participating as a speaker in conferences and workshops – more than 10 in only two years. This reinforced my knowledge and technical skills as well as improving my confidence speaking in public.
You’ve been heavily involved in training and staff development?
It’s really challenging but I think I have the necessary empathy and vision to understand the needs of my team, provide the help they need and guide them. It’s a big responsibility but I think I’m doing a good job because I know they are growing professionally, and that is the best result for their development.
What is the workplace culture like?
The Ayming culture is defined by a positive attitude, high levels of innovation, and other values beyond financial compensation. Implementing innovative ideas can take time, so we have to try to be faster in the market in innovating and improving our services. Ayming’s most important asset is its people, though we all recognise that meeting our clients’ needs and their deadlines is all-important to us. The ultimate goal is to balance the interests of both internal and external clients.
Do you agree that diversity and equality at work drive innovation?
In my experience, it is women who do the most to innovate, to explore new markets and to open up new business opportunities. This is due to our desire for improvement and long-term vision. For example, in Ayming Spain, we have managed to boost consulting projects and win new tenders thanks to the collaborative and innovative attitude of the team I work with, which is, coincidentally, composed entirely of women.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?
Seeing how my colleagues grow professionally and learn on a daily basis. I feel proud that I can contribute to that progress and development. Additionally, our clients are satisfied and loyal to us due to our work, methodology and determination. The most rewarding times are when I see this recognition from clients and colleagues.
What is the most important lesson work or life has taught you?
You always have to see the positive side of things and maintain results in the face of any problem.
What advice would you give to young women starting their careers?
Specialise on the basis of studies and experience. And don’t give up on your dreams. Accept the challenges and the opportunities that may appear.
I believe the world of consulting requires many skills and aptitudes that can be characteristic of a woman: organisation, responsibility, commitment and willpower.
To attain long-term goals requires setting several short-term objectives, which often present their own challenges along the way. The key is to persevere in these small efforts and not to conform or settle on an easier path. One must embark on the path of continuous learning and self-improvement in order to overcome these challenges.
Might you have taken a different career path, and do you have any regrets?
My life would have been different if, after my university internship, I had taken other offers. I had two: joining a renowned engineering firm or studying a master’s abroad. I do not regret the decision I made because I have developed valuable skills and capabilities. The knowledge I acquired in R&D fiscal and accounting has opened up another path, the Business and Administration degree I am currently studying. This perfectly complements my technological background as well as my experience communicating, speaking in public and helping my team in their professional growth.
Women in STEM series
Ayming wanted to gain insight into the perspectives and first hand journeys of powerful, intelligent and driven women who are leading the way in STEM and business.