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Meet Maretva Baricot-Mendoza

As a kid, I loved chemistry. I was always making potions with my mum’s beauty lotions and products, so it seemed only natural that science was the path I chose.

After high school I went on to study engineering, and my plan was to work in the oil industry. At that time, if you studied engineering you generally went on to get a position at PDVSA, which was the biggest oil company in the country. The oil industry in Venezuela was one of the best in the world, and I thought I had my future all mapped out.

However, in the year that I graduated there was massive political unrest which lead to many people at PDVSA going on strike. The strike had a massive impact on the economy, with terrible fuel and food shortages, and resulted in the government firing 19,000 PDVSA employees.

Competition for jobs was fierce. I was competing against my classmates plus 19,000 experienced engineers. It was then that I made the agonising decision to leave Venezuela. So, in 2003, I moved to Spain to study for my PhD at Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona.

In 2009, once I had completed my PhD, Spain too was plunged into economic crisis, with research cuts and few work opportunities in my area of expertise. Rather than return to Venezuela, where the political situation was still dire, I decided to use the skills I had gained in my PhD to apply for project manager roles. This is how my career as Project Manager began.

By 2012, the situation in Spain was not getting any better, so when I saw a job advertised for a research engineer in the UK, combining two of my key skills, I decided to make the move. It was a mining company based in Cornwall, but it didn’t come without its challenges. To the management board, the idea of a female Project Manager was completely alien!

After four years my contract came to an end. Just weeks apart my husband and I were both offered jobs in the Midlands, and we moved up to Coventry, where I took up the role as a Project Manager at WMG.

Moving to Spain and then the UK was an immense change for me, but I had to make the best of the situation I was in. To others I would say this: ‘Be open to change. Take chances, and don’t be afraid to explore new paths. If I hadn’t done so, my life may have turned out very differently.’