Behind every successful woman is herself: Kyndryl’s Maria Bartolome Winans

At HerStory’s Women on a Mission Summit 2022, Maria Bartolome Winans, CMO, Kyndryl, spoke about her parents’ influence in her life, embracing diversity, and why women need to prioritise to become successful.

Behind every successful woman is herself: Kyndryl’s Maria Bartolome Winans

Thursday March 17, 2022,

5 min Read

“I am deeply proud of my heritage … My diversity is my source of strength,” said Maria Bartolome Winans, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Kyndryl in a fireside chat with YourStory’s Founder and CEO, Shradha Sharma, at the recently concluded Women on a Mission Summit.

A native of Santiago, Chile, Maria moved to North Carolina with her parents. During her growing up years, her parents ensured that she embraced her diversity and stayed true to her core identity of being a Latina. “Speaking in another language, coming from a different background, is your source of strength,” she said, boasting of a three decade-long career. A recognised expert in data-driven marketing, brand engagement, and proactive demand generation, Maria recalled how her parents encouraged her to be “different, unique and memorable”.

“I have worked hard and I have earned my career journey, it wasn’t handed to me,” said Maria. Appreciating the opportunities that came her way, Maria also revealed that she has always been open to learning and exploring new things and pushing boundaries. The risk her parents took, she said, to settle in the US was worth it. “They uprooted to the US to pursue bigger opportunities for me and my siblings, not knowing anyone here or the language. It was a big risk. And so, my biggest ambition is to make my parents proud,” added Maria.

How curiosity and creativity accelerated her growth

Maria considers her parents as her biggest role models because of their influence on her work ethic and understanding of life. She talked about how her environment and parents played a significant role in ensuring that her heritage, her native language (Spanish), and her curiosity – things that make her unique – propel her for growth.

“I received a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina in business and art. It was interesting because two very different sides of the brain were working together (business and art) and I didn’t know where the journey was going to lead me but when I joined IBM and I started to lean towards marketing, those two sides came together and allowed me to pursue an engaging, dynamic, and successful marketing career,” said Maria.

“It’s important to have both mentors and sponsors”

During the session, Maria also highlighted the role of her mentors as well as sponsors in steering her growth throughout her professional career. Explaining the importance and difference between the two, Maria quipped, “While a mentor is someone who you can talk to, one who helps you navigate your career, advises you on your next steps, etc, a sponsor is someone who talks about you to other leaders, and advocates on your behalf.”

Being grateful and inspired by the power of strong mentorship and sponsorship during her 30-year-long career, Maria feels responsible towards the up and coming talents. “I love to mentor young professionals, they are our future … And, I really look forward to empowering women, especially Latinas,” she added.

Advice for women in the workforce

Speaking about the essentials for ensuring success, especially for women professionals, Maria mentions the importance of choices. “Design your life. Decide what you want, establish your priorities,” she said, talking about learning the art of work-life ‘balancing’ and prioritising tasks. She also highlights the power of the word ‘and’ which essentially is the roles one chooses to take up in their lives. “For example, I chose to be a mother ‘and’ executive. I am a proud Latina ‘and’ I'm also an American. I love the country for giving me such great opportunities. I love to paint to de-stress ‘and’ I am also a personal trainer because I have been a huge advocate for fitness … So, these are the choices that I have made for myself,” she explained.

Another advice she feels is important for women pursuing leadership roles is not waiting for everything to be perfect before taking up a new role. “Be present and be you. Be up for transforming yourself, don’t fear risks … A lot of the time I see women hesitate [in taking up senior roles because they feel they need to acquire more skills], men don’t. They just go for it … Moments matter. When an opportunity presents itself, lean in,” added Maria, saying that most successful leaders are lifelong learners.

“Always be your biggest advocate. And, try to find a mentor, a sponsor who can advocate on your behalf. Be proactive, surround yourself with people who motivate you,” she said, highlighting that no professional should shy away from asking for the support they need from their company.

“Behind every successful woman is herself,” concluded Maria, reiterating the power of learning, embracing, and nurturing your own self and giving back to the community as various key elements to unlock sustainable and holistic growth.

A shout out to the sponsors of Women on a Mission Summit 2022, an initiative by HerStory, by YourStory - BYJU'S, the presenting partner, and other sponsors - Kyndryl, Sequoia Spark, Zilingo, Atlassian, Akamai, Freshworks for Startups, and Netapp Excellerator.