TB Members Calling #53 | Laura García Maraña: “I want businesses to be able to make the most of their data through maps”
Laura García Maraña (Bilbao, 1974) is an agricultural engineer and CEO and founder of SialSIG SCCL, a consultancy in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Among some of her projects, she has created maps of mortality risk in the event of emergencies in areas far from hospitals, or other maps of areas of ecological agriculture in Catalonia by municipalitie.. Because the geographic representation of data has multiple uses and functionalities.
“I became an agronomist because I wanted to help farmers sell their produce directly to the consumer. I didn’t understand, and still don’t understand, that they work so hard and then part of their income is lost along the way. Now I analyse and display data at SialSIG SCCL, a non-profit cooperative”.
TB: What is the purpose of your project?
LG: That small entities and companies can take advantage of the valuable data they generate and hold. To be more efficient in collecting that data, in displaying and analysing it, seeing how it evolves and keeping it up to date. And I am not referring to internal business intelligence data – I leave that to others – but to shared and open data, of resources, services and information that are offered and demanded, with the added bonus of a geographic component. Data of many types that we use and need on a daily basis, and many others that help us to make decisions.
TB: A good idea you have had.
LG: From what I’ve been told, one of the phrases most used by me since I was a child was “I have an idea”, which was followed by invented games and various activities. Now I don’t say that sentence, but I invent projects and make GIS designs of the most everyday things; it’s an obsession I’ve had since I discovered them. I would apply them to almost anything.
And, of course, I took a break to take care of my children while I matured the idea of creating a company. It’s still not very profitable, but for the moment the pros of work-life balance and personal and professional fulfilment win out.
TB: A bad professional experience.
LG: I left a job because a colleague was unfairly dismissed in a bad way. Also when I have seen in previous jobs attempts to “sell motorbikes” or do things knowing that they are not necessary or correct. But they are still done, often with everyone’s money. That’s why being able to choose the projects, as well as their technical and moral form, was one of my objectives. And hence SialSIG, SCCL.
TB: The best advice you’ve ever been given.
LG: Decide by what you want and think, not by what you think others want or think. In the past, I made decisions based on what I thought others wanted, which led me to do something I didn’t feel like doing. I thought it was more appropriate, generous, less selfish, but it was complicated and less accurate. Now I practice counselling, I ask directly what they want and we reach a consensus. Benefits of age. Also, if you act true to your principles, and to those of others, the decisions will also favour them.
TB: A professional reference that inspires you.
LG: I admire several people I have met in the ‘maps’ environment, who work, do webinars, create associations, collaborate in charitable causes, conciliate and also know languages. I am amazed. Some people are very active and proactive, and we have to thank them for what they contribute to energising groups, sharing knowledge and promoting social causes.
TB: A technology that will shape the future.
LG: I believe that there will be many technologies, but what will mark the future is knowing how to use them for the right purposes and making them accessible to all. And there is no need to rush, just slow and steady.
TB: What are you worried about?
LG: People not being upfront, not being transparent and taking advantage. Also the lack of involvement.
TB: A startup.
LG: The truth is that it would be difficult to choose just one, because with the networks of women that we are weaving, I meet a few every month, and there are many that catch my attention. I have a special weakness for those who are dedicated to health and people with special needs. And a special mention to Blue Ocean Nutrition and Mayte Corbino, with whom I have found a project with a common purpose.
TB: A book to recommend.
LG: I have highly recommended and borrowed “Los renglones torcidos de Dios”. I read it many years ago, when I was very young, and it made me think about the great fragility of the mind, the great variety of “failures”, changes, and manifestations it can have. And then I liked the way it easily convinced you of one thing and the opposite, I thought the plot was super well designed. I also went to see the movie recently, of course. Although I almost always like a book better; it leaves you more room to think and interpret.
TB: A series or film or song that defines your moment in life.
LG: The song “Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. I like music, I play several instruments, and I sing (privately), but I listen less and less, and I can’t even keep the names of the bands. Nowadays, videos and podcasts take up more of my time, so what can I do?
TB: A recipe, a meal, a restaurant.
LG: Well, simple ones that don’t take me too much time. I like to make the most of my time, and spending a lot of time on a meal, if in the end what I value is the “food” part of it, doesn’t pay off for me. I’m not much of a sybarite or a foodie. I often prefer to eat a sandwich in the countryside or in a park rather than going to a restaurant.
TB: A city, a journey.
LG: I’m more of a people and nature person than a city person. Anywhere quiet. In fact, when I studied agricultural engineering, my idea was to live in the countryside, but then life makes you make other decisions. I would like to visit Ireland and Australia.
TB: Where would you invest 100k?
LG: In education, research and training in sustainability. In changing the way many processes are done and seeking their circularity.
TB: And a million euros?
LG: On the above, but I would focus on improving the agricultural sector, on redirecting it towards better agricultural practices. Really focus on the health of soils and plants, and with them we will get the health of animals and people. Agriculture must be one of the solutions to climate change. I would like to make it attractive and accessible to new generations, as continuity and generational renewal are urgently needed.
TB: If you were not an entrepreneur…
LG: I would love to work in an NGO or in an engineering company that focuses on social, agricultural or environmental issues, and that does not base its activity only on economic profit. Yes, I know, I have to balance desire and reality…. But there must be ways to do it, and for the moment I am not giving up.
TB: What is Tech Barcelona for you?
LG: A meeting and support point, a place to keep up to date with what is happening in the sector. And with a powerful team that knows, works and moves to create synergies, activate and disseminate. It is very necessary to give visibility, create movement, give voice to ideas and have a place to turn to in many situations that may arise in the company or as an entrepreneur. And the facilities are amazing! Due to personal and professional circumstances in recent months, I have not participated in all the activities I would have liked to. Also, sometimes I feel “too small” for certain events, but I consider myself to be part of the sector and, even if it is on a small scale, it all adds up.