An official website of the United States government

Breaking boundaries together in Ecuador
January 29, 2020

By Elise Kemp

Tamara Isch, a 2018 YLAI Fellow and a co-founder and COO of EcX Labs, has been breaking boundaries in her country, in her field of work, and in the world. The results of this woman’s hard work and innovation are cutting-edge technology solutions to the biggest problems in Ecuador.

Tamara is a chemical engineer by profession, but her heart is also dedicated to children’s rights, and she, alongside four friends, started a business to combine these two passions.

What started as a small project to develop a small medical device that could evaluate malnourishment in rural areas has become one of the only woman-led technology labs and enterprises in Ecuador.

EcX Labs develops deep-tech, low-cost solutions for a variety of products, including volcanic activity sensors, air and water filters, and even educational systems that can be used to improve social outcomes in Ecuador, Central and South America, and all over the world. The idea is to constantly be improving to provide cost-effective yet innovative solutions to the environmental and social problems we face today.

Tamara’s journey to social and technological innovation has not been without difficulty. It is significant to note the tenacity required of her to enter the field as a technological entrepreneur. Finding a female mentor with the same background was difficult, as was procuring venture capital funds in a male-dominated field. In Forbes Magazine’s 2019 list of the world’s 100 most innovative leaders, 99 were men and only 1 was a woman (Washington Post).

Without being able to find guidance from other women who had walked the road before her, Tamara took advantage of the resources that were presented to her, like the YLAI Network. Her advice to other YLAI Network members and women breaking into the STEM fields is:

“If you’re founding a career in STEM, you are amazing for wanting to do meaningful work. Let your self-confidence be built up because your self-worth is something important to value. A great way to do that is to join a community for support. Recognize the hard work and talent that you have accomplished, so that others are not able to tell you that you don’t belong.”

Joining a community was key in Tamara’s journey. Developing contacts expanded her view of the world. Tamara tells all her friends about YLAI, and encourages women to join a collaborative, supportive group in the pursuit of STEM-related fields.

Although the science and technology field used to be very competitive, the diversity that collaboration brings has proven to break the boundaries of knowledge and innovation to bring effective solutions forward to the world.