umc-movement

Belén Gallego (CEO, ATA Insights): Resilience in Entrepreneurship

Belén Gallego is an entrepreneur who has founded several renewable energy business intelligence brands. Currently, Belén is the CEO of ATA Insights, a lean strategic communications firm with significant renewable energy markets and technology knowledge. ATA Insights offers services in market research, events, marketing, and communications worldwide. Through a free-to-attend online event platform, ATA Insights provides thousands of renewable energy professionals worldwide with essential information on the latest developments in the renewable energy industry. 

What is the most important characteristic an entrepreneur needs to have or cultivate?

The first one, according to me, is adaptability – the ability to very quickly see what is happening and pivot. And the second is resilience. I don’t think there is enough said about resilience and the importance of having the grit to keep going when times are tough. So these are two important ones, and hopefully, I’ll be able to tell you more about it later. 

How did the UWC or MUWCI values influence your approach to entrepreneurship in this field?

Needless to say, the UWC ideals are all about changing the world for the better, and renewable energy is a field in which you see real, tangible results constantly. I’m not going to pretend as if everything is perfect because it is still a business at the end of the day – but there has been some real progress in the last few years! For example, look at the sizable global shift from coal plants to solar and wind energy plants.

At MUWCI, one of the things I realized is that knowledge is power. When I began my career, I was working with a company that organized large-scale global conferences. These conferences were quite expensive to attend, so of course, most of the attendees were senior (and mostly male) officials. The best information and networking opportunities were easily available to them at these events. So when I started my own company, I wanted to democratize this process. We aim to educate and empower engineers at all levels to make good, well-informed choices. When there is less gatekeeping, information flows easily and rigid systems transform much faster. And that is essential for the success of renewable energy initiatives.

The other important value is that of optimism. Now, being an optimist does not mean that you always believe things will work out. To me, it means trusting in the process and believing that the solution to your problems is out there. It also means seeking out people who can work it out with you. I believe in being a realistic optimist, as opposed to a naive one. A small example of this is when I first joined MUWCI, I did not speak English very well. And for the first few weeks, there was an invisible wall between me and everyone else because I simply couldn’t understand anything that was going on! But soon enough, I realized that there were so many Spanish speakers and a mini-community of us was born. And slowly but surely, things got easier. These tiny challenges really add up at a UWC, so resilience and optimism become really essential to cultivate.

How did your international education at UWC prepare you for setting up your own company?

When I started my entrepreneurial journey, I didn’t feel like it was a challenge at all. Only when I eventually had a team did I notice that some of the things that came naturally to me were actually big challenges for most people. And I’m specifically talking about the ability to talk to individuals from all walks of life. Nationalities, religions, political leanings, what have you – and to make a genuine attempt to listen and to understand where they come from. At a UWC, you learn to simply embrace the humanity of people. I don’t mean to pinpoint this as a “business skill,” but it is something that helps one tremendously in life. For example, I have never felt hesitation in going up and speaking to a senior or more experienced person. There is this concept of the glass ceiling, but I believe that there are glass walls as well – people simply don’t speak with each other enough.

Why become an entrepreneur, would you say?

I would say – why have one job when you can have 150 of them! And you have to do them all to the best of your ability – everything from being a janitor, to a teacher, to a marketing strategist to a master negotiator. Jokes aside, it is an opportunity to see how things work from A to Z and that can be unbelievably cool. Eventually, you’ll find collaborators who make your life easier and can do some things better than you, and begin to form a team you really care about. It is all very interesting and fulfilling – I highly recommend it!