“Extraordinarily ordinary”, this is how Cinthya Uzcategui defines herself. Furthermore, she not only defines herself, she defines a working group, because if there is one thing that she makes clear throughout the conversation, it is that “it is not just me, it is a whole team of people” behind PANLARs Executive Secretariat.
But to understand What she’s like we have to go back to those dreams she had since she decided to study Economics at the Universidad de los Andes, in Merida, Venezuela, and an MBA in administration and senior management. “My dream was to become some stock market management executive. The reality of Venezuela at the time hit us and we knew that the future of finance and stock trading was limited.”
She came to Panama “for love”, as she defines it, since her husband was transferred by the company she was working for at that time. “and in the project of moving to Panama we formalized our marriage and made a family”, she says.
Then it was the turn for Congrex Americas, another dream of four partners, including her husband and herself. “That’s when I started the process in what would be a career in event organization and later the management of international associations” she explains, also pointing out that she has always felt a taste for multiculturalism and meeting people in the midst of their diversity, “a soft skill that has always been with me” she assures.
She discovered that nonprofit associations represent in her a desire for legacy, “I like to accompany them in their development, overcome each of the difficulties and learn from the great professionals who run them. That is why over time I have prepared myself to understand their operational, legal and discal needs and thus support them in their development and sustainability over time”.
“It was very interesting”, is the first thing he says when she starts talking about her story with PANLAR. It was through Dr. Beto Noguera, a Venezuelan rheumatologist and her sponsor, he shared his experience and immediately identified herself as a potential client. “Several years went by until we got a call from the PANLAR 2016 Organizing Committee, directed by Dr. Ramon Perez Acuña, to present a proposal as the organizing company of the congress. “after several proposal we were selected”.
She recalls, “it was a long process with a committee that was undergoing transformations from a governance point of view. This made us face many interesting challenges from which positive results were obtained”.
After this, the presidency of PANLAR is assumed by Dr. Carlo Vinicio Caballero and it is he who proposed that Congrex Americas could run for the Executive Secretariat, “Considering that we had carried out the congress and would be a potential ally to execute the development plan. That’s when we entered an evaluation phase, to understand how it worked. That learning curve took us a while, but the transformation was immediate with all out willingness to accompany them in the process” she says, explaining that they had to study a lot to understand the nature of the association and everything that has to do with it and execute it from the scientific and educational perspective, until accountability.
She doesn’t like to say that she is the one in the Executive Secretariat, “Cinthya is part of a team, although she has been the visible face for many years”, she points out, and mentions her colleagues Ferney, Susana, Isolde, and Javier.
“We are very proud of what we have achieved with PANLAR and it is a team effort with a management that has been incredible”, she says. At this point, she stops to analyze each president, their personalities and the contribution to growth of having little documentation and established processes to formalize each element of the operation.
IN HER HOME
Revisiting her “extraordinarily ordinary” description, she says that she is an ordinary person and thanks to her team she achieves extraordinary things. “I am a hard worker; I like to say it. Mother of two beautiful girls, very familiar. I have the joy of living in a country that has given me many opportunities and it aligns with my philosophy of life. Panama is the bridge of the world and I feel that I can be the bridge between people or organizations”, she says.
“I like to lead with determination, but also with a lot of humanity” she adds.
She is the mother of Maria Victoria (10) and Maria Paula (5), wife to Javier Montilla. “Having children is our greatest lesson. Maria Victoria is soft, sweet, and firm in her ideals, I love how she defends them. She is a warrior when she is on the court. Maria Paula has taught me tolerance; she makes me breathe deeply and she is so much fun. She makes me desperate and happy in the same proportion”, she says as she laughs and her tone changes. It is perhaps, that of a mother who enjoys the growth of her daughters, learning every day from this process.
“My mantra has always been to protect my family, our mental health. To be that support for those we love and for those who love us. We always seek to be good human beings and that is what I try to transmit to my daughters” she says.
She draws the line between work and home. “The support structures are, in short, the success”, he explains referring to his family environment, and points out that Sundays are days for celebration. “We make those moments count and they are very special with friends and family”.
She has been in Panama for 15 years and her memories are based on affection “and I always keep those with me”, although she confesses to missing her grandmother’s house in Merida, Las Margaritas, and her childhood.
“I always tell my daughters to be authentic and happy, that nothing should steal their calmness. Being happy requires having discipline, you have to try and make an effort” she says.
“We are in 2020 and living a pandemic. So, the lessons are endless, but the greatest is undoubtedly to keep an open mind and evaluate the multiple scenarios and that is one of our main virtues as a team”, he says, emphasizing the goal of being “always attentive to change. This represents a good characteristic for nonprofit organizations and guarantees sustainability over time”.
Her personal learning goes hand in hand with the ability to adapt supported by retrospection, analysis, and studies. She also has a blog. Here, she says, she is able to “vent” regarding non-work-related subjects, but there is an entry called “Gratitude” which is the exception to the rule.
“For me, working with associations has been the biggest professional challenge so far…well, and in order not to lose the habit, also the pandemic. It has demanded so much of myself in every way; even physically and emotionally, but like every great effort, it also brings rewards. The partnerships, their events, achievements, and sustainability are great rewards” she writes on her latest post.
“After 6 months of a pandemic and a roller coaster of emotions, associations like PANLAR and its members (like the doctors I mentioned), have been the impulse to not allow us to doubt the value of our work, the contribution to our group, the need for companies like ours to support the growth of any organization and accompany it on its way towards the development we all want.
Moreover, in a retrospective look at her achievements, she prefers to divide them by areas. In the area of governance there is the regulating of procedures through agreements of understanding, regulations and codes of ethics. “at the administrative and accounting level, control, and independence of account management, the financial process through monthly closings, budgets and access to a firm of experienced accountants. In science and in education there are multiple achievements, but coordinating all initiatives is a great achievement” and in this last point she focuses on educational programs and study groups, which are both very active.
She also highlights the aspect of communications indicating that “we have a webpage and networks with spectacular number”, and the fact that we can accompany PANLAR in making the dream of Global Rheumatology come true. All this can be summarized as “a very great satisfaction”.
For her, the growth and development of associations is similar to children. “it is up to you to see them grow up and become great people. In the associations you accompany them on their journey and see them walking on their own”.
She point out that “with PANLAR, there is further growth ahead. There are many plans for the future and to continue developing out initiatives. To gain ground, to get people on board, to get everyone living within our initiatives and projects”.
“I look back and laugh at how one learns over the years and how naïve my planning or vision of what my professional future would be. I wanted to be linked to the stock market and today I laugh and say I was lost. Now I feel that it is a very different activity from what I can be as a human being and as a professional. We are definitely happy with what we have achieved, we have challenges and a hunger for learning and for continuing our development”, she concludes.