A Peruvian pioneer

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On June 10, 2009

By anyone’s standards, Mariana Rodriguez, CE’80, is a trailblazer. After graduation, she returned to her native Peru to become a leader in the field of higher education, helping found two universities and two technical institutes in the country.

Marianna Rodriguez and David Fischman in the early years, using the Osborne 1, the first laptop computer. Rodriguez says it “weighed a ton!” Not quite, but close: 24.5 lbs.

Her journey began in Lima with her first engineering job. Rodriguez was excited to discover that her employer had a Radio Shack TRS-80, Model 1, one of the first personal computers available. No one knew how to use it, however, and there was no one to train them. In fact, the TRS-80 was still in its box.

So, Rodriguez and her co-worker, David Fischman, also a new hire and new graduate, took it upon themselves to figure out how to run the machine. “We stayed hours after work reading the manuals,” she says. The pair developed payroll and construction management applications for the firm’s use, using the computer language BASIC. “From that point on, we were hooked,” says Rodriguez.

“My degree was the key to making decisions about the campus layout and buildings.”

The experience led to the creation of Cibertec in 1983. Rodriguez, Fischman and a married couple founded Cibertec after learning the Peruvian government would soon grant licenses for three-year technical degree institutes. “The combination of computers and education sounded very exciting to us,” she says.

Last year Cibertec celebrated its 25th anniversary as Peru’s leading institute specializing in information technology. But Rodriguez acknowledges its creation wasn’t easy for someone so young. “I had to overcome my tendency to micromanage and learn to delegate,” she says. “I learned very quickly to become both a good leader and a good manager.”

Materials for the school were hard to come by, and Rodriguez found herself wearing many hats.

“I wrote the manuals and taught the students DOS, Basic, Multiplan, Lotus 1-2-3 and dBase, among other programs,” she says.

The political climate in Peru during the 1980s also posed challenges. “We faced periods of hyperinflation and terrorism, involving continuous blackouts and bomb threats,” she says. “But we bought a generator and implemented a search-and-evacuation procedure.”

In 1994, Rodriguez and her partners established the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC), also in Lima. Her civil engineering background was especially useful in the process. “The development of a university requires a great deal of thought on how to develop its infrastructure,” she says. “My degree was the key to making decisions about the campus layout and buildings.”

In 1998, the partners merged UPC and Cibertec for administrative purposes. Rodriguez took on responsibility for the merger and found that only one general manager was required. So she took on that role, too.

During this same timeframe, Rodriguez partnered with her late father, Daniel M. Rodriguez, GGph’50, and her brother, Daniel Rodriguez, Econ’79, to create Instituto Tecnol

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On June 10, 2009. Posted in Features, Summer 2009