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Profile Series: Women Leading in Tech Staffing

Spotlight on Marina Perla

CEO & Founder, Mojo Trek,

  • CEO, entrepreneur, CHIEF member
  • TechServe Member Since 2020
  • An Inc 5000 company
  • A certified Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Women-owned enterprise (WBE) through WBENC

Seven years after successfully launching her own tech recruiting and staffing firm, Marina Perla has not let her foot off the gas. Born out of Chicago in 2017, with an expansion to the Big Apple in 2023, Mojo Trek spans the continental U.S. Her vision has now expanded globally, with new business lines running through South America in Colombia, Brazil, and Uruguay and spilling over into Eastern Europe as well.

A true “technical” technology recruitment firm in the industry, Marina credits the “access to brain power” and being surrounded by talented technologists — developers, architects, specialists — for the company’s fine-tuned processes that ensure their technical assessments are on point.

In addition to their technical prowess, Perla attributes Mojo Trek’s success to high-quality service:

“We have such a strong focus on delivery and stellar execution. It’s one of our core values and sometimes I drive myself too hard and sometimes maybe drive my team hard because that’s the focus. Companies that we’re working with today, we were working with seven years ago. It’s 100% repeat business and when we asked them well, ‘why do you work with Mojo Trek?’ They tell us that we are “consistently a cut above the rest” and that we deliver with such a high degree of quality that’s difficult to match in the industry.”

In talking to Marina, it was palpably clear that she is an entrepreneur at heart, surrounding herself with kindred spirits who align with her values and believe in the journey.

Do you have a mantra that you live by, or an inspirational quote that reflects your leadership style?

It’s more of a mindset and philosophy. There is this saying, “Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear,” and that’s the way I choose to live my life.

I am reminded of it when I’m really into something and it’s moving and I feel like, ‘whoa this is actually happening.’ This phrase allows me to really lean into that vision of what’s going to happen after, or beyond, that fear. What’s that vision? What is my future? What does the company’s future look like?

Because you can’t fight your fear. You have to go through it. In entrepreneurship, in business, we don’t know all the answers. We don’t know it all. And there’s always a set of challenges that can be thrown at us that are outside of our comfort zone.

But this saying has been my guiding light, and it’s helped me make significant life and business decisions that in the end helped me create a future that I like even better than the past.

How would you define your leadership style?

I’ve been incredibly blessed to be surrounded by many people who were formal and informal mentors for me. I have gained wisdom from the wisdom that they shared with me and now I try to share it with everybody who needs help, who asks for help and wants to listen.

It’s the ability to keep your vision in front of you and to lean back onto your core values as a person that can guide you through that decision-making process. So, the way I am in business is the way I am in life. My leadership style is more defined by my values as a person, and the values support the leadership style that I show daily at work.

I think Mojo Trek has an amazing culture partially because we have very mature-thinking people within our organization. They’re strong, experienced educated professionals.

I think any company or business is like its founder. So, if I try to emulate somebody, replicate something that’s not truly mine, that’s not authentic to me. And there will be a big gap between the business that I’ve built and who I am.

I try to be conscious of that and even if the way I build my business doesn’t fit everybody, I know that it will attract people with whom these values resonate. A marketing leader from Chicago said it better than me when she said, “Build your tribe.”
For me, your company, your culture, is your tribe.

Is there an influential woman who has served as an inspiration to you? This could be a former colleague, family member, mentor, historical figure, etc.

How many can I name? I’ll start with three.

First, is the person who showed me there is a path outside of the corporate world and that a woman can be successful in business and as an entrepreneur and that was Leslie Vickrey, of ClearEdge. Shortly after I entered the industry, she was the one who showed me that a different path was possible and encouraged me to at least keep thinking in that direction. And that’s one thing that I always bring up when I speak to women about career development and climbing the corporate ladder: we need to have more women in business. We need to have more entrepreneurs. If you have something that you’re not getting with your employer, yes, you can consider changing a job. And there is a conversation to be had around that. But also consider going independent. I know the fear is daunting but once you go through it, it’s so much brighter on the other side. Leslie was probably one of the first women in the industry who influenced me and probably at that time didn’t even really realize she was mentoring me.

In addition to Leslie, I have been inspired by Ginnette Harvey. Ginnette helped build a company in North America from the ground up to an organization making $280 million in revenue. She and I worked closely in a formal mentor capacity. She was my mentor and a coach, and so many other things beyond that, and we became friends. She is the one who was able to guide me, not just as an individual but as a business owner in staffing, with her expertise, insights and wisdom—that holistic wisdom that not everybody has. She provided meaningful, specific answers to my specific questions. She is a powerhouse.

Finally, I would say my grandmother.

That’s something I started thinking about when I got a little older. I left my home early, prior to turning 20. And my interactions with my grandmother after that were very limited.

However, I like to think that I have a little bit of that courage that she had, and I am definitely a challenger just like her. And that got me into some troubles in my early years, but that also helped me become who I am today. So, when I think about some of the most powerful women that I know, I think of her because she was a true warrior up until the day she died.

I like to think that I take a little bit of that from her.

In year’s past, many women-led organizations have worked together to announce pledges for continuing the mission to elevate women in the workplace. How will you be paving-it-forward to help advance women in their careers?

I’m still learning, step by step, but the pledge that I made as a business founder is a little broader than gender. It’s also about increasing diverse representation in general.

I signed the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion. It’s for businesses that are owned or run by women who are committing to building a workplace environment that is more diverse, inclusive and equitable.

I will always be partial because I love working with women. About 60% of our staff are women. We consider promotion without reference to gender. And we’ve created the environment where my managers come to me to promote women, to talk about pay parity. So, it’s not only on my mind front and center, but my management team is thinking about it, too. My director levels are thinking about it which is exciting. And while 60% of our internal personnel are women, we’re also trying to represent more women in technology because it’s only 26% of women in technology but we are continuing to push the needle.

When we expanded globally, we were excited to increase representation of Spanish-speaking, Latina women in tech, but we continue to face challenges of gender equity in technology outside of the U.S.

We simply keep it front and center and it starts at our interviewing processes, our sourcing. We start with that mindset. How do we make sure that we’re talking to women? How do we make sure that we’re talking to people of color? How do we make sure that we talk to people with non-traditional backgrounds? How do we really represent the talent that reflects the way the world is right? Because the world is so different and so vibrant and diverse. So, the talent should be the same.

I will always be a big supporter of women in general, because I do think that we’re still kind of fighting to earn our standing in the in society, in corporate America. I do understand that we have to work through some of the perceptions and the way our role has been perceived.

Is there a message that you would like to share with women in the work world?

I want to encourage more women to think about stepping outside of the corporate career. We witnessed so many layoffs in recent years, and it just shows that first and foremost, you have to rely on yourself.

If there is an opportunity for a woman to be more successful or happier as a business owner, even with the risk that comes with it and a lot of sleepless nights, it can be rewarding and fulfilling. It can be a very fulfilling opportunity that can allow us as women to have better control of our lives and our future and our financial freedom as well.

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