Witad Awards 2023: The Sandra Villena Unsung Heroine Award


Sandra Villena was one of those people who keeps an organization, or a community, running—a person who shows up, puts in the effort, and leaves the space around them better than they found it. Someone who raises their hand to take on the project no one wants to do, who will give up their weekends to see it through, and who believes that the toil of a job done and done well means something. 

As Tom Tofte, head of managed services at market data consultancy CJC, puts it, Sandra was unfailingly reliable and always there when you needed her.

“There would be a problem. There would be a call going on right now about this problem. ‘XYZ is on the phone, can someone join it?’ And she would say, ‘Yeah, I’ll go ahead and join.’ And there are lots of people who would find loads of excuses for why they couldn’t be on that call because now they’re in the line of fire,” Tofte says. “She didn’t have that at all.”

So many former colleagues, friends, and, most importantly, family, will tell you that Sandra Villena, 32, was a woman of many talents with a promising future. Tragically, that future was snuffed out last October. So it is with a heavy heart that we at WatersTechnology have created a new category for this year’s Women in Technology and Data Awards—the unsung heroine. The Sandra Villena Unsung Heroine Award will be awarded each year to a woman exhibiting the qualities for which Sandra will be remembered in the industry: enthusiasm, selflessness, all-around professionalism and exceptional client service.   

After finishing an important project for CJC that consumed all of her weekends between July and September 2022, she took a well-deserved vacation to Ecuador, the country that borders her home in Peru. It was there that her boyfriend, Vincent Rosales, is suspected of killing her, cutting short a life bursting with potential.

‘Fearless and unflappable’

Sandra joined market data consultancy CJC in 2017. The field of market data is a challenging one with a deep learning curve; it’s a profession that leads many young professionals to wash out quickly. Sandra was instilled with a strong work ethic, according to numerous colleagues who spoke with WatersTechnology, and she quickly became a top performer within the US team located in New York.

Impressively, she had a willingness to take on new projects and roles outside her comfort zone. This mentality was on full display in early 2022, when CJC was tasked with an important project with strict timescales from client LSEG Refinitiv. The job involved a complex implementation of a component called “continuous watch” for LSEG Refinitiv’s Data Access Control System (DACS). In short, a large number of disparate DACS installations required a bespoke reconfiguration, the result of which would structure and standardize data usage across the vast client base in the Americas. This was a critical stage in the future direction and cloud integration for the platform, according to the vendor.

When asked who would take on this task, which would require working 13 weekends from July until the middle of September rolling out this project on more than 900 servers, Sandra, who was working remotely in Peru to be with her parents throughout the pandemic, immediately volunteered. The project was “an unequivocal success and completed on-time,” according to her colleagues, and “solidified Sandra’s capabilities and standing at CJC.”

Sandra was an energized person who made clients and colleagues feel confident in the final result—even as stress and tensions rose, deadlines creeped, and mistakes unfolded. “She was fearless and unflappable in the face of pressure in a way that inspired others,” Tofte recalls.

She could communicate across all levels and foster strong relationships with end-users, making her a trusted partner and sounding board for new initiatives and strategic planning. 

A longer article looking at Sandra, the beloved daughter, fierce friend, and tireless colleague, as well as the efforts to apprehend her still-at-large killer, will follow in the weeks ahead, but this award aims to keep her memory alive by honoring those who help power the capital markets through tireless and positive effort.

What’s important to remember is that Sandra was so much more than an employee. Her friends have been robbed of an a seemingly bottomless well of love and support. And her family has suffered a loss that no one should have to endure. 

“She had a good heart. She was a good friend. She was an extrovert and always had that energy,” says her father, Gerardo Villena Calvo. “She enjoyed life, she liked to travel, and she was a very happy person.”

She will be greatly missed.

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