Paula Mora Arias Helps Build Careers for BIPOC Women

A tech platform that paves the way for young students to access internships

Internships can mean more than just an entryway into a new career path, and for Paula Mora Arias, these opportunities can help determine young professionals' futures. 

Mora Arias is the head of business development and strategic partnerships for Symba, creator of a management platform for workforce development programs. She is also a part of the company's founding team. 

Paula Mora Arias speaking at South Summit.
Paula Mora Arias speaking at South Summit.


Symba was born in 2017 with a mission of opening up the workforce. The company's CEO, Ahva Sadeghi, participated in a fellowship with former congressman John Lewis in Atlanta and, as an action project, founded Symba to create equitable access to the workforce.

Symba provides a tech platform to help employers manage remote and in-person internships, fellowships, apprenticeships, and other workforce development programs. The platform helps organizations handle logistics like onboarding, communication, and assigning projects. 

"What we're trying to do is give employees the right capacity, infrastructure, and tools to actually bring on more interns," Mora Arias told Lifewire in a phone interview. "We want to open up doors and provide more opportunities for students, especially students of color and those from non-traditional backgrounds."

Quick Facts

  • Name: Paula Mora Arias
  • Age: 26 
  • From: Colombia
  • Random delight: She loves yoga and will hit a headstand anywhere! 
  • Key quote or motto: "'Siempre para adelante,' which means 'always move forward.' This is very special to me because it’s the last words my grandma told me before she passed away a few years ago. Ever since then, it’s been my go-to life quote.”

Social Impact Is Key

Mora Arias and her family moved to Miami when she was nine years old. She grew up in Florida, and since her parents still live there, she considers it home. After studying at Florida International University, Mora Arias moved to Washington, D.C. in 2017 for an IT and business management role with the World Bank.

She has always been interested in the social impact space so Mora Arias would volunteer as a Spanish teacher and began attending women-focused entrepreneurship events hosted by the World Bank. 

Mora Arias met Sadeghi at one of these entrepreneurial events in early 2018, and started working with Sadeghi on the side before joining the company full time. 

"I wanted to occupy myself with something that was extra meaningful," Mora Arias said. "I was drawn to [Symba] and wanted to learn a little bit more and support in some way."

With a team of 20 employees, Symba's core team is all women, the majority of which are immigrants. Mora said Symba's leadership team shared a similar experience of participating in internships to begin their careers, so they wanted to make sure more students, especially those from outside of the U.S., had the same opportunities available. 

Paula Mora Arias and other members of the Symba team.
Paula Mora Arias and other members of the Symba team.


"Internships are obviously one of the most important aspects of career success right after college, but they are oftentimes also very exclusive in a certain way," Mora Arias said. 

That exclusivity Mora Arias is referring to is the fact that sometimes internships are unpaid or require relocation, so only students with financial support from their families or guardians can take them on. Symba is working to make sure all students can participate in these opportunities. 

Challenges and Expansion 

The main challenge for Symba has been funding, Mora Arias shared. As women founders of color, the leaders of Symba have been able to gain support from mentors and advisors to help in finding financing. The company has also tapped into accelerator programs like Halcyon in D.C. and Techstars' Latinx startup community. 

Symba is announcing a Series A funding round after four years in business, despite the challenges and barriers. Mora Arias declined to disclose the amount.

"There is a lot of support and initiatives being poured into closing this funding gap," Mora Arias said.

Paula Mora Arias and another Symba leader speaking with people about Symba at a conference.
Paula Mora Arias and another Symba leader speaking with people about Symba at a conference.


One of the most rewarding moments in Mora Arias' experience working with Symba has been gaining international exposure after competing in the 2021 South Summit. The company was crowned the global winner out of 8,000 projects. The founders also got to speak with, and pitch, Symba to the King of Spain.

Another highlight for Mora Arias has been Symba's reach; she said the company has supported roughly 5,000 talent development experiences since its inception. Over the next year, Mora Arias said Symba is focusing on growing its portfolio of long-term contracts, hiring more team members, expanding to new markets, and improving its proprietary tech. Symba's platform is mobile-friendly, but it's web-based, so the company also plans to look into developing a mobile application. 

"We're really just starting to scratch the surface," Mora Arias said.  

11/22/2021 - Correction: Information about funding removed at the request of Mora Arias (Paragraph 14, sentence 2).

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