Becoming a Latina in Tech

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“When I was 12, skipping the question if I was ‘of age’ to sign up for MySpace, I remember…changing up the HTML and CSS. I loved (emphasis on loved) to do that.”

If someone asked me when I was at least 17 years old, what would I be doing in 5 years, quitting my $56k, 7-5, stressful job to teach myself programming would not be the answer. I was in my recruiter’s office, running miles at the time, and working out with a personal trainer to be ready for basic training for the US Army Reserves. I was certain I wanted to come back from basic training to go straight to school to study Chemical Engineering (hence the reason why I chose to become a Chemical Specialist in the Army).

When I was 12, skipping the question if I was ‘of age’ to sign up for MySpace, I remember hooking my cousins and friends up. I would edit their pictures for them, choose backgrounds from websites, change up the HTML and CSS text to match exactly how I wanted my page to look. I would change the width of the container that would hold my profile picture and friends, I would hide the music widget and even hide my comments for my profile by deleting some code. I loved (emphasis on loved) to do that. I would come home from middle school to just mess around with my profile to make it the coolest out of all my friends. 

My parents were the hardest workers I have ever met in my life. They were both born and raised in El Salvador, leaving their country and extended friends and family to get away from the gang and law enforcement war in the 80s and 90s. They were always drilling in my head that I have to become a lawyer for immigrant rights, or at least helping ‘my people’ as they said. When I came home with the paperwork to join the Army, that was a smack right to their faces. My mom cried for weeks, and my dad… well my dad just didn’t care, he was proud regardless of what I did. I spent 6 months in Missouri, being handed a rifle to shoot targets and take it apart to clean it. Little did my drill sergeants know, I had NEVER even seen a gun, let alone held one. It was a shock to me. We spent days and nights out in the forest to practice being in hiding or in battle, getting stun grenades thrown at us while we slept on the hard, cold, bug-infested mud. Even though it was a drastic decision to join the military, it definitely changed my crybaby personality to become this hardcore, badass, independent woman that I am today. 

I came back home and I went straight to school to become a Chemical Engineer. Even though I love school, for some reason I wasn’t putting in my 100%, like I usually did in those classes. While in school, I was promoted at work rather quickly, to an Asset Protection Manager in Training. I eventually became an Asset Protection Manager and the only female in the seven store market might I add. I was so proud. I was doing great but I wasn’t happy with my job, or my choice in a major.

Fast forward a year or so, my husband and I became pregnant! I was SO happy, but I was now concerned that I was harming my child with the labs in school. So I changed my major to Computer Science and began taking online classes. The first programming languages the classes had me learn were Python and C++. I was so happy. It was like a light was shining through the darkness in my body, consuming everything. I moved on from those classes to review HTML5 and CSS3. I wanted to cry to my husband so badly and tell him all my stories about middle school and how I used to do this all the time. The only issue I ran into with these courses is that they would only teach the basics. So, I decided to quit my job and my financial security to teach myself how to program in depth so I can truly be fulfilled. 

Now, it wasn’t as easy as I put it. My baby was born in October 2018, so I have a clingy little chubby baby holding my hands and face while I am trying to learn, luckily my husband had a decent schedule to support me. However, it was still inconvenient when he was not home to help me out with keeping my kid out of my hair. 

Not only did I face a clingy child, but I had also faced the 0.5% of men (and women) who just judge, oh my gosh, JUDGE. Calling me a fake, saying disrespectful things about my gender and how women should only be a housewife — not playing in a man’s world. I have been hit on, and even asked to be a sugar baby. I have so many things I could add to this annoying, disrespectful list of professional boundaries others have crossed with me. Through perseverance, I have no allowed it to bother me. I have allowed all that negative and some straight-up inappropriate comments to slide off of my back because I am here to inspire my fellow sisters and brothers in tech. I have done way too much and worked my butt off to get where I am now to allow people to drag me down and put me in a box. 

“I, along with some many other women and Latinas in tech, are here to speak about our journey to where we are now, write about our struggles, and mentor, inspire, and teach our fellow sisters in tech and we will never let you down.”

With my knowledge of programming and strong personality that I have built myself to have, I plan to inspire people, specifically Latina women and girls, to join the supportive community of tech. We are a minority in this field, women and Latinas, and we need to stop being full of fear, of judgement, or disappointing our family. As a woman and Latina in tech, I am willing to speak at conferences, schools, even other countries to steer women and girls to the tech industry without fear. I am also looking into a way to involve tech into the curriculum of schools from El Salvador. We have conquered so much, teaching ourselves, taking the hits and punches of peoples rude comments, and not losing ourselves to the emotional/mental beating we are giving ourselves in this journey.  I, along with some many other women and Latinas in tech, are here to speak about our journey to where we are now, write about our struggles, and mentor, inspire, and teach our fellow sisters in tech and we will never let you down. 



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