In a tiny, beige conference room in the back of the JW Marriott hotel were over 30 Latina tech enthusiasts from all over the world eager to share their stories about what it real feels like to be the only Latina in the room. Some from Columbia and others from Ecuador, each sat quietly, shyly introducing themselves to the stranger sitting next to them, wondering how to share their stories in such an intimidating landscape.
But just a short hour later, after sharing some of the deepest secrets and struggles of their career successes in tech, each of the women left the meet-up visually bubbly and inspired — and a few new Linked-In contacts.
“Because that’s the warmth that Latina’s give,” points out director of eCommerce and Marketing at Generation Tux Susana Meza. It was her idea to have this SXSW meet-up, and unlike other facilitators who were experts in the field of their pitches, Meza simply just wanted to meet other women like herself with careers in tech — which in her experience were far and few between.
“It can be very lonesome sometimes,” she admits. “You don’t really get to engage with anybody else who has the same cultural background.” A background she greatly attributes to influencing the way she solves problems, as well as celebrates the wins in her office space.
However, any disparity she felt quickly closed, as the women in her new tribe, bravely sounded off, and shed light on what it takes to be a Latina in today’s technological landscape. Here’s what the room unanimously had to say:
Don’t be afraid to be aggressive
If someone gets scared that you barked too loud, just shrug it off. It really is their problem. And seeing as their are so few Latina's in tech as it is, we can’t afford to hold ourselves back any further by silencing our own voices. Speak up and say your ideas proudly.
Own being Latina
Use the influences of your heritage to be whatever the moment calls for, albeit warm, vibrant, creative, expressive, etc. This is who you are, and it’s okay to be known as such. People do know how to love you, just as you are.
Build up your self confidence ASAP
When you believe in you, the entire room will follow. A majority of the women spoke about how having self-confidence helped them take some of their biggest risks and lift their careers to new heights.
Seriously, do what you love
If you’re looking to be a developer, and you’re stuck in a dead-end cashier job, do whatever it takes to align yourself with what it is you love to do. Take classes online, be a cashier at the Apple store. Get yourself as close as possible to your dreams, and make them happen! Life’s too short to spend it doing something that makes you miserable.
Never, ever give-up
While owning your heritage is very important, sometimes old school Latino values do hold women from making progress and innovation. But you can (and should) ignore that mess — immediately! If you believe you can build a drone that can break through our atmosphere and fly into space — build it. Even if your parents, siblings, and friends think it’s a silly idea or a man's job — just ignore them all and get to work. They’ll catch up to your genius soon enough.