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How I learned to embrace my powerful Latinx identity

As a Latino man, I could have easily become a statistic, never breaking out of the cycle of poverty that most of my family is still trapped in. I have my mom to thank for showing me that I could be more, pursue more and that I deserve more. At 16, my mom chose to drop out of high school when she found out she was pregnant with me because she was embarrassed.

Once I was born, she enrolled in classes and completed her GED before she would have even have graduated high school. She then pursued a Bachelor’s degree and continued on to get her Masters of Science in Forensic Psychology and Ph.D. in Psychology.

Growing up raised by a teen mom who was on welfare and in an abusive relationship for the majority of my childhood was difficult, but my mom always shielded me from most of the struggles in our life. She was a driven, strong Latina who always found and focused on the joy in life. She imprinted in me a sense of pride and ambition because she had grit and would never settle.

Me and mom in the 90’s

I stand on the shoulders of the generations before me, like my mother, whose legacies of tireless effort and hard work have shown me how great I can be. My family’s tenacity and perseverance in the face of extreme adversity has always been an inspiration and a driving force that has inspired my grit and ambition. That ambition, grit, and want of continuous learning set me up for success throughout my life and especially for a career in tech.

As I reflect back on my career, I am grateful for all of the amazing opportunities I’ve had to collaborate with extremely successful and intelligent teams building technological products with purpose and impact. Working alongside Jack Dorsey at a Pre-IPO Square, I saw first hand how transformative it was for a small business to be able to accept credit card payments. When I joined a small team building what would later become Yelp Reservations, I experienced how much technology could benefit restaurants by helping them book online reservations. Most recently at Asana, I learned the value of effective communication as a scalable tool for teams as I helped to contribute to Dustin Moskivitz and Justin Rosenstein’s vision of the future of work.

Me and some of the Asana team in 2013

I fell into tech without really understanding the industry. I didn’t have strong role models or leaders. With the help of many strong supporters and a lot of self-work, I’ve found pride in my work and I’ve learned that I belong in tech as much as I belong anywhere. Throughout the years, I can also recall how incredibly difficult and lonely it was to be in spaces where I was often the only person of color.

That feeling of loneliness set me on a path to seek others who could understand and empathize with my experience.

I never really denied my heritage, but I never fully embraced it either. I saw it as a part of me that was irrelevant to work.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve explored more of who I am. As a result, I’ve found a power and strength embedded in my family, past, and my Latinx identity.

As part of my work in 2018, I’ve helped to curate intimate Jeffersonian-style dinners, co-hosted with industry leaders like Joshua Encarnacion and Maria Salamanca. As I sought out a community and began to reconnect with other Latinx and people of color in tech, I realized my journey and experiences were not unique. We engaged in deep and meaningful dialogue focused on our experiences as Latinx leaders in tech and how we can enable one another to make a more positive change.

These experiences have opened my eyes to the beautiful and complex natures of my industry colleagues and have validated the importance and necessity of my work to foster and build community with a sense of depth and support. I also continue to share my story as a way to inspire and connect with others who want to find support and guidance on their journeys traversing the tech industry.

Me sharing my story at Hustle House @ SXSW by Black and Brown Founders earlier this year

I am extremely grateful that I was able to break into tech and while there are a few of us in industry, we need more than the current 3% representation. We need to create effective and sustainable pathways for more Latinx to get jobs in tech and become the next wave of innovative entrepreneurs.

One of the biggest blockers for Latinx to get into tech is awareness and knowledge of the industry. It is imperative that we continue to create and uplift role models so that future generations also understand that they belong in tech and that they bring value to the tech industry.

Inspiration from the numerous examples of the strength and resilience of this community will be the fuel that shifts us to action. We need more leaders to look up to and aspire to. So young women like my mom don’t have to struggle. So younger generations know they too can achieve. So we create a more equitable future for all.

Antonio Lucio’s recent appointment to Chief Marketing Officer of Facebook needs to be celebrated by the community as a truly historic moment and one that shows what we’re all capable of, given resources, support and focused intention.

We also must champion the success of young leaders like Maria Salamanca and Jomayra Herrera who recently were honored as Forbes 30 under 30 Venture Capital change makers. It’s also imperative that we tell the stories of perseverance and dedication of those close to us, like my mom striving for success and getting her Ph.D., despite the odds stacked against her.

I seek to use my position within the Kapor Center to break down these barriers, empowering our community to connect and lift one another up. The inaugural LTX Summit is one way in which I hope I can help more Latinx to understand the value that they can bring to the tech industry as the creators who build the innovations that will shape a better future for us all.

The LTX Summit will take place on November 1st and 2nd in Oakland, CA and we welcome all members of the Latinx community and allies to join us as this movement begins and we prepare to step into power.

Our time is now. Will you join us?