The first time I stepped into the US was when I was 6 years old. Little did I know what opportunities traveling 5000+ miles from Bolivia to California would bring into my life.
This past month, seeing and hearing how heartlessly immigrant Latinx children are separated from their families in search for the same opportunities I got, haunt me. I could have easily been one of those 2000+ kids feeling the unbearable if it were not for a piece of paper via a green card lottery.
However instead of giving in to the pain and trauma we have been witnessing, I personally and professionally made a commitment to help the Latinx talent in the U.S. in the best way I can — creating opportunities to build a thriving future as key drivers of this country’s future. Through my work at the Kapor Center, I aim to create generational opportunities into the fastest growing, most economic upward mobile sector known as tech…but on our own terms. After all, Latinx are the most multicultural and fastest growing demographic in the U.S. , described as “super mobile, super consumers”. So we have to remember that tech needs us to continue to be relevant. Not the other way around. It’s time for us to create and own our narrative with empowerment and in volume.
In my two years so far at the Kapor Center as the Chief Technology Community Officer, we started creating new narratives with our local community. Alongside Carolina Huaranca, Principal at Kapor Capital, we prototyped and validated ways to educate and empower our local Latinx community to go beyond seeing themselves as consumers of tech but rather see themselves as the creators of purposeful tech. In 2016, we hosted the first ever Techstars Startup Weekend Latinx in Tech edition in Oakland that reached 80+ Latinx community members. In 2017 we scaled to 4 cities with passionate local Latinx leaders and reached 300+.
In 2018, we’re going to 9 cities with the goal to mobilize 900+. But we are not stopping there. We will also host the first Latinx in Tech (LTX) Summit that will bring together 300 community members from the 9 cities as well as serve as a homecoming for the talent that attended our first events. A key learning from the past two years, especially from the last year, was that activating communities can be temporary if the right nodes of networks of networks are not interconnected. This year we are connecting the public/private nodes of nodes in an inclusive tech ecosystem approach by working across sectors — starting by cultivating and investing in local Latinx community leadership.
To enable more direct systems change, at the beginning of this year we hired our first Latinx in Tech Program Manager, Josh Torres, who has worked in early stage tech startups such as Square and Asana. As a queer identified Puerto Rican, Josh understands the importance of intersectional, multicultural representation of our Latinx community in this sector from his own lived journey. Josh, Carolina, and myself alongside the entire Kapor Center team aim to not only help activate ecosystems but also create playbooks so that these efforts and learnings can be shared. Ultimately we want the local community leaders to own these playbooks and pay it forward to drive the change they want to see in their communities with support across regions and nationwide.
Our goal through LTX is not only to demystify pathways into tech careers but to also create pathways into tech entrepreneurship and venture capital — areas where the Latinx representation is statistically not even measurable. Of the 52 Million Latinx in the U.S., less than 3% are in high tech/emerging tech fields. We are going after the unrealized 97% opportunity to have the U.S. based Latinx talent go beyond being the consumers of tech but also be the owners, investors, and inventors.
The past month, the past year has shown us that there is no time like now for those with opportunities like myself to pay it forward across sectors with a clear call to action. The need for a national cross sector collaboration and tech strategy was evident at this year’s UnidosUS Conference. Very poigntaly, Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO & President of Voto Latino, shared that we need to “stop resisting. We need to start occupying public office, start occupying boardrooms” as a community. I’d add that we also need to start occupying tech, tech entrepreneurship, and venture capital like never before.
If you are ready to own and share your LTX narrative, join us at Startup Weekends Latinx in Tech in your city starting Mid Sept — Mid Oct AND join us in Oakland on Nov 1–2. To stay informed of announcements, join our mailing list.