15 Things I Learned at Latinas In Tech Silicon Valley Summit

Around this time last week I got the opportunity to attend the first Latinas in Tech Silicon Valley summit through Pinterest’s Head of Diversity, Candice Morgan. I learned so much that I felt the need to share with my everyone who couldn’t be there. Although it was an event celebrating Latinas in Tech, I think some of the ideas, advice and perspectives shared are applicable to everyone in every field.

TLDR: It was amazing, I learned a ton, and I am 1100% sure I will be in attendance next year!

I am mostly writing this post because I feel other women/minorities should have access to this information. I usually write summaries of the books I read and lectures I watch, and keep them hidden in my Evernote, but this conference was special and I felt it needed to be shared.

The morning kicked off with keynote speaker Carla Pineyro Sublett, former CEO of Rackspace. She encouraged everyone in the room use what makes them unique to contribute to the culture of the spaces they are a part of. To be active agents within their companies and communities and to play more active roles within them instead of being passive and hiding because we are “different”. Our power lies in the very differences that make us unique and that help us bring so much to the table. “Culture is everything. More important than most things. Do your part to contribute to it, to shape it.”

“You have so much to offer. Your company will benefit from you bringing your whole self to work”

She emphasized the importance of having a solid group of people around you. “Build an amazing team, at home and at work. Marry the right person”

Carla also challenged the room to consider what they were going to do with the blessings they have been given. Everyone sitting in that room has access to opportunities that the rest of the world can only dream of. We are in the tech innovation capital of the world, working for some of the coolest companies in the history of time. We are already on the inside, and so she challenged us to consider “What are you going to do with your Golden ticket?” That really got me thinking!

Below are a few of the things I learned from other powerful speakers at the conference that I think you should know too:

  1. Storytelling is one of the most important skills you can acquire. Invest in learning how to tell a good story to your target audience.
  2. Seek advice and share ideas with others in your industry who may be having the same experiences as you. If you are looking for solutions, someone else may already have figured it out or the cross pollination of your ideas may reveal the answer.
  3. . “Know where you stand. Knowing where you stand will help you understand the steps you will need to take to be successfulMartha Soledad Founder & CEO of MadeBos
  4. Take your uniqueness and leverage that in your career. Use it as your advantage and use it to create opportunity.
  5. Figure out what you bring to the table that is unique and is going to open doors for you.
  6. Representation is key to seeing people succeed
  7. Being Latina is a strength of ours! If we believe in ourselves & we are doing the right thing, thats when we will start changing the narratives. It’s up to us.” — Sarahi Espinoza founder of DREAMers Roadmap
  8. If the job you want doesn’t exist. Make it, create it, ask for it. A lot of the women on the panels had created the jobs that they dreamed of and made them a reality. If you see a need in your company or in the world, that excites you, find a way to fill that need and propose your plan.
  9. Do not wait for other people to give you opportunities. Natalie Villalobos founder of Women Techmakers at Google said of her experience launching it: “If I had waited for someone to give me that opportunity, if I had waited for someone to see my worth, it might have never happened”

Today I can’t imagine a world without Women Techmakers as it is one of the most important communities for women in tech all over the world both virtually & IRL, for us all. Thank you for grabbing life by the horns and creating this space for us, you go Natalie!

10. Share your story. Be an example of someone who has been through challenges and overcome them. Someone might currently be going through the same thing you went through. Be an example and show others that there is a path, that there truly is a light at the end of the tunnel.

11. “Learn about who you are, where you want to be and what you are willing to do (and sacrifice) to get there. Make sure you make the right choices for yourself” — Pilar Manchon, Director of Cognitive Interfaces at Amazon

12. I loved the way Maricela Denniston, Senior Director of Threat Intelligence at Visa, described her experience with someone in the Navy (yeah she served on the Cyber Operations and Intelligence branch) on a power trip.

“I was told that I couldn’t wear skirts. Not because it was inappropriate but because someone wanted to control me with their power”. Read it again, and then go read the Four Agreements. These words really do put things into perspective.

13. Learn to amplify your value by developing your voice. Figure out your values and what it is you want to stand for and make sure your opinions, ideas and voice is heard by creating an online presence on Twitter, Medium, Youtube, etc.

14. Stay Hungry — Fight all the way through! Don’t get complacent and don’t ever give up. Grit is everything when you are doing things that have never been done and being a pioneer for all those to follow.

And of course,

15. Don’t leave yourself behind. Self care is important. On those days when you are stressed and feel like you don’t have time for anything, do 2 a days at the gym, schedule massages, remember to take care of yourself because if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t effectively take care of anyone or anything else.

Phew, those were a ton of learnings and I am still processing all of them and getting started on applying them to my life.

I left the summit feeling all of the feels. Reignited. Full of energy. Unstoppable. Inspired & Empowered! I now have new ideas on how I can use my culture and background to bring even more value to my company.

I am excited to bring my full self to everything I am a part of moving forward. Being in that room introduced me to a community of women and experiences that I identified with so much with but hadn’t found since moving to California a year and a half ago. It is so important to have a space where we can all let down our guards and be completely true to ourselves, our experiences and who we are today in this space and everything that comes along with that. I no longer feel alone or different in this industry, where it is so easy to feel alone in large part because people like me make up less than 3% of the full-time workforce.

Latinas have such unique perspectives, backgrounds, experiences and ideas. Not only are they different but they are extremely valuable to every company in Silicon Valley that is seeking to gain the attention and devotion of people like us who share our experiences in the United States and beyond. We have so much to offer to ourselves, our communities, our companies and the world at large in this moment in time. I am so proud to be a Latina Software Engineer.

I hope this article provided some value to you. If it did, please let me know in the comments which of the tips you will be putting into action today!