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Photo credit to Elias Castillo

There’s great folklore around Silicon Valley as “the land of immigrants”, where anyone is welcome, and where there are talented transplants from all over the nation and the world.

When meeting someone new and starting “small talk” conversations, too many people ask this seemingly simple question that’s a loaded micro-aggression, and too few take the time to appreciate the nuance of the answer.

“So where are you from, really?”

Take this recent conversation, from a Zoom session I had recently with an older, Silicon Valley veteran, while holding my toddler on my lap, and husband next to me:

Person A…


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Photo credit: Charles Deluvio

Being “the only X” (insert: woman, Latina, first-gen immigrant kid, mother…on the team) is lonely. In my 15 years working in tech, business, and finance, I rarely had a manager or senior reporting leader who shared my same identity. Nevertheless, I have progressed thanks to some managers who were true allies — and despite other managers who were at times barriers to my progress.

Here’s my thesis: Companies that are horrendous on diverse representation can still have inclusive managers and colleagues. Likewise, companies with established, mature D&I functions can easily have managers who are bad at inclusion.

The good news…

Valerie Villarreal

Product Manager by day. Mother by evening. Advocate for tech/corporate inclusion 24–7.

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