Opportunity Miami
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Opportunity Miami

What does a true inclusive tech scene look like? How GET Cities Miami is taking the lead in providing a more inclusive tech scene for all

By Barry University student Isabel Pulgarin for Opportunity Miami

Born and raised in Argentina, Victoria “Toia” Santamarina was influenced by its culture and sense of inclusivity. Her professional experience reflects that, having taken positions that can help to make a difference in the community. Now she is among the top leaders in Miami’s exploding tech scene. As the GET Cities Miami Director (GET is an acronym for Gender Equality in Tech), she helps to accelerate the representation and leadership of women, trans and nonbinary people in tech. As Miami continues to grow as a vibrant tech scene, GET Cities has arrived in Miami at an opportune time to help make it one of the few inclusive tech hubs across the United States. Here is our conversation with Toia on what she has learned in her first year in the role.

Since this interview ran, GET Cities has announced their first local initiative, GET Champions Miami, powered by Radical Partners. GET Champions Miami is a six-week initiative designed for forward-thinking tech leaders who are committed to supporting and empowering marginalized communities within their companies. Learn more at and apply today. Opportunity Miami is proud to partner on this initiative to increase equity in tech in Miami.

What are some differences between Argentina, Seattle, and Miami? What are some big takeaways from moving between these places?

As an immigrant, every time I moved — whether from Buenos Aires to Durham, North Carolina, from Durham to Seattle, Washington, or from Seattle to Miami — I had to build my entire network from scratch. Growing up in Buenos Aires, I had my support system, my family, relatives, and friends. And when I moved to Durham, Seattle, and Miami — every time I wanted to explore something, I felt as though I needed to start almost from scratch. And that was a big challenge and, at the same time, an amazing opportunity to learn how to always see things in a new way keeping open, fresh eyes to something you want to explore. So that has been challenging and, at the same time, amazing.

Can you describe the goal of GET Cities? And more specifically, its role in the tech ecosystem?

GET Cites was founded back in 2019 with the support of Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company created by Melinda French Gates. It started in Chicago, then they launched the second office in the DC metro area, And in January of 2022, we launched in Miami. GET Cities aims to accelerate the representation and leadership of women, trans, and nonbinary people in tech through the development of inclusive tech hubs across the United States. . We seek to increase the number of women, trans, and nonbinary people getting degrees in computer science, getting jobs in tech, and getting access to more funding for their companies. The idea is that we have significant impacts on these three pillars via different interventions. For example, e partner with , currently working on their program at FIU, which is a fantastic intervention to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion for every company.

Each of our interventions adapts to each city, making sense of what each city needs. The idea is to really understand the opportunities and the gaps in each community and to respond. Not just to have one script and just copy and paste.

What are the top three things you learned in Miami from this research?

I love that you asked that question because GET Cities has a research team, and during — we launched our office last January — the first five months, I would say, we focused on understanding the ecosystem.

Our first big learning was: here in Miami, when people talk about diversity, most of the time, they’re talking about race and ethnicity. So, you could ask a CEO, “How diverse is your company?” and they’ll say, “Oh, so diverse! We have a Venezolano, un Mexicano, a Chileno!” and they would all be men, maybe white men from different countries — which is great! That is diversity. But gender, most of the time, is not part of the conversation. So women, and especially also trans and nonbinary people, are excluded from the conversation. So, that’s the first takeaway.

The second thing we would like to tackle is the perception that Miami has no diverse local talent. Before COVID, the tech economy was already growing here, and new opportunities have been rising. However, the recruiting process, especially since the more recent expansions in the industry, is not always designed to consider new candidates with different backgrounds, perspectives, and genders.

We have a new initiative launching soon that addresses these challenges and both sides of the pipeline. The aim is to transform Miami’s tech landscape that too often disproportionately minimizes historically marginalized groups of people, and we’re excited to share more soon. Stay tuned!

What are some goals you have been able to accomplish based on the research?

One of the goals is to include gender and the challenges we see in every conversation. And I would say GET Cities is in the process of becoming a voice to call that out in each discussion. We will always point to the importance of having women, trans, and nonbinary folks on your team: how it increases innovation, how it leads to problem-solving, about the importance of not only having those folks on your teams but also creating a sense of belonging on those teams. So, all of that is definitely something we are in the process of building.

I can’t help but think of the language barriers for these groups you work with, especially here in Miami. What are some ways GET Cities Miami is helping women and LGBTQIA+ people overcome language and other barriers?

The fact that our team speaks different languages is a way to do it. For example, the Miami team speaks English, Portuguese, and Spanish. I know it doesn’t represent the whole population in Miami, but it helps. Since we have a diverse team, the language barrier hasn’t been a problem so far. That’s an example of baking inclusion from the beginning.

I would say we are also inclusive in terms of gender. We state and ask for pronouns every time we are in a meeting. We ask everyone how they want to be addressed. We are trying to be as inclusive as we can in that sense as well. So, we are inclusive not only in terms of the languages we speak but also in the way we address everyone.

As Miami continues to attract top tech companies to the area, challenges in recruiting local talent are inevitable, as you’ve described. Are there other challenges beyond recruitment to consider as the ecosystem continues to grow?

Once you, for whatever reason, manage to extend an offer letter to someone from a marginalized group, if you don’t have the structure as a company to make sure that the person you want feels they belong, then that talent, sooner or later, will definitely leave. I think companies need to not only recruit and consider diverse local talent but to make sure to have the means to retain that talent and make sure that person feels they belong in that culture. And you can’t build or change culture with one initiative or one policy. The process of changing your culture must be from the leadership to the bottom and all throughout the company and its practices if you really want to retain and elevate marginalized people in tech.

How would you describe the Miami tech scene today, and how would you envision it in, say, 2040?

I would say the Miami tech community is a resilient community. It is a community that will speak up. It is a community that is very welcoming. Miami is the door for many people from Latin America and many other countries, and also has become the door for people within the United States. Miami is a community that knows what it wants and fights for it, and that’s why we are observing all this development, new opportunities, and growth.

What’s next for you and GET Cities?

We are launching a new initiative with Radical Partners that we’re so excited about. Follow us on social media @getcities to be the first to know!

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This is the first conversation in an ongoing partnership with Barry University, allowing students to create and produce content for Opportunity Miami.

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