As Latinas, we pride ourselves on having confidence, passion and drive that allows us to accomplish anything we set our minds to. For me, early on, I set the goal of becoming a programmer.
I have always been drawn to technology and when I was in the 6th grade, back in Venezuela, I took a computer class on the basics of programming. That’s when I learned that I could convert mathematical formulas into straight lines on the screen. This blew my mind. This is the day I decided I would create pictures on a computer screen for the rest of my life.
After graduating as a Computer Engineer at the Universidad Simon Bolivar in Venezuela, my dream of working with computer graphics and animation took me to Purdue University for my master’s in computer graphics technology. Timing was on my side as Purdue was building their first virtual reality center. I became a professor and researcher and later entered the animation industry, working at Pixar and DreamWorks Animations on films such as How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Rise of the Guardians. Once the virtual reality (VR) industry took off, I jumped in head first.
Thinking back to when I interviewed for my current role as a Principal Software Architect for Microsoft Research, I remember talking about how I wave my arms a lot and I have a lot of energy. “I am who I am,” I said. To my surprise, the interviewer, now my manager, just laughed and said, “at Microsoft, we welcome everyone for who they are” and encouraged me to bring my full self to work. I even got a little emotional, as I had never heard a manager say that.
This has allowed me to follow my other passion of being an advocate for women and minorities. I take advantage of every opportunity to engage with different organizations because I believe in the power of working together and lifting each other up. From helping to organize a VR workshop and career shadow day with the Made by Girls Association, to participating in the mentoring program, Ascent, and talking about the importance of diversity in STEM at a community college for Latinos, I always keep strong ties to my heritage.
My vision is to elevate our countries by bringing all the amazing technology we’re working on here to Latin America, and to recruit more women and Latinas to work at Microsoft.
I’m very excited about the future of Latinos. We are the fastest growing minority in the US, and we’re already impacting and influencing the culture and way of life in the US. And, this is only going to keep growing.
My advice for young Latinas? Have courage and speak up. Reach out to other Latinas – you would be surprised at how much others want to help empower you to achieve your full potential.
If you’re interested in learning more about how the mixed reality industry is evolving, check out my interview on Behind the Tech, a podcast that goes behind-the-scenes with today’s most innovative tech leaders.