Empowering Community Through Education

 |   Stephanie Martinez, Education Manager, Microsoft Corporation

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I am a proud Mexican American woman. I grew up in a rural town in California’s Central Valley where 80 percent of the population is first-generation Mexican American or Mexican. But as close as I am to my roots and my heritage, I struggled with not feeling Latina enough because I am not fluent in Spanish, and I don’t have any family in Mexico.

Despite this, I knew I had opportunities to connect with and give back to my community through Microsoft.  I decided  to launch the Southern California chapter of the HOLA (Hispanic and Latinx at Microsoft) employee resource group.  I took what I perceived as a risk of starting the chapter as a non-Spanish speaking Mexican American, but realized I fit right in.

During an event with HOLA, I was asked to find volunteers to provide Spanish translations for families separated at the border, and yet, I myself couldn’t volunteer. As self-conscious as I felt about this, I decided to focus on what I could do: coordinate the event, find the volunteers, and help raise money for the KIND Legal Clinic. Through this experience, I realized my passion to give back to my community was more than enough.

These involvements with HOLA have helped me with the different roles I’ve held at Microsoft. Prior to the pandemic, I was a Community Development Specialist, hosting events for strategic partnerships with sports organizations, as well as various nonprofits. However, with stores closed and events cancelled indefinitely, my role shifted to education. As an Education Manager, I help ensure teachers are able to teach remotely, and I love this work.

One of my more memorable experiences was training a faculty at a university in Colombia after they moved to remote learning and needed the tools necessary for the digital transformation. As a Latina, it was rewarding to work with educators in another country, and to help their Latino students continue their education in a way that was remote and safe.

But my favorite part of my role as an Education Manager is that I get to champion young Latinas in my community, helping them to achieve their goals. As I interact with these students, I am reminded of being a young Latina myself in the Central Valley, never imagining that I’d be able to work at a company like Microsoft. I realize now that working in tech shouldn’t have felt like a dream, but a very possible reality. For this reason, every time I get the opportunity to work with educators and their students, I ask myself “is there anything more I can do to help young girls that can’t imagine themselves in this role?”

Stephanie Martinez Mountains

The work I do at Microsoft has helped me discover my passion. Despite role changes, I hope to help create a path for others who are journeying into the unknown. I was the first in my family to receive a four-year college degree, leave our rural town, and work in tech. Being the first meant I didn’t have an example to help me navigate my journey. It is my hope that sharing my personal and professional story will help make it easier for others to navigate their own journeys, especially when they are the first in their family to do so.

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