Once a Marine, always a Marine. I served five years in the 5th Battalion, 11th Marines as a platoon sergeant and martial arts instructor with two tours in Afghanistan. Today, if I meet another Marine, we automatically connect. It’s like a magnet, we’re going to be calling each other brothers and sisters. We’re family – no matter where we’re from or our backgrounds. That bond comes from a shared commitment not only to serve our country, but a commitment to have each other’s backs in the most difficult of times. To me, that is what community is about – different minds and backgrounds joining together, embracing one another, making each other feel welcome, included, and supported in the best and worst of times.
I want everyone to have that sense of community, too.
My family came from Nicaragua to flee the country’s civil war. I grew up in Houston, Texas where I was steeped in Latino culture, always surrounded by rich food–gallo pinto and platano frito–by vibrant music, and many other Latinos from different countries, backgrounds, and walks of life. It wasn’t until I left Texas to join the Marines that I realized that not all Latinos are as immersed in the culture as I. And yet no matter where I am, when I meet other Latinos, it’s like family even though we’re all from so many different places and have many different experiences.
I joined Microsoft through the Military Software and Systems Academy, a technology skills training program that helps service members transition to the civilian workforce. I was the first Marine to graduate from the program. While my work as a program manager at Microsoft is to assist customers, drive deployment and improve products, I most enjoy using my voice as a Latino veteran to build and connect communities.
Recently, I saw the opportunity to unite current and former military members, military spouses, and military supporters worldwide within the company by helping to establish the Military at Microsoft employee resource group. The transition to civilian life and especially a corporate civilian life can be challenging and having the community to lean on can be critical.
Community isn’t just about people with a shared background. I have made it a point to join other groups such as Global LGBTQI+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft (GLEAM), Blacks at Microsoft (BAM), Disability at Microsoft, and Women at Microsoft to learn how to be an informed and effective ally to members of those communities.
Of course, I’m also a member of the Leadership team for HOLA, the Hispanic and Latinx at Microsoft employee resource group. I really want to spread the word that HOLA is not just for the Hispanic and Latinx community. It is for anybody. We are building community, and anybody can be part of the community. All of us in the Hispanic and Latinx community are very diverse, not everybody comes from a certain country, we speak different languages, we all have our favorite foods, we all have our favorite dances. It’s about embracing each other’s differences and having each other’s back.