4 min read
5/5/2023
Friday, May 5, 2023
Learn To Code

Sabio Lunch and Learn

Sabio Lunch and Learn | The Journey of a LatinX person in Tech

Sabio Lunch and Learn | The Journey of a LatinX person in Tech

David-Alex: Welcome everybody to our lunch and learn for Hispanic Heritage Month. I'm gonna pass it over to Gregory Rojas, the CTO and co founder of Sabio to tell us a bit more about his company.

Gregorio: Thank you, David-Alex. As you said, I'm the co founder and CTO at Sabio. First off, let me mention my co founder, who is my wife and CEO of a company. So not only am I the CTO, I happen to be the CTO because I've been in technology since 99. Because of what Sabio is, which is a coding bootcamp, I also happen to be the chief academic officer set of roles that I have where I'm in charge of building the learning management system here at sabio. But also in charge of making sure that we have everything we need to support our students in their progress from just learning how to spell HTML to becoming a full stack software developer a little bit about my background. I'm a lot like a lot of our students in that I'm a career changer. I went to school at Boston University for athletic training. But I realized that that career was just not for me. And I found my way into technology by actually paying attention to what my student athletes were telling me about technology and how awesome it was. They were right. It's really awesome. Now on a day to day basis, I enjoy working with people who are on that same journey.

David-Alex: Thank you so much for joining us. I want to pass it over now to but no more or less, and she's our People Operations Manager here at HyveWatch.

Barinya: Hi, I'm Barinya. I am the People Operations Manager here at HyveWatch. I will say that I got very lucky in kind of getting my first foot in the door. I literally had a recruiter reach out to me and let me know that there was a role available. And if I wanted to interview the interview itself was all of six minutes followed by the can I start on Monday. And it was four beats electronics at the time, which we now know Beats by Dre. So I ended up working for Snapchat for about five and a half years made the transition into recruiting. I always had my eye on the people team. And that's actually where I met Cameron, who brought me here to HyveWatch.

David-Alex: Next up, we have Jessica Trujillo who is a Sabio alumni.

Jessica: Hi, everyone. Before I got into technology, I was in the Navy for eight years as a Persian Farsi linguist. And when I decided that I wanted to figure out what I was going to do with my future. From that point, I was trying to find something that I could do remotely, technology wasn't even the first thing that I become interested in. But a friend of mine said that she had hired people from coding boot camps. That's the type of learner that I am. So when I started researching it, Sabio was the only school on the west coast at the time that took the GI Bill. And they had better reviews than the other coding boot camps that were in the area anyway, but I gave it a shot. After leaving there, I became a software engineer for a couple of years for a couple of companies. And since then have transitioned into being a technical program managers, most recently, I worked for a company called PinDrop. And I was a senior technical program manager there.

David-Alex: Roberto, we're gonna go next to you.

Roberto: Sure. So I am also a career changer. I originally started in financing operations consulting, I saw a lot of opportunity or missed opportunity for people of color and let the Latin X community within those industries. So I decided to jump into tech. But from a business side where I saw there was a lot more equity in terms of what you have, what you bring to the table versus what you're perceived as or what you look like. And it's been a wonderful, wonderful just place to work and really seeing how the community is really growing.

David-Alex: So we're going to move in a little bit now on specifically ally-ship for the Latin X community, what are some ways that we can encourage a state of allyship within the corporate structure in the tech world for our Latin X community.

Gregorio: I can tell you that as far as encouraged, so I live in a small corporate environment that I created with my wife, the number one thing that we do is to try to provide an environment where everyone feels welcome and safe. And when I normally have to enforce this has to handle this needs to be a place where everyone feel safe. Most everyone says, Well, look, this is fine outside of here. I don't know why this is such a big problem. It's this really mental exercise where people will tell me we'll look at it oh, yeah, this is fine everywhere else. But it's not, it's just not fine. And it's not okay to create an environment where people don't feel welcome. And so it takes a lot of action, I think. But the root of this is that it's not just us saying or supportive of each other, and us making room for everyone, it's that you actually have to make it right, you can't just speak it, you have to make it you have to create it. And it takes a lot of work to do that in the mail. And I'm like, you know, but I understand I completely support the fact that I think in my opinion, using a term like Latin X makes tremendous sense. And I have to use the all the comfort and all the power that I've you know, been privileged to have to be able to give that to others. You know, how do we encourage that is that we have to support each other in the tough actions that we have to do you have to have some of these tough conversations and implement and provide for in what turns out to be a tough way.

David-Alex: That's actually it's great. It's a wonderful answer.

Roberto: I think, you know, to avoid post rationalizing, I am a product of affirmative action. And I'm proud of that right, also part of the LGBTQIA community as well. So when I was growing up, and when I was developing in my career, I didn't see very many people like myself, and I felt always that I had to work extra hard to be seen at the same level of people that had different advantages than I did. And it wasn't until later in my career, where I started to realize that there was a big difference between equality and equity, and like Gregorio said, fight for that it is a conversation that we have to have advocacy is really important. And we can't be afraid to promote and require equity in our environments and really think through how do we actually create a state where people feel safe, people feel comfortable, and people can then develop and say, Hey, I may not have the same background as a lot of my other counterparts do. But I know that I'm being given the same opportunity as all those other counterparts.

David-Alex: So what is it exactly that you wish people would understand about being Latina in tech?

Barinya: The first thing that came to mind is the concept of imposter syndrome and how real that is for Latinos and Latinas. It shows up in your work environment as a Latina, I think I was always afraid that I'd be dismissed or overlooked because I'm part of a minority group. So there's that piece of it to tackle on top of this impostor syndrome is that I feel personally within myself ally ship shows up when you hold space to acknowledge those things, sympathize with them work through them, there's no reason why anyone experiencing this has to go through it alone.

Jessica: I'm typically one of the only females on teams think I've had two Latinos on my teams since I've been in tech. So in like the past three years, yes, you kind of always felt like an outsider. I mean, career wise, in the military, outside of that, I've kind of put myself in positions where I'm almost always the only, like, the only female or the only Latina, I think that it's made me stronger. And also to what I thought I was saying earlier, making that space for people is an action, you have to be willing to maybe not be liked by everyone, because you have to voice your opinion. If somebody's saying or doing something that doesn't align with what you want in your company, you have to be okay with letting them know and to forgive people, if they don't understand or if they get maybe even are a little bit ignorant about things and making space for them to understand where everyone's coming from and learn on their own, you know, to come to their own conclusion and give them that space to prefer to be okay for them to make that mistake, because they might realize that they're wrong. And then it gives them that chance to be aware so that they can hopefully in the future, also make space for everyone be a little more inclusive.

David-Alex: This next section is going to be kind of talking about what each of us have done to support other Latino people and encourage them to build their own professional roles in tech

Jessica: Outside of normal work. I also work with sabio still basically like a career guidance counselor, they'll send me students that have graduated or about to graduate, I'll work with them on their LinkedIn, on their resumes, I do interview prep with them. And when I say I'm a cheerleader, it's because I think a lot of the time all we need is for someone to believe in us when we don't believe in ourselves. And with Sabio, when I finished I had zero belief that I was going to find a job. And I got into my first position. And I had more than enough skill that I've excelled since I've gotten into technology. So as gardenia was saying, imposter syndrome is huge. I've had this feeling in plenty of positions that I've had, but I've never had the term for it until technology, like I said, I think that we just need someone to be like, No, it's going to be fine. And then especially someone that was in your position. So being Latina, being female, being able to sit with the students that have learned all of this and be able to kind of instill that confidence in them, remind them like you've gained the skills that you need in order to actually do the job, you've already been doing the job, you just are now looking for a new job that they know too. I find joy in helping people achieve things that they want to achieve whether it has to do with my work or outside of work. I'm constantly encouraging people just because like I said, I don't know I think that pivotal points in my life when I just needed something. And I've always had that one person who happens to show up whether it be a total stranger or somebody I've known my whole life that shows up and gives me what I need in that moment. Whether it's support or tough love or you know what have you so I just try to be that for everyone. I like to support people

David-Alex: Support that has been given to you by Sabio. I'm gonna go ahead and get some information from Gregorio Is there anyone that specifically did this for you to make you want to start Sabio.

Gregorio: First people that I think about my mom and dad, here I am, I'm a Latino. I'm an immigrant and my mom and dad busted the bus to get me into college and I went to university and it was five years into my career, man did they did they sacrifice to come here and set me up and make sure that I was on the right road. And then one day I came home and said I'm gonna give it all up and I'm going to do this programming thing. What did they do is they went out and bought me top of the line desktop that I needed to be able to start my career. I didn't know it at the time. But as I've gotten older, like the support that they gave me was really powerful because my first job in technology wasn't that supportive. But I was smart enough to be like, Look, I don't need to be here let me go somewhere else, or one of my other alumni told me this, set it to this way you got to be at a place where you're celebrated, not tolerated. And so I needed to be Find somewhere else. And I found my second job at a dev shop where they were like gonna go to here manage the IKEA North American Canadian sites have a nice day. And all of a sudden I'm just in charge. And what did they do? They buried me in work. And they supported me in that work couple years later, find myself again, still suffering from impostor syndrome. But I had another guy sitting next to me that was very supportive. We found ourselves basically about to be unemployed. And he basically just said, Hey, come over, I'm going to go back to this companies to work with and he got me an interview, I got a job having those people at pivotal times being there willing to support us. And you know, the last guy that got me that job Anthony, he spoke from, it wasn't just like, hey, go apply over there. He talked to the manager, he talked to the guy and he's like, look, this guy over here is going to be great for our team, you got to get him a job. And the way that turned out for me, because at that time was making like 60k. And I walked into this manager's office, and he's like, look, I go to you, I don't negotiate, I'm gonna pay you, I think was like, 85 grand. And that's it. So I will make 60 grand, and this guy wants to play hardball with me making any five I was like, Okay, no problem. And that was all because of the support that I got from Anthony at that point in time. And so as Jessica says, having that which a lot of us don't have, right, a lot of us don't have that person. First of all, you're going to be fine. Let's go. You're not prepared for this. But we'll get you there on paper, it doesn't look like you should be doing this job. But you're gonna do it, as opposed to what a lot of life tells us is that you got to come perfect. You got to have the pedigree, the degree and the background and the right mom and dad to be able to do this job tech. And the people that I found in tech, we're not like that. But just like my mom and dad were like, they're like, Okay, go ahead. Like, I have no idea why you don't want to do this. But go ahead. So that's what we do at Sabio. I joke about it, you know, you're just learning to spell HTML, right? You really that's all you need to do. As long as you can spell HTML and have the nerve to sign up to do this program. You don't have to be a computer wizard. You don't have to compete a rocket scientist to do this stuff that you know, on TV they might portray, like, really just not correct, right? The programmers you see on TV, and movies are like these, I don't even know what that's about. But I spend my time on Google, show me someone that Google's all day long. And there's gonna be something more realistic about what we do.

David-Alex: It's really cool that you can you can pinpoint the moment where you're like, This was pivotal. For me, this was support that I needed, and it was pivotal. I'm gonna switch over to Virginia. Now, you said that you came from snap, I know that you did some work over there for an employee resource group creation. Can you explain a little bit about what that is?

Barinya: Midway into my time at Snap, a few of us got together. And we had seen other emojis for women. But we wanted to identify one for Latinos and Latinas. So we came up with an erg, which I think we called Low snaps, it was great to see a community within a community be built before my eyes, and that I had a hand in that and just giving, you know, people like me a space to come chat or attend a meeting, or one of our events, just feeling that sense of camaraderie and just partnership with other Latinos. And I realized that so many people also want it to, you know, to contribute. And it's nice to just know that you're not alone. And you also want to have the important conversations, celebrate your food and everything that brings you together, I felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to play a hand of that.

David-Alex: How can this also be built to support specifically Latinos, whether it be an incorporation of an erg in conjunction with Barinya, or other departments?

Roberto: I oftentimes like to be practical, I think it's important to what little thing tweak can we make in our day to day that will make a huge difference. And the panel, everyone has pronounced the name of everybody else the way it should be pronounced or asked. And we do this in America typically a lot, adjust our names, people call it Americanization, of our names in all different cultures and everything like that. So we can fit in better. And I think if you know, if we just make that a little small attempt to ask people, How do you pronounce your name, and be respectful and pronounce their name, the way they like to be pronounced, I think we've come to a point that we can be proud of our names that there's a lot of power and a power of who we are. And just to get people to say, hey, actually, my name was pronounced. Otto adores, you know, you don't have to get it exactly correct. But an attempt is really, really valued. And I think if we start with that, just little tweak in that practicality makes a huge difference. I think another thing is you don't always have to create things in public to make a huge change. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of a private moment with someone and say, Hey, this is the way I feel. Be vulnerable. Us being willing to be vulnerable with our colleagues and our counterparts and the people who work for us and work with us and saying, Hey, today, not having such a great day or today, I feel bad about this or whatever it may be allows people to feel that they're comfortable in a space that they can also communicate to you because oftentimes our fears is Latin next people is we don't realize it but we feel lonely because we don't see a lot of people that look like us or act like us or speak like us or pronounce things like us in the world and understanding that and being sensible to that is something that we can really make a big difference in a huge change to.

David-Alex: You're very right a question I have for you right now Roberto is what is the moment where you realize that was it this conversation or was it before where you're like, Wow, I'm the person I always wanted to see.

Roberto: I can tell you that I always have strive to be good enough. And I've learned from mentors who didn't look like me that you can make a difference no matter who you are. So I had some great people in my life and I still do they still talk to on a weekly basis that may not be Latino Latina or Latin x, but they're very supportive and allies of the community, I think the moment that I realized that I have an opportunity to make a change was actually the moment that someone on our team came in as their authentic self. And he's on the path and they're on the panel now. And I see that a lot in our organization that people are coming in, and excels and being themselves and feeling comfortable to be themselves. I totally grateful for people who now are able to express themselves authentically and not be afraid to do that.

David-Alex: You don't have to do that to me. Barinya, what is the moment that for you that was pivotal in realizing like, wow, I am a Latina and tech and I can have an impact on others.

Barinya: To start Roberto is a person I always wanted to see at leadership, I've never been surrounded by a Latino or Latina leader in leadership position before just allowing us to build a culture that's very mindful of our diverse backgrounds, and inclusive of who we are as an entire person, not just the person that we show up to work and do our duties. But I think now for the first time I'm in this more so environment where I am accepted for who I am, and the experience I've acquired but also something Gregorio touched on, it's okay, if you don't know the rest, I'm not having to show up perfect for the first time in my life. And I appreciate the support that I get from everyone around me here. And hi, watch for the things that I know and the things that I don't know. So actually, for the first time in my life, being in this learning environment in this accepting culture feels really, really good. But it's great to see the culture here in the people programs that we have, or in our processes, how we work and connect with one another. Like that's the second piece of it. Diversity, hires should not be a check mark, just to kind of meet numbers, there is more to that once someone actually walks through your door. And there's an employee now here that we have to incorporate and include in our culture, and ensure that they have a great experience working for us.

David-Alex: I can hear our wonderful company out there clapping away, I do want to touch on that. Specifically the diversity hire been able to see this impact of where I am now the representation. Have you been able to see that in your life or in your profession?

Jessica: I would say I have. And it's mainly because I'm sought out whether it's through sabio, or plenty of women. And plenty Latin people come to me and ask me for advice or guidance or direction. It's humbling. It's nice, because like you were saying, I've never really thought about the idea that I have representation for who I wish I would have seen. It just doesn't occur to me because I was lucky enough to have the support of my mother who was nothing like the rest of my family and encouraged me to do whatever it was I wanted to do. So I've never really looked for anybody else. I've kind of just done whatever I wanted and fought my way through. But I've always had that support and that soft place to land, I don't really think about it until people come to me and say, Oh, I heard you on this. And I just wanted to ask what your experience was like or how you got here. And it's nice to see that I am having an effect on other people and that I do have the ability to help them get where they want to go just based on the things that I've done in my own life or learned on my own. So I definitely see it.

David-Alex: Gregorio, you have created this incredible environment, not only for learning and growth, but for camaraderie and mentorship. What is the moment where you realize I'm doing it,

Gregorio: The puck keeps moving, right? The goalpost keeps moving. So even before technology, I was always trying to help people out when I was in college, I would help mentor the younger first year second year is when I quit just graduated, I was involved in some type of community organization, but in tech and tried to start a cohort for like a year and we couldn't. And then finally we started a cohort and we finished a cohort and then all of them got jobs. It was kind of like I didn't get the feeling until they got to feel if I had four people, we were like four months into a part time training program where we were training weekends and nights, we decided to go to a hackathon and see what's this about, I had actually never been to a hackathon. But I thought it'd be a great way to expose people to this culture. I just wanted to show up and have them be in the audience and see what people are doing. But we got there. And the four students that we had, they were all pumped up about this, like let's do this, even though like we were all a little bit nervous going in, I don't know if they knew how nervous I was going in there. Long story short, we went $3,500 that time, it changed immediately the whole feeling in the room, our little training room where it was like, oh my god, we can actually do this. And we went out and competed with a bunch of these people. And we won like one of the top prizes in the hackathon and so that was probably like the first time when I felt like okay who let the flag celebrate high five you got another batch and we're going to do the same thing again with new people right so everyone's doubt starts at zero and like you got to build up their confidence through that whole thing which is I we've gotten better.

Jessica: Can I say something, too, as well about Gregorio because he's kind of being a little bit humble. What He teaches at Sabio thinks he's teaching everyone to be software engineers. But what I took from sabio was much more than that. He teaches you how to negotiate, how to have confidence, how to believe in yourself things that they can help you anywhere in life. And these are things that, like he said, he, I'm sure that when he went to the hackathon, nobody thought he was nervous, because this is his happy, sad, angry, excited emotion right here. Always Anytime he's talking, this is how he is, I'm sure if he's nervous, you would never know even if he was nervous, he's probably encouraging ever everyone else telling them that they can do it. I think I kind of do for other people exactly what he did for me and what he does for everybody that goes there as well

David-Alex: Look at you all making an impact. Alright, so we are down to our last five minutes. I do want to once again, thank everybody for joining. But I also want to open up the questions.

Landre: What are actionable things that you would love to see allies doing for you on a daily basis?

Roberto: I mean, I think the easiest thing is names. Right. And I think that goes for everybody. In general, I think the other thing is to realize that groups like ours and other groups as well, we're not the best at advocating for ourselves. It's not something that in our communities, we do very, very well. It's not something that we're trying to like you can conquer the world, you can do this, we are I think all lucky I've been here to have this type of parents and said, Go do it. But in general, in our culture, it's very much we want to get married early, you want to have children, you want to do this, you want to do that you want to live in that bubble. Or maybe you're you think about their street careers, lawyer, doctor, you know this or that, or whatever it may be being able to just learn about our backgrounds and ask us questions, I think is a really important thing. And just finding similarities between ourselves and but also recognizing that we do have key differences, and that sometimes we will not raise our opinion, because we've been framed by society, it's harder for us to represent ourselves. Because we don't see people in those positions of power very typically into positions of advocacy, very typically, one thing

Gregorio: One thing I'll add in here, if you are committed, you feel like I am an ally. And I want to be an ally, mentorship and support is great, but you need when you champions, we need people who will champion for us when we're not there. Not just mentorship and support, but true championships a very interesting perspective that I have, when I see over 1500 people now hitting the job market, how they move around in their careers. It's really powerful when you have a champion and someone who will literally like grab you and pull you out when you're not in that room as opposed to mentorship and support. And those things are really valuable. And we've needed to put so they're part of the formula. But at the end of the day, like one of the things that really helps people move up is having that champion like I have that champion in that guy Anthony that I told you guys about earlier, that guy was like, No, give this guy a job. That's what you need to do. And it happens leverage everything he leverages relationship, he put it at risk. He did everything that he could possibly do other than you know, write the checks himself to get me that job. But there's a lot of opportunity when you work in corporate America, like the champion for someone that if you were an ally you bought into it, then championship is a an important thing that needs to grow more

Jessica: Honestly, if you just genuinely care about these people, expose yourself because the only way to really get to know other cultures and people that are not like yourself is to expose yourself to talk to them how they're doing, what their interests are giving them support. I think caring is the first step it's at least a good direction to set yourself on. And then like everyone else was saying, you know, support and, and helping them through getting them where they need to go.

Barinya: I've experienced it most in meetings, it's very difficult for me to sometimes brace my voice. And I've seen others I've had other peers who also don't want to, you know, give up their input. So I think something you can do in that moment in time is just check with with someone struggling. Did you have anything you know, that you wanted to say? Or encourage people just to be more open and vocal with their opinions in a business setting?

David-Alex: Just want to close out by appreciating everything that sabia was doing and everything that that have watched is building we really appreciate both of these companies. Thank you so much.

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