Many people often wonder how they can get a job in tech. Technology is part of everyday life in many ways, but getting a job in the sector can sometimes feel complex or daunting. This is especially true for Latino and Black people who continue to be underemployed in the field.
According to numbers released by some of the largest tech firms, including Google, Facebook, and other large tech companies, Latino and Black people account for less than 8% of their workforce. These numbers can sometimes be even lower for Latinas and Black women.
BeLatina spoke with six Latinas in tech with varying years of experience and roles who offered their advice and insights on how Latinas can get a job in tech.
Shannon Morales is an Afro Latina CEO and Founder of Tribaja — a community that helps connect diverse talent and tech businesses to one another. Tatiana Carett is a Lead Associate working a health account at a consulting firm and a Board Member of Latinas in Tech’s New York City Chapter. Lidia de la Cruz is an Afro Latina Full Stack Developer. Afro Colombian, Sandra Mosquera is a Vice President, Digital Product Manager in Financial Tech (FinTech). Stephanie Romero is a Customer Success Manager for a large Communications tech company, and Afro Latina, Laura Silva, works in Accessible Technology UX Design in FinTech.
At least half of the women we spoke to had no prior professional experience in tech but could successfully make the career change into the tech sector. Before working as a Customer Success Manager, Stephanie was an English teacher. Lidia also worked in the educational sector as a coordinator, Tatiana worked in the field of Physical Therapy before working in tech, and Shannon worked in the financial sector.
The conversation below has been edited for clarity and length.
When did you first get the idea to start working in tech?
Laura: in college, I minored in service design which essentially is the ability to create services [all services] that work for customers. How to make a coffee shop or an app better.. When I was doing these internships, I saw there were several stories not being told in tech. Inclusive design is an untold story in tech. The most successful technology is one that is easy and tells a story. Writing and tech go hand in hand.
Shannon: I worked in finance and realized I needed more flexibility to be creative and think outside of the box. I landed an internship at Adobe in the Bay Area by exploring different industries. The internship helped me pivot, and it didn’t feel like a ‘step back.” When I came back from Adobe, I took a role as an Innovation Manager, which made me realize I wanted to be a start-up. As a single mom with three kids, I had to be careful but still take these risks.
Tatiana: I worked in the Physical Therapy field for 11 years from large hospital groups and had a private at-home practice as well. But I continued to see systemic barriers to care that were affecting people’s lives and access to care. I was in the hospital when they were switching from paper records to health system tech for patient records and thought, ‘there has to be a better way.’ I went back to school for a joint Masters in Public Health/Masters in Business Administration, and one of the classes I took was health IT. This helped set me on the path of the work I do now.
Sandra: I am originally from Colombia, I came to the US with the idea of pursuing law just like I was doing back home, but when I got here, I found out that law was a postgraduate degree. I decided then to go for a stable, well-paid undergrad, so I chose Information systems, which combined business and engineering, and was offered at Villanova’s college of professional studies that offered classes at night for people that had a full-time job like me.
Lidia: I was working in the educational sector, helping diverse populations like families from immigrant backgrounds, diverse language speakers, and under-resourced communities navigate the school system. I started to help set up systems and processes to make it easier for the school and the families to work together. Then through conversations with people in my community, the idea of getting a job in tech came up.
Stephanie: After spending some time working abroad, I moved back home and wasn’t sure which direction to go in. All I knew was that I wanted to work at a well-known company and have financial stability. For inspiration, I started looking at companies/technology that I interacted with on a daily basis and did my research online. It wasn’t until I got the role that I realized I had gotten a job in “tech.”
What type of different jobs are available in tech?
Laura: Accessible Technology UX Design which is a by-product of inclusive design. Accessible Technology UX Design makes sure that accessibility is part of the product design process from ideation to completion. It’s like translating the user needs and the business needs. There are also roles for coders, developers, program managers.
Tatiana: I’m a Lead Associate, which is kind of a mixed bag on tasks that can include people management, business development, and client service delivery for project management. One of my responsibilities includes helping make sure the developers and coders meet and are integrating the legal requirements into the system build.
Sandra: Well, software development, in a way, is like building constructions. Architects, developers, maintenance, and quality assurance roles are the more technical roles. But there are many more roles that aren’t technical in nature, like sales, business, marketing, and writers.
Lidia: There are so many different jobs in tech people can explore. For developers, it’s kind of like there are front and back-end developers. When I was looking at different roles I could take in tech, I decided that I wanted to know the front and back—end so that I wasn’t limiting my ability to get a job to ‘one side.’ That’s why I decided to become a full-stack developer — someone who knows and can do the front and back end tasks.
What is something someone can do today to start their career in tech?
Laura: open up a Linkedin page and start messaging people and ask them to chat with you about the things you are interested in. Use LinkedIn. Start asking questions to the right people.
Shannon: Check out Tribaja.co. We help make it more simple to navigate a career change by helping people find equitable roles and include diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. All of the company job postings we share are vetted and are from companies that show us that they have a history and a clear commitment to living their principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
Tatiana: Visit the Latinas in Tech website, become a member, reach out to the chapters, attend events, volunteer. We have a job board and recruiting events you can check out, too. If you want to give a talk on your expertise — do that. We need to bring everyone forward. You don’t have to do it by yourself or on your own. Latinas in Tech is there for you.
Sandra: Always look at the company career site and apply to all the openings you see, even if it looks like the same position. In big companies, each group is like a small company, and each position has a different hiring manager, which means that someone might find your qualifications relevant for their position. Additionally, job descriptions are normally just a general description written by HR. They probably don’t know what the position is, so apply to everything and then ask what the role really is about. Just apply to everything.
Lidia: Look up boot camps and scholarships and certificate courses you can take to learn more about different available roles. Read about them, look up people on LinkedIn in the roles you want, and reach out to them. I attended the Grace Hopper Full Stack Academy and was able to get a scholarship to help cover half of the program costs.
Stephanie: Look up and attend meet and greet events companies host. I arrived at the event and started networking with all the employees there, asking about their roles, what it was like to work there, etc. I spoke to both the recruiter and the hiring manager that night, and they told me to apply online. Since I had already met both of them at the event, the interview process went smoothly, and I got the role!
Advice for Latinas looking to get a job in tech?
Laura: Learn about visual design regardless of what job you want in tech. The concepts of visual design will help with everything. Don’t be afraid to stand out. I’m a Black woman in tech who comes from Bogota, Colombia, and from a non-tech background. Don’t think just because you are ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’ you don’t fit into tech. And if there isn’t a space for you, just make it.
Shannon: You will need a strong support system of people who have also experienced the difficulties of pivoting into a field, like tech, because there is discrimination and feelings of not being included in all fields, including tech.
Tatiana: Shift your mind to ‘these are the skills I have, how can I use them in tech’ instead of saying, “I’m not an engineer.” Not coming from a non-tech background helps you say, ‘you need me; I have the knowledge of how to build these systems for users and industries.’
Sandra: For minorities, single parents, nontraditional students, and people that can’t afford college, there is no other industry that can give you a high-paying job with maximum flexibility in less than a year. I can’t stress enough that you do not need to be good at math or like math to become a developer. You can do a 6-month coding Bootcamp to become a developer, and then with Project/Product/ScrumMaster certification combined with work experience, you can get a job in tech.
Lidia: Don’t waste time telling yourself ‘you can’t’ or reasons ‘you shouldn’t try’ getting a job in tech. Know that the process can and will be hard at certain points. I was almost kicked out of my coding boot camp because I kept falling behind in different ways, but I had to keep believing in myself and keeping myself going until I passed.
Stephanie: Sales is definitely one of the easiest ways to transition into tech, and there’s always job stability in that. Almost every company needs people to sell their product. If you like interacting with clients, have exceptional listening skills, are competitive, or like having quantifiable goals to propel you to work (i.e., a quota), you should consider it. There are many different directions to grow in and move into from an entry-level role in sales. But I will not lie; it is a grind! If you’re prepared to work hard, you will be rewarded.
All of the Latinas in tech we spoke to encouraged people to connect with them on LinkedIn for further guidance, questions, or inquiries.