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How To Get Into Tech: A Latinx Guide

A woman sitting with a laptop

We are living in the digital age, where access to information is like no other. For those of you who are curious about breaking into tech, we’d like to take away the mystery and give you some tips for breaking into the field.

The truth is, tech companies are just like any other. Many of them are in the news often, and some have made investors very wealthy, i.e., Uber/Lyft. One of the key factors allowing them to do so, is that they’re leveraging digital technologies at a low cost that is easier to scale. New companies are developing ideas that may impact our society with great implications. Especially for low income Americans, primarily from communities of color.

Often, people with an established network of connections have a higher level of access to these jobs. Built on a system that is designed to be a school to office pipeline for those of privilege, the tech industry ends up skewing, white, male, and of means. We often think of tech employees to be Mark Zuckerberg clones, but rarely do we see Brown or Black graduates holding positions throughout these organizations.

Photo Credit: WOCinTechChat.com

This results in major blind spots. We end up with technology that is not accounting for different skin tones, or that considers the sociopolitical impact on low income communities, winds up shaping media through fake news, and insensitive advertising campaigns.

So we know that LatinX staff is largely underrepresented in the tech space. Yet, we are one of the biggest demographics in the United States, that companies target with advertising. Many companies specifically work on reaching the Latinx consumer, but the products and services are by and large not built by Latinx people. The outcome can be devastating. Messaging can come off as tone deaf, stereotypical, or even worse, appropriative. So why aren’t there more Latinx folk in the tech industry?

It’s not for lack of want. Many of us have been surviving, navigating different spaces, and frankly didn’t have people to guide us into STEM fields. Lack of points of entry, in addition to toxic and unwelcoming work environments compound the issue. Overall, there are many capable candidates, and people that don’t even realize the potential there is in tech simply from lack of resources.

Due to the lower overhead in producing a digital product, salaries tend to be higher, so for POC candidates who have grown up low-income this has a huge impact on our financial independence, families, careers, and communities. It is a major leap frog out of the struggle.

So I want to let you all know of the different areas that exist at tech companies, and while yes programming is one of them, it is not the only way in.

Businesses have many moving parts and that is not an exception for tech companies. Yes, one can start a company with just an app and developers but here is more to a business than just the product. You do not need to be a programmer, computer scientists, or engineer to be in the tech industry. This is a necessary and important part but there are other roles that are needed.

If you’re at a startup the key ones most will start with are business development, strategy & operations, web/mobile/app development teams and often wearing many hats. At larger companies you will have many more specialized roles. The point here is there are many areas and roles available, these words are scary sounding but let me break it down a bit more in simple terms.

There are lots of people who study and go to university to get these specific roles. The beauty thought of the tech industry it is more skills based for the most part, especially in start up environments. They key is understanding your strengths and what these roles even mean and building up your network, as a latinx individual joining organizations like Techqueria. Some roles are more external (client) facing meaning you will talk more to potential customers, existing customers others are internal working alongside other teams in the company, and lastly more independent work. So even if you’re an extrovert or introvert there is space for you.

Photo Credit: WOCinTechChat.com

Sales & Customer Service : These are the people in charge of making the cash money. They may be in charge of finding potential customers, reaching out to them, and essentially securing the bag. These are your people person. Most likely will be wining and dining prospective clients, customers, sliding in the DMs/emails, building relationships with people to ensure they become a happy customer. For existing customers they are the ones that are making sure clients are happy and profiting as well, they want to make sure that clients have the newest products.

Roles: Sales Associate, Account Manager, Customer Success Manager

Strategy & Operations: This is what keeps the day to day running smoothly. Operations teams are in charge of putting out the fires that come up but also determining the best way to make sure there aren’t more fires in the future. They are the ones developing internal processes, building standard procedures, seeing all of the moving pieces and figuring out how do we all do less work and be strategic and intentional in what we do, and more efficient across our teams. Some people in operations specialize in one aspect or area at smaller companies might handle all operations.  They may interact with some clients but predominantly work with the teams internally ( I am bias and think this is the most important part, here is a deeper dive article).

Roles: business operations manager, advertising operations coordinator, or digital operations strategist

Web/Mobile/App Developers: These are your programmers , they are the ones building the actual code for  the software or app. They are the ones that you probably think of when you see tech and often spending countless hours building a custom product. Often they work along side product development and UI/UI designers. They are able to work more independent usually than any other teams.

Roles: Junior Web Developer, Software Developer, Mobile iOS Developer

Marketing: These are the teams that are thinking of creative ways to have you buy their companies product, thinking of the best way to get your attention, reach you where you are ie: through advertising on social media, on your billboards, on the radio, working with your favorite content creators and influencers. They’re the ones thinking of what is the best way to get a new customer and make them love our brand. They may interact more so with clients and potential customers for market research.

Roles: Brand Manager, Growth Marketer, Digital Marketing Manager

Product Development: this is the team that is developing what they are selling – the product which can be anything from a service, software, to an app. They create new products, modify existing ones as it fits with their company goals and customers.

Roles: Product Manager,  Product Owner,

Photo Credit: WOCinTechChat.com

Project Managers: They make sure things get done and everyone is on task. They are the ones responsible for assigning tasks to the right people, making sure that there are roadmaps in place

Designers: These are the creative, the ones that make everything pretty and catch your eye. They are the ones behind the logos you see, the typeface used by companies, they work along with the marketing team usually as graphic designers or can work with the web developers as User Experience / User Interface (UI/UX) designers ensuring that apps and websites are easy for the user to navigate, colors are easy on your eyes, and overall aligns with the company’s brand aesthetics.

Roles: Graphic Designer, User Experience / User Interface Designer

Human Resources: They make sure that the employees are taken care of, they make sure that you have your insurance, you have your paperwork filled out, handle any complaints, ensure that the environment is not hostile  and to be frank cover the company in case of any issues. In all honestly most early stage startups will not have an HR division.

Roles: Recruitment/ talent acquisition, People Ops, Chief Diversity officer, HR generalist

Finance: This is the team in charge of the cash money, typically include planning, organizing, auditing, accounting for and controlling its company’s finances. They are the ones making sure that expenses are accounted for, that there are payroll, reimbursements and trying to make sure that the business does not  get bankrupt. Might include your accountants, financial analysts,

To be frank if you’re at an early stage startup you will probably be a little bit of all of these wearing many hats – which can be great to about business overall.  Now – the truth is you might be the first Latinx person at your company. You might be one of the only POC on your team, you might face microaggressions, and I would be lying if I said it was easy. Know that you are not alone, there are many of us out here ready to offer support.

But remember you are there – you are paving the way. You are learning and you will build knowing your ancestors are behind you. Once you get your foot in many others will come after you, bring more people to the table, build for the younger version of you and for your community. As technology is evolving together we will build a future that is better for all of us that ensures that our community does not get left behind.

Joy Valerie

Joy Valerie Carrera is a contributor to LatinX.com. She is a digital operations strategist, the host of Basic Brown Nerds podcast, and has been to 26 countries so far. As a lover of all things tech, travel, and social impact business - she aims to leverage technology to empower our communities. You can follow her journey on Instagram

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