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Hispanic and LatinX Experiences in Tech and Beyond

Happy Hispanic and LatinX Heritage Month! It’s more important than ever to raise awareness around and celebrate Hispanic and LatinX perspectives in the tech field and beyond.

To properly mark Hispanic and LatinX Heritage, Automox’s Amelia Vacante is here to chat about what it's like for her to work at a company advocating for diversity and inclusion in a distributed work environment.

Amelia Vacante, Senior Instructional Designer – Amelia is a Senior Instructional Designer here at Automox. When she’s not developing new learning materials for Automox University, she loves to find opportunities to improve processes and support others on the Customer Success team.

Our Hispanic and LatinX experiences in the workforce

What’s your backstory? What brought you to Automox?

Amelia: Learning new things has been an obsession of mine since I can remember. I have an educational background in fine art, cybersecurity, and learning design. And I’m constantly seeking new opportunities to dig deep into anything I find interesting.

I’m so fortunate to be here at Automox where I can flex my creative muscle in designing educational resources while continuing to learn about cybersecurity and the people who keep the industry afloat.

What does Hispanic and LatinX Heritage Month mean to you?

Amelia: When I was a kid I kind of scoffed at it – after all, why should celebrating heritage and culture be relegated to one month? But Hispanic and LatinX Heritage Month is something that has really evolved over time.

When I was growing up, it was simply Hispanic Heritage Month. To me, the inclusion of LatinX terminology better encompasses the many wonderful facets of the culture. LatinX expands into non-Spanish speaking nationalities, while the X signals the inclusivity of gender neutrality.

Honestly, it wasn’t until I became a mom that I realized how important that representation really is to me. Now I can appreciate it’s not just a celebration, it’s an offering of awareness and education for others.

I continue to learn so much about the uniqueness of LatinX and Hispanic culture and it’s wonderful to see my own daughter learn about, share, and celebrate the richness of her cultures as well.

What does it mean to see representation for Hispanic and LatinX professionals in the workplace?

Amelia: Seeing Hispanic and LatinX professionals at work speaks volumes to me. Diversity and inclusion are so ingrained in my values – I look for these principles as components of everything I strive to be a part of.

However, I want to see LatinX and Hispanic representation not just in the workforce. We need to know our leadership is representative as well. To me, to see others from underrepresented communities in positions of leadership signals a commitment to empathy and genuine inclusivity.

Can you share some of your personal experiences as a Hispanic and LatinX woman that have shaped your perspective today?

Amelia: Well, my Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, and African American family will always be at the forefront of how my experience as an American Latina has been shaped.

For instance, my grandmother was a housekeeper for over 40 years. You would never know the trauma of her experience as a young single mother who immigrated to the U.S. armed with only an elementary school education.

The journeys of Hispanic and LatinX people to this country, the struggles of assimilation, raising children, finding work, and building community will always be harder than anything I will have to do. After all, I was born here and have lived here my whole life.

But I do see my family’s struggles reflected in other families, too. I know that other parents dropping their kids off at my daughter’s school or people you encounter on a daily basis are doing the types of work many of us take for granted. Having their experiences ingrained in my own has granted me the ability to see what real resilience looks like. It inspires me to try to be better myself.

Can you share stories to exemplify Hispanic and LatinX representation in tech or the general workforce?

Amelia: I recently read an article stating that only 37% of Latinas, and women of color in general, have access to mentorship when joining the workforce.

For me, not seeing mentors in our professional lives equates to a feeling of isolation and a general lack of allyship. Ironically, that sort of parallels the refugee and immigrant experience, too. Just imagine how mentorship and allyship could help someone overcome those hardships.

The Harvard Business Review article "Why Diversity Programs Fail" credits mentorship programs as a key driver that increases Black, Hispanic, and Asian-American representation in management by 9% to 24%.

Have you noticed specific biases towards Hispanic and LatinX individuals in the workplace? What do you want non-Hispanic and LatinX individuals to understand about your experience?

Amelia: Unfortunately, I have experienced specific biases myself. Bias can be so insidious and discreet.

For instance, once a leader I really admired made an off-hand comment to me that did not occur to them as inappropriate.

We were in a meeting with a third-party vendor who also happened to be Hispanic. The leader commented that I should have taken the vendor to a Latin restaurant in the area since he was from out of town. He and I both laughed awkwardly at the comment and continued our meeting. At that moment, I laughed it off and didn’t say anything.

Although the comment was not vicious and was likely a feeble attempt at grasping a commonality between us to make small talk, it still stung. After all, I had not spoken of my heritage at all to them, so to make that assumption showed me that my ethnicity had been at the forefront of their impression of me.

Years and years later, I still think about that lost opportunity to let them know how isolated that comment made me feel. I think they would have appreciated the chance to learn and improve themselves. Hopefully, they would have been willing to find other ways to educate themselves about cultural bias, too.

Who is your Hispanic or LatinX hero and why?

Amelia: Honestly, my hero is the everyday parent who works themselves to the bone to give their children a shot at a decent future. That’s who I look up to the most. You can see that person literally anywhere you go.

To me, they are truly resilient. They’ve endured unimaginable hardship and persevered out of sheer willpower and hope for a better future.

What work do we still have to uplift Hispanic and LatinX voices?

Amelia: It all starts with empathy. In order to uplift someone, you need to be able to empathize with their struggles. This takes time. It’s a process of un-desensitizing and bringing awareness of others into your personal view.

The experiences of the LatinX and Hispanic communities are complex, but there are also common threads shared with other underrepresented populations.

Whether it’s the experience of diasporic trauma, colorism, racism, or oppression, there’s deep pain within our communities that can’t be understood in a day, week, or year. Respecting this journey, committing to it, and finding ways to connect and show respect to others– one person at a time – are the first steps in making a difference.

From an organizational standpoint, companies and institutions can’t just use diversity and inclusion as trendy buzzwords. There needs to be real effort to hear the marginalized voices within your workforce and a commitment to trusting those voices in positions of leadership.

Resources for Hispanic and LatinX youth and professionals

Amelia: Techqueria is a great resource for LatinX and Hispanic youth and professionals looking to break into or navigate tech. It’s a non-profit and community that serves as a platform for mentorship, support, and networking through events and a Slack channel!

I also love Latinas in Tech as a community networking and mentorship resource.

What would you say to younger Hispanic and LatinX individuals entering the workforce? What advice do you wish you heard as you started out?

Amelia: My greatest advice is – don’t be afraid to get vulnerable with others. If you don’t know something, ask for help. Nurture yourself to grow confidence – whether that’s through your support system or through professional development.

When you come from an underrepresented group, you can sometimes feel like you have more to prove than others. Be sure to ask for help, celebrate your wins, and talk about your experiences!

Your voice is worth more than you know!

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