"Being the only black Latina in the room, my female perspective becomes all the more important"
Meet Pamela M. Rosario Pérez!
There is no doubt that Pamela Rosario is killing the game right now! Not only is she a successful TekWoman, philanthropist and entrepreneur, Pamela was also recently recognized as one of Boston's Most Influential Latinx Professionals by the 30 under 30 Most Influential Young Latino Leaders campaign!
We see you Pamela!
I have personally followed Pamela's professional career and her achievements within the technical field for many years. I truly admire her tenacity, leadership skills, and long list of accomplishments! A Harvard University graduate, Pamela comes from a strong lineage of women who have pushed the boundaries of what women are capable of. It was only natural for me to interview Pamela and pick her brain on a few tech topics.
An Interview with Pamela M. Rosario Pérez
Can you share a little bit about who you are, your current role and what are of the tech field you currently work in?
Answer: I currently serve as the Director of Operations and Marketing at a tech company that specializes in cybersecurity and machine learning consulting. As part of our mission to create a more diverse tech ecosystem, we host special events where multicultural professionals can come together and expand their IT skills through workshops, hackathons, and webinars with subject-matter experts.
Did you always know the tech field was what you wanted to do as a career? How did you decide to go into this field?
Answer: No, I did not. I never would've imagined myself in tech. I did not study, dream or, or intend to ever go into tech; however, I followed my heart and took on many mission-driven projects. That work led me to tech and to a community that doesn't have all the answers but is relentless in its pursuit of inclusion and innovation.
In your opinion, what is the most common misconception people have about the tech industry?
Answer: The most common misconception is that people must be "techy" or "technical" to work in tech. That is absolutely NOT the case. Tech companies employ engineers, penetration testers, system admins, helpdesk technicians, chief information officers, etc who may know how to code or program software, but that is only a slice of the workforce pie. The tech industry is always looking for recruiters, marketers, creative designers, content producers, event coordinators, HR professionals, salespeople, translators...the list goes on! Having tech experience is helpful, but it is not a requirement. Most tech companies are looking for professionals who are passionate, curious, eager to take on a challenge, and ready to work smart. I honestly think no other industry rewards talent, creativity, and risk-taking as much as the tech industry.
The tech industry still has a pretty large gender gap, have you ever felt affected by this? What are some challenges you have faced being a female in the tech industry? How have you dealt with these challenges?
Answer: The tech industry certainly has a diversity and gender problem. I can write an entire book on this topic, but I'll try to keep this answer as short as possible. While I feel that tech does a good job of rewarding talent vs personal relationships (read: nepotism, favoritism) in relation to other industries, the industry is far from perfect. Women, veterans, and people of color remain underrepresented in company boards, in the C-suite, and even in middle management. This is a problem that carries heavy repercussions. In fact, lack of diversity at a tech company can lead to revenue loss, high turnover, and failed product launches--just to name a few things. Companies creating tech products for a diverse customer base NEED to reflect this same diversity in its workforce. This is how you avoid embarrassing products like soap dispensers that can't identify dark skin.
Another proposed solution to this lack of diversity is entrepreneurship. I am very involved in workforce development initiatives and teen enrichment programs in my community because many of these young people are digital natives and they have the aptitude (at times, even the skill) to go onto successful careers in tech. Digital natives have been using social platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr for years, making it easier for them to learn new technologies. The other great thing about digital natives is that many of them are eager for better technology and they're willing to create it. That's why we have so many young tech entrepreneurs nowadays. That said starting your own business requires capital and resources. For this reason, I work to raise awareness of opportunities in tech within communities of color and I serve as a connector--linking entrepreneurs with Venture Capitalists, prospective students with Admissions Officers, hackers with Chief Information Security Officers, etc. In addition, I volunteer at local youth organizations and I grant scholarships to young women interested in pursuing STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) degrees, technical certifications, or their entrepreneurial dreams. I envision a world where a young person can confidently see themselves as a Chief Technology Officer or a Machine Learning Data Scientist with no fear their gender, disability, immigration status, or race will set them back.
What is the best part of being a woman in tech?
Answer: Although it can be lonely at times, I enjoy being the only black woman in the room, or the only Latina at the table, because in those moments my female perspective become all the more important.
What qualities do you think are most important for women in tech to possess?
Answer: Grit. Resilience. Humility. Be a Finisher.
How do you keep your technology skills current? Are there any online resources you use to do you job?
Answer: I sign up for workshops, hackathons, and any event where I can learn about a new product, trend, or technology. I also watch Ted Talks, read blogs, and attend collegiate events where youth showcase their entrepreneurial skills (e.g. product showcases, etc). And I ask A LOOTTTTTTT of questions. When I connect with tech professionals I immediately send them a LinkedIn request, remind them where we met, and ask them something I want to learn more about. In tech, if you're not learning you're not growing.
What advice/tips would you give any woman who is looking to pursue a career in tech?
1. Locate your Tribe - Mi gente is everythinggggg. I would not have survived the lows of my career without my crew. Let it be clear that your friend group is not always "your tribe." When I say tribe I'm talking about like-minded people who share the same goals as you and are as hungry (if not hungrier) to reach them. These people hold you accountable, they put you on to new opportunities, and they keep you sane.
2. Find a Mentor - Pour out your heart: the good, the bad, and the ugly. My mentors almost act as my therapists. They keep me sane and focused. They bring me down to earth when I'm being unrealistic & they push me to aim higher when I set the bar low.
3. Identify a Sponsor - Tell them your professional aspirations and ask them for advice on how to surpass them. Your sponsor is the person that brings you into the boardroom, they introduce you to their friends, they tell you their career hacks, etc. They are your champion in the workplace.
4. Become Your Own Hype Person - We live in a world where people can be whoever they want to be so use that to your advantage. Be your own marketer. This is the time to become your own DJ Khaled -- I'm serious. You need to tell yourself "We the best" every time you get because tech can be unforgiving. Hype yourself up! Own that vision of a better you! If you're a UX designer interested in cybersecurity, don't introduce yourself to others as a "UX designer who kinda wants to learn more about cyber." Instead, introduce yourself as an "Aspiring cybersecurity professional with a focus on product design." Where's the lie?
- Pamela M. Rosario Pérez
Connect with Pamela via LinkedIn!