Archive | September, 2020

Hispanic Heritage Month: Honoring The Sacrifice

17 Sep

“Bring something from your favorite sports team or cultural event,” said the prompt. It opened a box of deep and rich memories associated with my Dodgers. It reminded me of why I love the team so deeply and why I could never love another team as intensely.

LA Dodgers Jersey

My dad and I did not speak more than one word to each other once I turned five. He still held my hand when we walked if I reached for it – on the walks home from school when he would pick my sister and me up from elementary school. I still smiled when we stopped at the liquor store to buy his brown paper bag-covered drink and chips and a juice for us. And all throughout my child and young adulthood I still ached for his approval, for him to say something – anything – that showed me he still saw me. Somehow I knew he loved me in his own way, he was just too sad to show me. Too sad to show anything at all.

As a kid I used to break into his safe when he was away at work. I would pull out articles that he collected. Trophies, medals, and certificates of academic achievement, sports, and volunteerism that I racked up as a kid. I would flip through the pictures he kept – of me – and wonder why he kept them and if he ever looked at them. And then I found a picture of a chubby little two year old with dark hair wearing a Dodgers uniform and I knew it was me. It made my heart stop in anticipation. He bought me that uniform. Back when we spoke and hugged and openly loved one another. I wonder now if all those years I actually remembered running through the house and into his arms in that uniform, or if I just procured it out of thin air from sheer desire.

As complicated and painful as our relationship has been, I love my father deeply. My chest hurts, even at this very moment, thinking about all he sacrificed to stay here in these states that he never craved. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month I reshare the story of how my father came here to stay. And stay too long I think, so long that he lost himself.

Undocumented It All Started with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This is for all first-generation American-born children of Latinx immigrants (and immigrants everywhere) who have felt that their words and love got Lost In Translation.

Don’t Fix What’s Not Broken: Efficiency and Flexibility Lead to Higher Productivity

15 Sep

This post was sitting in my drafts for 5 years when I was still working as the Business Development Lead at Latham & Watkins running their Technology Transactions, IP & Privacy Group!

It’s nice to look back and reflect on how I thrive under a personal routine that includes waking up at 5AM. I would not have been able to accomplish everything I have if I slept in.

It was also nice to take a look at my professional rearview mirror, see what I accomplished then and what I have accomplished since then. I was so tired of constantly having to prove myself to folks – show them I could do things even without a degree. But that was exhausting and demoralizing. I make sure to remember that when interviewing candidates.

The classes I allude to below were community college classes I took while regularly working 60+ hour work weeks. If I hadn’t attended those classes, I would not have transferred to Stanford to get my CS degree and I would still be longing for a degree. Time passes whether you want to or not – why not change with it?

_______________________

Winding down from an incredibly busy Summer schedule of taking my first Computer Science class in addition to another Summer class, setting up a stay at home Summer Camp for the monkeys, revving up for my Tech group’s practice group retreat, training and generally kicking ass at work I thought – why not try to sleep in?

I am a morning person. I doubt I was naturally wired that way, I think it was more to do with my parents always being out the door by 4:30 AM to go to work while we were growing up. If I wanted a morning hug, I had to sleep on the sofa to make sure I would stir at the sound of showers, blow dryers and my mother doing dinner prep. Some of my most cherished childhood memories are of my mother bending over me on the couch, as I pretended to be asleep while inhaling deeply the calming mixture of perfume and coffee, to whisper in my ear that I could sleep on their bed. If I was up early enough, I could catch her while she put on her perfume and applied her lipstick as I snuggled up in their bed, the blankets still warm from their bodies. I would inevitably fall back asleep until my older sister would nudge me to wake up and get ready for school.

Years of that routine shaped my sleep cycle. When I got older those early mornings were replaced with early morning swim practice, then early morning work schedules, crack of dawn runs and then generally getting up early to be a mom.

So against the wisdom that I know best what works for my body I decided to listen to others and try sleeping in. Instead of my usual 5 AM alarm I woke up naturally to the sunlight prying my eyelids open. Okay maybe not naturally. It was actually pretty awful. The later I tried to sleep in, the more tired I felt. Mornings are my only free time for running and Insanity workouts so my later schedule cut into my exercise regime.

Finally I stepped onto a scale and almost levitated in shock when I saw the number (lack of exercise). The very next day, okay no the day after, I went back to an earlier wake up schedule.

I woke up at 5:30 AM and felt amazing. I got up and made myself a soy latte with my Nespresso machine and read through work email from London, I watched some YouTube tutorial videos relevant to a project I am working on and the went for a 4 mile run. I didn’t try to get back to my usual 5 – 6 mile runs without stopping. I stopped to walk when I needed to and ran when I could. It just felt so good to be out.

I felt alert and relaxed.

I got to work by 8:15 AM and jumped right into my various projects and calls.

First Timer’s Guide to Grace Hopper #GHC19 Part 2: Planning, Strategies, Networking

10 Sep

Welcome back! Continuing with my First Timer’s Guide to Grace Hopper series. Make sure you read Part 1 and A non-brief Interjection Latinx in AI of the series.

Before I get chatting about the day, let’s get some strategies down first.

Sourcing sponsor events strategies:

  1. Find everyone that you know that is attending and promise to share info on company events (This didn’t help me find any events at first but I shared everything I found via Techqueria’s Grace Hopper Channel, Write/Speak/Code similar slack channel, and to friends I knew were going.
  2. Market Yourself: Include the #GHC19 tag on your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. I received invites from companies to interview, visit their booth, and/or attend their events
  3. Scour the web
    1. This by far netted me the most events. I checked Twitter, LinkedIn, and Techqueria’s slack channel regularly for #GHC19 events. I found out about the Twitter and the Google events in this way
    2. Google Github + GHC19 Events
      1. I found out about many events this way. Big thank you to the maintainers of these lists. MUCH LOVE ❤️
    3. University Student / Scholarship Recipient: Ask whoever is sponsoring to attend to forward you all events
      1. Make a groupme chat for everyone that is being similarly sponsored and share info here. I found out about dinners for small companies / startups I wanted to meet with in this manner

Remember to pace yourself during the week. The conference is shock full of programming, interview opportunities, networking, etc. It’s incredibly easy to overdo it and exhaust yourself.

What is your Definition of a Successful Conference Experience?

I cannot stress this enough. It is easy to get lost in the massive career fair, in the massive conference space, and the countless events.

Now I recognize my extreme privilege attending Stanford University. We have aggressive recruiting from top companies on campus year round. That being the case I was not interested in spending much time in the career fair or having interviews eat up my first Grace Hopper experience.

My concrete goal:

  • Meet with my top 3 companies, make a good impression, walk away with invites for interviews.
  • Practice asking companies questions about their efforts in inclusivity and trying to assess workplace culture
  • Grow my network of women in tech, particularly in the space of Artificial Intelligence

Anything else was icing on the cake.

With that in mind, let’s get talking about Day 1!

Day 3:  Wed 10/2 First Official Day of GHC, Keynote, Networking, and Sessions!

I could not sleep due to the time difference so waking up early for the keynote wasn’t a problem. It may also have had to do with rooming with someone I just met. My roommate was amazing as we were both tidy and considerate but I can’t remember the last time I had to share a room with someone I wasn’t related to or in a relationship with. Welcome to college life. 🙂

at the busI was the first one on the bus shuttle to the conference and I felt my insides shake with excitement. My plan for the day was to attend the keynote, attend 2 – 3 sessions in data science / AI, take a peek at the career fair space (I heard that the first day was the busiest time to attend as everyone is there to get invited to parties), and save energy for the company parties I had been invited to. I had Google’s Women of Color Hop Up and Twitter’s #GHCBeachBoardwalk on my calendar.

The Keynote

As I arrived to the convention center, I walked as quickly as I could to find the entrance. I was there half an hour before the keynote started and there was already a loooooong line. I have a feeling that they host this in Orlando to get you in the Disney park mindset that you will be waiting in lines all the time.

What to do while waiting? Chat up those around you of course. Now you probably won’t believe me but I am an introvert. Being in crowds, talking to people that aren’t extremely well known to me, meeting new people = EXHAUSTION. But you can’t come to a conference of 25,000 women in tech and not push those feelings of discomfort aside. What helps me is thinking that I am doing those people around me a favor by being the one to initiate the conversation and make them feel welcome. I chatted with my line neighbor, connected on LinkedIn, and shared tips on what to attend. By the time we entered the keynote hall we were looking for seats to sit together.

Nothing prepared me for the incredible energy of this room it was like the hall was a heart beating to the rhythm of creativity, inclusivity, and warmth.

Please do look up videos of the keynote. I won’t post more than the below clip to give you an idea of the vibe. Note that I was early, every seat was taken by the time the keynote started.

The keynote speakers were 🔥 🔥 🔥 on it and knew how to fire us up. From sharing the vision of AnitaB.org, vision of the companies that were honorees, and personal stories of how they got into tech – the keynote is something not to be missed.

After the keynote I made my way to the career fair area to assess how crowded it would be but the doors were still closed but a monster line ~5 people deep across had formed. I patted myself on the shoulder for avoiding the madness.

Sessions > Career Fair: Why?

When the session sign-ups were released, I tried to sign up for as many Artificial Intelligence and Data Science sessions as possible. The system froze and kicked me off a few times so I missed signing up for some of the sessions I wanted but I still filled up my days as much as possible so that I had anchors throughout the week.

My first session was D3 Data Visualization that Sparkle. I made the incredibly rookie mistake of forgetting my glasses so I made a beeline to sit on the front row table. This was a session I signed up for so I was easily scanned in. Note that about half an hour before the session started the standby line formed.

At my table I was sitting with awesome women working at Amazon, Adobe, and a consulting firm. I connected with all three of them and was able to network in a relaxed setting where we were all in attendance with a common goal – to learn. There is no way I would have had the same intimate opportunity to make an impression at the career fair. In addition, the session was organized, well structured, and educational. Up for the Win.

My second session was one of my top favorites Three Tips for Better Predictive Models presented by Stephanie Yang at Foursquare. I also showed up early and sat at the front row and turns out I sat next to Stephanie who was the presenter. I felt good pumping her up before her session and when she got ready to start I started chatting with my new neighbor and ended up connecting with her as well. The presentation provided concrete and practical guidance and I am so glad that I attended.

Lastly – Enjoy yourself! This is a gift for yourself, an investment in what you want to grow and nurture so remember to seek the events that provide meaning and community to you!

Stain on Your White Dress

9 Sep

My hands twist together

grubby, brown fingers hiding each other.

It seems selfish to mar your fragile innocence,

your crisp, white, clean slate,

with my damaged truth.

You speak of your hardships

and I listen without judgement.

But I can’t help but feel dirty in comparison

so I shuffle my feet

and I bring my arms tight against my body

my hands under my thighs,

pinching hard.

It’s my turn to speak.

My voice catches in my throat,

mingled with the swallowed past trying to escape.

Like an overflowing trash can,

I push the garbage down and I blink away the sting.

I would speak

but I don’t want to be a pesky stain,

soiling your beautiful white dress.

Or worse,

a stain that doesn’t stick

and is washed away with water.

I want to linger.

My words remain inside,

festering.

But they remain mine.

First Job: How to Prepare for Professional Success

9 Sep

A First Gen Mexican American’s perspective

Recently I posted in response to my good friend Stephanie’s LinkedIn post asking for tips for her first post-college job. I encourage you to read it and to add any advice you’d like to add! Brittanny – another incredible friend, encouraged me to make it a post of its own. Tiene razón, let’s amplify our collective wisdom!

Picture of author Susana Benavidez with arms up in discussion

How To Succeed When You Don’t Have an Example

When I got an internship during high school at a high rise in downtown Los Angeles, my chest felt tight with pride as I walked through those sliding glass doors and pushed the button for a floor high above the fields, kitchens, and factory floors that my parents spent their life working at.

I didn’t have a manual on how to succeed in a professional (office) setting but after working in a variety of office settings since I was 18, I have a thing or two to share.

Your Personal Brand

You have to cultivate your professional brand from Day 1. Your performance and the impression you make in your first 90 days is crucial to your success. For those first three months you will be able to show who you are, what you can do, and how valuable to the company you will become. You want the company to pat themselves on the back for nabbing such a great hire.

What does this mean? Working hard is not enough. You need to go above and beyond to show what you have to offer. You need to be intentional of how you work and the work product you produce.

Always be prepared. When something is pending, spend at least a few minutes reviewing it so that you know the task and status. You don’t want to be asked about the one thing you didn’t get to and be at a loss for words.

Perception is what the majority of people use to make quick decisions on your abilities and how you fit into opportunities. If you ride in strong at the beginning you will have solidified your brand as someone who delivers, is dependable, and is hungry to learn.

Remember that you are cultivating your brand at work. This isn’t a reflection of who you are at home. Personally, I like to strike a balance of offering personal details and who I am in connection to the things that I can control. For example, I will share that I had a non-traditional path and how that helped me develop a strong sense of hustle and empathy for those still on the steep end of their journey. I share the joy I get from mentoring POC who are navigating community college and the transfer process. Would I share personal details about my dysfunctional family? No, that’s for me to vent to my close friends who know me and do not judge me. Sharing those stories can put you in a state of vulnerability while surrounded by uncomfortable silence. But that is my take – not words to live by.

Finding a Mentor

When you meet new people don’t only show up with questions – see how you can help the person. Whether it be by volunteering to help, providing an introduction that would be mutually beneficial, bringing insightful feedback, etc. People gravitate towards those that they can learn from and not only teach – ie don’t have others think you’re only a taker. You always have something to teach! You have the valuable beginner’s eyes and mindset so be creative with your ideas.

Communication is Key

Efficiency and communication is key. I create mechanisms and frameworks to make what I can control as efficient as possible so that I can have the space to be creative. Ask others what their preferred style of communication is and following through on what they share.

Document Your Growth

Document your growth, questions, breakthroughs to be able to sell your accomplishments and not have to try to remember how your roadmap evolved. This can be especially rewarding when you feel like time is flying and there aren’t enough hours in the day. Take a look back and see everything you’ve accomplished! I send weekly updates on my progress to the team (in connection to a program I run) which allows them to see all the great work I am contributing.

What is your advice to your fellow gente? Comment Below!

Fireside Chat with WOC Community College Students: Sharing My Nontraditional Path

5 Sep

A Lifting Conversation: I had the honor of sharing my nontraditional path with a powerful group of WOC community college students and transfers ❤️

Ryan, one of my kindest friends connected me with Jenny Han who is working with Snap Inc. and LATech.Org to pilot a summer academy for Black and brown community college students studying computer science in the LA area.

She saw my many attempts and tour of failure in almost every LA community college 😂 The Importance of Normalizing “Failure” and Looking Back – The Path to Stanford and asked if I’d be open to speaking to a small group of WOC community college / transfer students who are studying CS. I said I’d be happy to but that I like to share my non-traditional path to show that even with all those setbacks, one can manage to get to where they want to – and how.

I was supposed to inspire them but they brought so much inspiration and energy to me. I know how hard it is to know that you are capable and able to accomplish great things but being held back by life circumstances. Ping me if you are looking for interns and would like to connect with these ladies!

Silicon Valle MX

The Mexican tech scene

Lucesitas.com

Inmigracion: Intercambio de experiencias, consejos y preguntas sobre la CITA en CIUDAD JUAREZ

On the Fast Lane with the Flying Monkeys

Taking Life by the Horns and Making it Mine: Bad Ass Student, Professional, and Mother to 3

Bucket List Publications

Indulge- Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences

ChicanaBlogs

Smile! You’ve entered the poet's Blog

Flat-Footed

Surviving Los Angeles one step at a time

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.