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She can't be what she can't see

juanita profile image Juanita Soranno ・3 min read

I grew up in a house filled with gadgets and computers and floppy disks and dot matrix printers. I loved playing Jeopardy and Monopoly after typing DOS commands on our PC. It was always just for fun and I never thought it could lead to a fulfilling career.

Neither of my parents had a college degree, so navigating the higher ed terrain was an exercise in trial and error. I never believed I was good enough in math or science to get a STEM focused baccalaureate and so I focused on business and the humanities during my time at San Francisco State. Even in the center of the technology universe, I didn't know ONE PERSON who was a computer science major.

You can't be what you can't see.

I finished my BA in Asian American studies and understood the importance of representation and community, but thought my place would be educating others. I was surrounded by women and other Filipin@s, but still no one in technology. I took creative license in my role at a major bank to teach business partners about the different social media platforms we used and was dubbed the resident 'techie', but still never thought I could move into a technical role.

I got married, bought a house, had a son, but it wasn't until I had my daughter that it really hit me. How am I going to be the parent and role model I want to be for her, if I don't follow my passion? I want her to become an independent, driven, tenacious woman, and I knew that I had to show her by my actions.

"I think [girls are] not seeing role models - they're seeing boys who start Facebook or Google, they're not seeing girls. It's really hard to imagine yourself as something that you don't see, particularly when you're a kid." - Chelsea Clinton

I took action. I took a leap and landed in an incredibly supportive tech community and finished a full stack Javascript bootcamp at Rutgers. I've landed my first role at a growing EdTech startup that allows me to blend my experience and strengths. I'm so excited for this next phase in my life.

I've found myself in inclusive tech communities, but still hadn't felt like I fully belonged.

It wasn't until this past weekend at Google's Women Techmakers summit that I saw my first real (self) representation. Justine Rivero emceed the event and I was extremely surprised at my visceral reaction to seeing a Pinay doing what I had dreamt of doing -- it brought me to tears. I knew representation was important, but I never knew first hand. I approached her during the break and was able to tell her how much her being there mattered to me. She's doing it, and she's proving that I can too.

As a Javascript developer I'm going to use my skills to create tech products and services that speak directly to FilAm women. Filipino culture is centered around the "tribe" and that conflicts with the American individualism we're taught to value. I'd like to create an online space where we can find one another and reintroduce the tribe, i.e. food and childcare co-ops, job opportunities, (tech!) education, and immigration.

But the one thing I'm looking forward to most of all is representing for my son and daughter, and perhaps a random person in a crowd, a female, multiethnic programmer. They can be what they can now see.

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dipisha03 profile image
Dipisha

love it!!