Hello Everyone! Hope you guys are all having a great week. This week we decided to write about something related to Hispanic Heritage Month! Hispanic Heritage Month is between September 15th and October 15th and is a month dedicated to celebrating the contributions of Hispanic and Latino American's contribution to the group's heritage and culture. As I've mentioned before, there are so few Black women in engineering, however, there are also very few Hispanic and Latina women in engineering as well. This week, I decided to feature one of my friends and coworkers Emy Rivera. Read on to see what she has to say about her life and career in STEM.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Emy Rivera and I am from Puerto Rico. I graduated from college in 2016 with a computer science degree. I love food, and although I'm a bad singer, I love karaoke. I am also a proud owner of an unhealthy amount of yarn.
What made you decide to study Computer Science? Did you always know that's what you wanted to do?
I didn't even know computer science was an option for me to be honest. I went to college with the goal of studying physics, specialize in astronomy and continue on to grad school; a weird choice, according to my family. My first research project was in Star formation and I had to learn how to code really quickly. My advisor encouraged me to take a coding class in school and I loved it and took another. When I found myself loving the coding part more than the physics part in my research projects, I made the switch over to computer science!
I actually wanted to be like my favorite character in a tv show i used to watch growing up. She was an astrophysicist and a beast, so I guess I have Stargate SG 1 to thank for my career.
You moved from Puerto Rico to New York. What was that like?
No one was surprised when I announced I had taken a job outside the island and started getting ready to leave. I had already lived by myself before but this time it was different. I had to learn about managing my finances, proper winter attire and had so many questions like "Did produce always go bad this fast?" "Where were the good mangos at?" "Why were the avocados small and wrinkly?" I missed home a lot; life moves so fast in the city but back home everything was more slow (and warm). But little by little I adjusted, found more friends, a community of latinos at work and a Puerto Rican bakery to go to when I'm feeling home sick.
The beaches here suck. I'm never getting used to that.
What's it like working as a Latina woman in Tech?
When I first started, day to day I hardly gave it a second thought. As time has gone by I have found hard to find role models that mirror my experience and to relate to. Recently, I was organizing an event for the Latino network at work and came face-to-face with the lack of female representation. I wasn't surprised, but it was still jarring.
There's also kind of a culture adjustment, we're raised to be humble and to respect authority. So at first it was weird for me rising up and listing my accomplishments to my manager for example or questioning him (respectfully) on a decision he made. It's something that I'm still working on and I feel like it doesn't come naturally to me or other latinas and latinos alike. It's a topic the latino community at work recently discussed in one of our events.
Have you faced any challenges in your career? How did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge so far has been my resistance to change. I overthink everything and sometimes think that by making a change I'll somehow be disappointing people who have supported me throughout the years. Sometimes it prevents me from taking a jump on something that'll be good for me in the long run. I've surrounded myself with people that are not afraid to give me the little push I need and that I can count on their honest opinions. And so far it's worked!
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give other women of color in STEM?
Find a person at work who you can vent to. A person that you can go to with your frustrations or problems and they can give you their advice or a few minutes of their time because they've been in your shoes and they understand. When they give you their advice, listen and if they give you feedback, act on it.
Also, be unapologetically you. Your identity is a big part of you and you shouldn't leave it at home and try to assimilate.