Tech & Design Leader & Educator, Rita Lab Founder & Instructor
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, my journey into tech and design certainly wasn't an easy one. Even though the name of this first section has the word "my" in it, I'm starting off here because I want to relate to anyone out there who is coming from a difficult upbringing and underrepresented community. Trust me, I feel you 100%. As a son of Mexican immigrants, being a first-generation American meant facing super unique personal, emotionally, financial, educational, and professional challenges that many couldn’t quite comprehend - but if you're reading this, I know you can. My journey into the tech world hasn't been a straightforward one and instead a journey filled with hurdles, doubts, struggles, pivots, and many, many sleepless nights. But through it all, I've learned that it’s not about "breaking in," but rather breaking out of what’s comfortable and familiar, breaking out of our own self defined limits, breaking out of the limits society has placed on us, and being damn proud of our background, unique perspectives, and who we are.
The tech industry might seem intimidating, and the notion of "breaking in" makes it sound like you're infiltrating an exclusive club. Well, we kind of are. Generally speaking, tech and design are not super diverse fields. While many teams and companies are working hard to make tech and design more diverse and inclusive, we're definitely not where we should be. With that said, in reality, you’re breaking out of your comfort zone and stepping into an industry crying out for your unique perspective. This industry holds immense power in shaping our future. To ensure that technology is beneficial for everyone, we need to have diverse minds crafting its path. The same obstacles often times in our way and the same struggles many of us face in getting there are the same reasons why we SHOULD stay determined and persist. Tech and design needs us, just as we are. We're not breaking in, we're getting to exactly where we deserve to be - just like everyone else.
I won’t sugarcoat it: it's a tough time in the world of tech and design right now. With the economy's ebbs and flows, the layoffs, and ever-changing priorities by many small and large tech companies, the the super saturated market, entering tech feels more daunting than ever before. But these very challenges underline the importance of having diverse individuals in tech and design. Every difficulty you face, every obstacle you overcome, makes the tech world more inclusive. No, it shouldn't be this way. But the current climate and lack of inclusion and diversity aside, it's not easy to come up in tech and design. These skills aren't easy to learn. I know this firsthand. If you're struggling, especially if you're from an underrepresented background, I'm with you. It wasn't easy for me either. Especially when the schools we went to didn't fully prepare us for this super technical and digital future. And yet, here we are, determined - because our being here makes tech and design better.
It's natural to feel disheartened when the going gets rough. As someone who has navigated through countless challenges, I understand that feeling all too well. As I said before - I feel you 100%l. But it’s crucial to remember why you started. Your place in tech is not just about a job or a title. It's about making a positive difference, about ensuring everyone has a seat at the table, and crafting a brighter future for all. What has helped me persist and stay at it is coming back to my personal mission in tech and design. We often times lean on these tech companies to provide us with a mission - a sense of purpose. However, we should be looking within to define a mission that is true to us that will keep us focused, motivated, and fulfilled. I challenge you to identify your personal mission in tech and design. Why are you doing this? What difference are you trying to make? What noise are you trying to make? Once you've identified this larger purpose, print it out. Read it every day. Remind yourself every day. Because the journey for damn sure won't be easy, but I promise you it'll be worth it.
If self-doubt ever creeps in, let this be your mantra: The tech world needs you. Your experiences, your unique insights, your unique background, your unique experience, your unique voice, your unique perspective, your unique vision, your unique creativity, your unique ideas, your relentless determination – they are the keys to a more inclusive and innovative tech future. Each step forward, no matter how small, contributes to a larger change. You will get a ton of rejections. You will get more no's than yes's (yes, I know that's not grammatically correct). You will meet more closed doors than open ones. But you know what? Once you get there, tech and design at large will be better for it. And when you get there, I know you'll leave doors open behind you for those coming up after you. That gave me chills just writing it. Don't forget that your come up will shape the future of tech and design. This isn't hyperbole, it's simple matter of fact.
The journey might be challenging, but surround yourself with believers, with those who recognize your potential. Know that you aren’t alone on this journey. Every push, every effort you make is molding the future of technology. So keep going, knowing you're part of an essential change. The future of tech awaits your voice, and the world is eager to witness the difference you'll make. And know you have my full support. I'll even leave my email here, in public, in this blog post (firstname.lastname@example.org). Hit me up at every time. I got you. You're not alone. Now go do the damn thing!