How Do We Fix The Latinas in Tech Pipeline Problem? (With Latinas in Tech's Rocio Medina van Nierop)

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This is a podcast episode titled, How Do We Fix The Latinas in Tech Pipeline Problem? (With Latinas in Tech's Rocio Medina van Nierop). The summary for this episode is: <p>"A lot of people are afraid to dream big because they think they will fail, but if you don't ask for it, you won't get it."</p><p><br></p><p>Rocío Medina van Nierop co-founded Latinas in Tech to empower Latinas across the globe to grow in their tech careers. Frustrated that the majority of Latinas in tech get stuck in entry-level positions, Rocío is on a mission to empower Latinas to ask for the raise, to encourage more well-represented individuals to be allies to Latinas in their companies, and to ultimately close the Latinas in tech pipeline gap.</p><p><br></p><p>On this week's episode of The American Dream, Rocío challenges Elias with the statement, "The American Dream is broken."</p><p><br></p><p>Be sure to hit the subscribe button to get new episodes when they drop every other Tuesday.</p><p><br></p><p>In the meantime, be sure to leave a ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Elias and Rocio on Twitter at @eliast , @rociomedina, and @DriftPodcasts.</p>

Elias Torres: Hola. I'm Elias Torres co- founder and CTO Drift. You're listening to the American Dream podcast on this show. We talk to leaders who have achieved their own version of the American dream, but we also focused on the work that needs to be done to create a more consistent and diverse space of corporate America. That's why I'm setting aside time to talk to leaders of nonprofit organizations. The people leading the charge to build a brighter future for the next generation foreign language to the American Dream podcast. I'm here with Rocío. Happy Hispanic Heritage Month and we're celebrating by highlighting a non- profit organization. That's set out to empower Latinas, to be innovators and leaders in tech. So Latinas in Tech was founded by Rocío van Nierop in 2014 in Silicon Valley, and has since expanded across the globe by working alongside top technology companies like LinkedIn, Visa, Slack, the organization provides Latinas with the resources, opportunity, and community. They need to earn a seat at the tech table. Love this table. Today, join me on the show to talk more about the mission, the work that has been done, and the work that still needs to be done to empower Latinas in Tech. So Rocío welcome to the show foreign language.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Thank you, Elias, and thank you for having us.

Elias Torres: Tell us about this amazing organization that is much, much needed, especially in tech, right? Tell us a little bit... 20,000 people, 20, 000 women.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah, so far it's just... Well, that was two months ago. Right now, we might be at... No, we are a little above 22, 000. So we grew very fast. Latinas in Tech started with just a few Latinas in Tech, me, one of them, we actually started with two getting together for coffee and I was working in tech and in 2012 for'14. It's very common that in V tech you're the only Latina or even the only woman at the table. We started mainly as senior meet or senior level Latinas working in different large tech companies, Google, Netflix, Evernote, Prezi. And we were mainly focusing on accelerate our growth and highlight opportunities, open up doors for each other. It was more that than complaining or even noticing that there was a challenges that we were facing. So we were just focusing on growth. And I think that took a lot of traction. So from four, we went to 100 within two months and thousands within three months or four, and it's been just skyrocketing from there. And I think part of our success is that lack of focus on the," Why not?" And mainly on the," Yes, we can."

Elias Torres: Absolutely, love that, love that. There's a stat here I have from you that 50% of your membership has worked over five years, right?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Right. So the median is between six and seven years. That's more common.

Elias Torres: And so, that's great and there's nothing wrong with that, but where do they sit with that amount of experience at the companies that they're working? Where do they...

Rocío Medina van Nierop: 56% are at entry level. So what does entry level? Typically, what the normal person would be working on right after college in the first four years, or maybe three years of your professional life in tech? So after that you start growing, right? But then if you look at the years of experience, it is actually, the median is between six and nine years. 25% of women have between six and nine, but then still 19% have between 10 and 14, and only 20% of them all are less than 10 years. So hold that thought. So if they're super experienced, they are 60, 56% at entry level, but yet 90% of them have bachelor's degree or above. So we're talking about extremely highly qualified women that just get stuck while everybody else is growing. So this is where we're obsessing, why are they not growing? And I think the answer is obviously the system is not working for us, but also we are not working with the system. So there's a game that Latinas need to play into so that they can benefit from that growth.

Elias Torres: Yeah. And I'll be blunt, right? I'm a founder. I've started companies, I'm an executive of companies. And I'll say this, that I as a personal struggle in... But just hear me out, help me verbalize this. People that are starting earlier in their careers that I've worked in career for 25 years. It's like people want to do accomplish everything in a short amount of time. I'm talking about a wide spectrum. And so, that's something I struggle with because I always tell people, I've been focused on gaining experience, achievement, results, and things have worked out for me, right? But I can't do it quite as systematic or as timely as other people would like it to be. And so, I give that kind of advice. Yet, I see... I feel like, especially in tech, it's just such a fast movement of titles in progression in short amount of time. And I see people that have been six, seven years working in their vice presidents of companies, right?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah, exactly.

Elias Torres: And so, I'm just being honest and transparent. I don't think that VP experience, you can achieve it in six and seven years, but-

Rocío Medina van Nierop: No for sure.

Elias Torres: ...but if it's happening for others, why is it not happening for Latinas? I wanted to be fair, right? If it's happening for others.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. I mean just single out California, single out Silicon Valley. And if you look at all the decision- making positions say, director and above, what is the percentage of Latinos or just alone Latinas up there, vice presidents, C level, board members they're virtually not there. So we are working to change that the whole problem goes back to years and years and years of much complex and greater problem, right? Who had a good education 30 years ago? The whites or the black and brown who went to Ivy league colleges from those Ivy league colleges who founded companies who brought in their bodies. How do they look like? You hire people that look like you, but because simply your bodies look like you. So that they were not like," Ooh, I only want to found a company of white people." No, nobody has ill intent. It's just so our world works that way, and we need to change that. And it took years for it to be like that. How soon can we change it? So if we call that the system, we're not going to change the system tomorrow. It's just not going to work for us. We need to change the way we can control it. And as a group, we could potentially move the system. So let me give you a clear example. You're a CEO, your founder, your mind and behavior works differently than the employees. But one, I'm going to give you a story. I was with recruiters from top tech companies say Netflix, Facebook, Google, and I had 100 Latinas listening and asking questions in that panel. And the question to them was if you could put percentages, what percentage of the time do you award raises to people that ask versus people that perform in you offer it, you volunteer it. So the consensus was that 90% of increases in promotions were asked. Okay. So that doesn't work that way for the Latino market. But also, if you split men and women in the Latino segment, it also works very differently because overall women and men are very different. So they are the minority within the minority. So I turned to the Latinas and they are about 100. Yes. For math. Let's make it a hundred." Raise your hand. If you have asked for a raise or a promotion in the last 12 months, given that you have been working there for 12 months and you have accomplished or exceeded your goals, raise your hand. If you've done it." Do you know how many people raise their hand? Call it three or four.

Elias Torres: Yeah.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Okay. So just that I just asked them," Okay. Tomorrow, everybody that didn't raise their hand that could have, go and ask for a raise." Why? Because if you're accomplishing and exceeding your goals, you've been there for 12 months. They're not volunteering it for you. Go and ask the know you already have, so they're not going to fire you for that unless you're really underperforming, or you were hired yesterday. Right? So there are so many things that Latinas and Latinos can do to own that growth before they expect the system to change for them. If that makes sense.

Elias Torres: Love this, love this. I love how you broke it down. And as a business owner, right? It's like, I think I'm going to give myself a pat in the back. I think we are very systematic in... We're looking every cycle of raises. We're like," Okay, who hasn't... Was the age of every person that hasn't gotten a raise. What's the last amount when they were last touch their performance?" And I have pushed my team, especially in the product organization to be like, I want movement. I want consistency. I can't have somebody four years. Hasn't said anything about, so we are proactive yet. Never can do enough, right? Because people want to... 100% of them want to raise. Yes. And so, I'll tell you, that's the business side of it. However, you nailed it though. I think that even though I would say we volunteer raises without people asking us, there's nothing wrong with ask.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: No.

Elias Torres: Plus, of the stat, there is absolutely nothing wrong. No. And it puts you in the priority and it makes you... You need to get a pulse of how well you're performing. Because if you think sometimes people think they're performing, but they're not. And so, that forces the question, the getting synchronized with your manager and be like, so that's such a very powerful thing of, and I can think of exercises to be checking on your membership all the time. Have you asked for a raise this year?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Exactly. And having member like managers encourage that behavior.

Elias Torres: Right. And then have manager and how do you... For Latinas, especially. And then I think so you can say, and what's the process too, because you don't want to wait till the last minute to go ask. You want to be systematically asking about your pathway performance.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: That's what companies need to do, be proactive on teaching, right? But that's why we're just tackling the problem head- on. So if you don't feel confident, we'll train you on feeling confident you train, we train your negotiating, your salary. We teach you how so. That's why we exist. And salary negotiation is just one little thing. There's so many things we can control. So I would say at Latinas in Tech, 70% of what we do is really focus on the Latinas because they can do so many things. But then yes, the system, as you say, what you have done, what many others have done inherently, all the companies are good. They don't really try to screw us. So they many are by trial and error. And then there's always the bigger you get legal implications and politics. So many things. So we try to work with the system and with our employee resource groups and see how we can influence the system to change as fast as we can. Now, there will be a percentage that they're not willing to change and that we cannot change with the Latinos. So for that, we work with lawmakers and we try to introduce legislation that will help us cover for a part of what we cannot cover. There will always be a part that nobody can cover, right? So that's a little bit of what we do where right now we're 15 people actually today, as of yesterday, 17 people, we just welcome to new Latinas to the team, but that's how we do it. And we are in 20 cities, six countries right now. We have around a hundred volunteers running them.

Elias Torres: Yeah. I mean, I was having a meeting with the member of our Latino ERG at Drift. And this young man was frustrated. Right. Because he like," Why don't we have more people across all the management layers and Latinos and stuff like that? And it should be at this percentage." And I think you were saying," I was like, I can't fix that in one year." It's like, this is a systematic problem. So what I was saying and tell me what you can do, what you're doing with companies of, I go," We got to go focus." Let's say that executive is going from level five to level six or level four to level five.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: You're not going to jump them.

Elias Torres: No, I go, let's go find all the level four that we have. That can be level five, not level four, five, six, and seven or eight. I go," Let's go make sure that all those people are in good standing. They're working, they're talking to their manager."

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Exactly. They need a little bit of a push.

Elias Torres: Keep pushing little bit, right?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. So just recently I read an article from Harvard Business Review and other communities are like, why are you creating these programs? Only for them let's be equal. And it is a complicated thought because historically they have been underrepresented. They have been under deserving. So if you had had three children and one is handicapped, you're going to do a little bit more effort to have him level up, right?

Elias Torres: Yeah.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: So this is the same thing they have historically struggled. So companies are like, it should be okay to help them a little more to give them a little bit of a push. If you open like, okay. Ask for a raise, you have to push the Latinas, do ask for that raise. You have to do a little different. And then when companies are like," Yeah, we need more level." Well, what is it in your top level? Five level six or one? I'm not sure, but top level, senior level. You want to bring in senior- level Latinas. Yeah. Okay. So if it's not you let's say it's Google, right? You're because you're a Latino leader. That's great. But say you're another organization that doesn't have Latinas at the top and only has Latinos at the bottom. What do you do? Okay. One option is, okay, I'll hire a senior Latino to come into a higher position. You're not helping the bottom. And so, it's good that you're bringing in somebody else. Great. We need those mentors. This is really important. There's nobody to more put somebody, but to make sure the bottom grows up.

Elias Torres: Yeah. It's just about the funnel. Having the ability to flow.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Exactly. Why are they not growing? What is broken in your system? So you want that entry- level people for have been there for seven years to be managers and some of them to be directors and maybe in five years. They will be the decision- makers and they will bring you more people. They will bring you more senior people. And yes, you can partner with Latinas in Tech. You don't need to really partner, but you can hire from a full of people because there's qualified people and can always, this is a trick in tech that you must know very well. You're two years in one, you jump to another one and you're higher. And that's how people become vice president, right? That's super common jumping from company to company. You accelerate your growth. So if that's the case and instead of offer, offering a VP level to somebody use that because there is talent outside and still an awesome manager or an awesome director, Latina from somewhere else, that is a great way to bring in talented Latinos. And they will bring you more people, but don't forget your own.

Elias Torres: Exactly. No. It's... Yeah. I know. It is like," Oh, I'm going to hire an executive." And that means we just musical chairs, just the top people that took 10 inaudible I supposed to what is the system, right?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: And the system is always like, yeah, but we want them to, with experience doing this. We want a director that has proven to be a director doing the same thing somewhere else. Then you're just in the same system. What about...

Elias Torres: Yeah. And how many times have I been in an emergency where I have an executive leave? And I put someone in that director job because you know what, this is the closest person to it. So here's your opportunity to prove yourself. And I would do that. Why are we not doing that for Latinas? Because what I want to get to the next step here, what is this broken problem in the funnel?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. The matter of trust everybody, because-

Elias Torres: Why are not the Latinas moving up in the funnel?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: So first you need somebody to trust because they lack trust in themselves. In culturally, they're not going to be like," Put me in there now" You, as a manager, you do need to open doors for them, men or women. I'm going to give you an example. I hired two executives at Latinas in Tech and we had to restructure. They had to go. I could bring in two more senior people to the team, but instead I promoted their direct reports and oh my God, oh my God, they're doing amazing. Now, I created two senior people that didn't exist before that now somebody else can hire and they have the experience. So we can play musical chairs by moving people around the same level or you can lift people from level to level. So that is the best way as executives can help create more senior people just promote them because it is like, I don't know. I look back at the people. I had a colleague when I started at Prezi. I started in say, she's been there for six years. She's still in the same position. While in the same time I moved five times up in ladder. So the company's not going to come and say," Hey, you want to be promoted?" You have to voice things. You have to ask, start owning projects because then you get promoted. If you see somebody else quit or be fired jumping into their project, own them shine, but always make sure you get promoted. Don't do free work.

Elias Torres: I love this. This is so powerful because everyone else is doing it. And if a company wants to... It's okay for the company to say no to a promotion. It's okay for a company to say, not yet.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: They have the reasons.

Elias Torres: They have the reasons as long as it's being done fairly. Right?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah, yeah.

Elias Torres: The problem is that if it's only white to have the confidence or only males have the confidence to make the ask what we need, they have a problem to make sure is it's the people that are not able to make the ask doesn't mean that they're unqualified for doing the job.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah, totally. I had a direct report that I love. I hired her back in 2009 and I've carried her with me in every job I have. I move, I hire her. And then she was with me at the last company, she was there for say five years. And at some point I'm like... But I got promoted. I moved into corporate. She was still international market, but she was loving it. And I'm like," Your promotion material. You have to ask, please, please." I was more acting as her mentor. Please ask because then they will give it to you. And she refused. She actively said," I can't do it. It's not in me. I'm not that person. I'm sorry. I'm not like you." And I'm like," Oh my God." Is she just... Because I cannot ask her behalf. I can recommend her, but you can... She has to ask and maybe she doesn't want to be promoted, but she needs to be paid fairly. She needs to be paid more.

Elias Torres: My personal, I like a little bit of a balance. I wouldn't want to recommend Latinas to go and be that person that every three months it's like," Give me a raise." I mean, I don't want-

Rocío Medina van Nierop: It's annoying.

Elias Torres: It's annoying.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: I agree.

Elias Torres: Those people. And then we would get a bad rep.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Totally. But maybe once a year or once every two years. But if you've been in the company for two, three years. And you've never asked for promotion. They've never given it to you. Not even an inflation increase, dude, you have inaudible.

Elias Torres: Exactly. And you're like, you've been there five years. You got to be a first- time manager. The other advice, one of my stories was that I was at IBM, and I was working for this Latina VP and she was a mentor of mine. As people were leaving, she wanted to give me the management job, go from engineer to manager. And I had this bad idea in my mind that management was bad. Meaning I want to be an inventor and engineer, a creator. And there was dual ladder at IBM. And I said," No." To the management position.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: So you both manager HR kind of thing.

Elias Torres: People manager HR like this is bullshit, and I'm like," So I want to do this." And so, she hired a woman to be my co- manager type of thing. So it was a woman being manager and I was the technical lead. And guess what? Nobody listened to me or did anything I asked them to do.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Oh really?

Elias Torres: Because she was the manager.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Oh, she was good.

Elias Torres: No, no, but she was the one who would do the raises and the promotions because she could-

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah, that's true. But one other thing that Latinas suffer from different to Latinos is that sometimes they talk, and it goes, but if a man talks, it's assertive, if a woman talks passionately, she's been emotional. We do get monthly all the time. So there's not every woman has that great experience. I did have a great experience because I took a lot because I have a neighbor personality, but not everybody has that.

Elias Torres: Right. Yeah, no, she was in Latina, the woman, but no people would be like, she wanted to do something else. And so, what I was aimed, it didn't matter because they were the one who does my raises.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: And there are ways to grow.

Elias Torres: Right. But what I learned that day was like, it's very hard to be a good manager.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: It is very hard, yeah.

Elias Torres: But not every-

Rocío Medina van Nierop: And not everything is raises and money for being a leader.

Elias Torres: But we have to encourage Latinas to go seek management positions because it's the standard ladder to go.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Totally. A management position brings in more Latinas.

Elias Torres: Exactly.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: So a Latina tends to leave her job, say halfway what they could have stayed. They leave the tech industry. They leave that company. Why? Because the house is not ready for them. Not always. It's a boys club. You're alone. There's no ERG group. There's not many resources. And then microaggressions it's not openly talk. Maybe each person throws in or they don't even know they're throwing in a microaggression, but the person affect it gets like mosquito bites all over. So it can get tiring if they internalize them all the time. So imagine your house, your company is a house and you're going to throw in a party. And I'm this popular girl that has a lot of friends. Should I invite all my friends to your house. If your house is dirty and the ceiling has holes, I'm not because if they come, they will leave immediately. They don't like it. You have to clean your house first. You have to do a good job catering for your guests. So that is what we are passionate about. So Google don't come to me, trying to hire my girls ensure you're going to keep them. You're going to cater for them. They are different. Right now, our group is different. It has a little bit different needs so that they can thrive. It is that challenged child. You need to push a little harder. So demonstrate to me that you're a good feat so that you can marry my family, right?

Elias Torres: I think that I would say it excites me, the organization. And I love the... Back to the other thing that you said that I hate it when people complain, I hate complainers. I don't want them in the world. People there's some complainers in background, but to be like," Oh, you're not inclusive." How is it an argument still that there's represented people and that if you are making it your work-

Rocío Medina van Nierop: By policing, overpolicing that.

Elias Torres: If you're doing the job of helping a group of people, that means that you're doing bad because you're not helping everybody. You're dedicating your time, full time for a non- profit organization. Why are there?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. So my-

Elias Torres: These people got to get, go mind their own bit.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yes. So my advice there, because it can happen women, in general, if there's a woman policing like," Oh, you just girls playing, men's playing me and blah." It stops the shining. Everybody's there to shine and shine his work, being successful, do a good job. That's shining. And if I'm going to stand up every single time, I feel there's an aggression. I'm never going to shine. And I'm not going to let you guys shine who should do this allies and not with every single thing? And I like a notice something like," Hey, did you just man's plain her? Let her talk." That resonates more than her stopping her argument and stopping the shining process. It is the job of the ally to detect those things and let the girls shine or let the challenged shine because it is not their job. They're already suffering by the micro version. If there's any if the ally didn't cut it. Maybe it's also so minor that it should not prevent you from shining.

Elias Torres: There's so much to do. And I get both overwhelmed. And I also have as an entrepreneur and ability do you know what? I don't care about every problem in the world. I'm just going to care about the one that I'm trying to help with. You know what I mean? As long as I'm doing something, I can't fix them all, but in your stuff, there's just so much to do. But I feel the power comes where the money is. And so, to get women promoted into the places, I would be maniacal about that way. Like you said, when you make a Latina manager, you get more Latinas, right? And so, that's something I did when I joined about the product organization had two women total. It took a huge amount of effort. I learned so much because I didn't know any of this stuff at that time I would get enough trust, but the women in my team, I had to have them interview all the time because I only had two. And so, every time I had a woman and then they would come and tell me, the women in my team would be that candidate is worried of how this organization looks.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. And they're also, you just said... You just explained a big problem. The two women were tiring of being in all the interviews. Sometimes we have to. Now they have that other job say a Latina. Now, if you're the only Latina, you're in every picture as a diversity. If you're the Latina, now you need to translate for somebody else. Something they cannot read. There are things. And then if you're the Latina, you should be the leader of the ERG of minorities. We have to absorb it all because we're only one or two, but if you had more, it wouldn't be just me.

Elias Torres: Exactly. But it took a lot of effort to create... To move up the numbers and understand why they were not taking the jobs and why they were not interested in second rounds and things like that, right?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. And always remember as a litter of an organization because of this historical problem of a pipeline. There were not that many Latinos studying in good universities. Now there's a lot of talent. Don't get me wrong. But historically it has been challenging. So companies give a chance to people that are missing just a bit because you can train them in that bit. Don't ask for 10 year's experience, you're peeling off or 20 year's experience for a manager position. You're peeling off the crowd that you need, but it's so I've seen the results, train your own people. They will work way better than if they come with tons of years of experience from a competitor. It's not going to work out. I'm not saying it's not going to work out. Sorry, I take it back. But it's also going to work out if you give them a chance and we need to give them chances.

Elias Torres: Really, we got to do the right thing, but I'm also, I'm a little pessimist. And I feel I can expect the allies and the wise to do all this solve all this for us. So I'm more of a revolutionary, right? In saying, I want you to go and say, keep pushing women to get the promotions, track and network them and say boycott to a certain extent and say,"you know what? We're not going to go to that company. And we go make this other company better." You know what I mean?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Absolutely, absolutely.

Elias Torres: You can't just forget about it. You can't be doing that. And I would say, I don't know, I might, anti- union but I feel like this has to be a type of union of.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Well, the ERGs are in a way, a type of union. Right?

Elias Torres: Exactly.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: So I'm going to give you an example, contingent workers, all the workers that are not employees, anything that is not in your payroll, that's a contingent worker. They are their contract. They are part time. They work for somebody else. You name it. They typically have less benefits. So many problems with them. You cannot give them raises. You cannot promise stability, et cetera, etcetera. So some companies come to us to post their jobs. They have a thousand rep open jobs. Why would you come and post a contingent worker positions in mind? That's why I got that. I'm sorry. About my 20, 000 Latina. They don't do that. They deserve full- time jobs with full- time benefits. They at least deserve to have all the information so that they can decide,

Elias Torres: No, I love this. And we got to keep being unapologetic. Right? Anybody complains I'm helping... I'm now get too grateful, blessed that I'm helping with the scholarship that I got to college at USF. And I said to them a few years back, I only wanted to be for Latinas NCS. Right. That was my requirement. Because it's like,"Yeah, I care about Latinos." But like you said, right, that's the segment. That is the even smaller segment that is doing that stuff. So my mind is I want to go where there's the most. And if we can push those people to come and put into the rest of the world, how do we get them be worthy of a higher...

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, you're absolutely right. I'm going to put California again as an example. So in California, we're somewhere between 40% and 50% of the population Latinos, yet we have the largest tech industry in Silicon Valley, even LA. But 1% of the technology industry workers are Latinos 1%. Well now it's more like 2% screening a little bit, or it changes how you measure it and don't even... Well, we spoke about how different it is at decision- making positions, but they're there. But when you look at buyers of technology or entertainment for is, they have the same problem like," Who goes to the movies who buys apps." The money they're getting from the Latino community is huge, but yet they don't employ us. And we are the citizens. So you're based in a place where half of the population where you are Latinos, but you don't hire them. You much rather bring in people from other it's Asia or mostly white people. And it is true. As you say.

Elias Torres: Rocío. Let's not complain. Let's focus on the shining. I love that.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. Yeah. But I want to go to something. There is in fact, a pipeline problem. If you look at the number of people that are graduating from and science, how many people are Latinas? Go back, go to high school from all the schools I was researching. How many people study concentrations in stem and from those, what percentage are Latinos? So from our homes, we're not going into stem. So there's a cultural... Let's talk about our culture, Latinos and the Jewish community or the Indian community before they eat anything, they cover education. You fly super high. And in the Latino community, we fail when we see," Oh, okay, the first money we get a better TV." So the American dream is broken. People come here, they work in the fields with a hope that their kids will do better. But then you still see people... Kids of field workers still working in the fields. And they're legal American citizens, but they're yet not going to this computer science careers where they should be going. They could, they could. But they just like, if you talk to a high school principal, what of only Latinos?" What do you want to be when you grow up?"" Hairdresser, like my mom."" Cool. You want to be like your mom." But we can aspire because they think they cannot accomplish something is broken. Therefore, our pipeline is still broken. We need to fix it so that they can actually hire that qualified people, they think. So yes, I do complain that we're not there, but I don't only complain about the companies. I complain about the system. I complain about us fixing it because there's a lot more to grab.

Elias Torres: Right, right. No, I just was going to say flip to shine in the area... Yeah. No, but I love what you said though. It is shocking me to my core. I mean, I think it's the same thing that you're trying to do with Latinas to get a promotion. You cannot. I think the principal is the same. You cannot be for six years doing the same job. You cannot be for generations doing the same job.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Exactly. Exactly. And we need to move...

Elias Torres: Unless you're an owner. If your family own the farm, then continue owning the farm.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Fine or if that, what makes you happy?

Elias Torres: That's fine.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: And you not create wealth for your people. And if we succeed in the short- term or in the long- term, we'll move from being consumers of technology to be makers of technology. And that is what we need to do.

Elias Torres: That's it, that simple. I think that this is extremely powerful. What you just said. And as simple, right? You're just like, we need to get Latinas promoted. We need to Latinas move up management. But it's really about breaking the cycle. Right?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. And owning it. A lot of people are afraid to dream big because they think they will fail. But it's the same as the raise. If you don't mess where you don't get it. So instead of school doesn't change. So what if you don't aim high and go high? What? You're just going to go back where you are.

Elias Torres: Yeah. And I've talked about this in other episode. It's really... I think I was talking with this with Adrian Mendoza. I was saying," If you're white and you went to Stanford and you went to Harvard, you have the confidence to ask people, you go to LPs and you say, give me a hundred million dollars." But if you're Latino, Latina, you go, you're like," Oh, I'm only going to raise a million or five million or 10 million." But it's you go ask and then they're still going to be told maybe 100 people still going to say no to them. But one is going to say yes, right? And-

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Lose the fear of being rejected. What's wrong with Latina is going to start in Harvard? What's wrong with Latinos going there? Did they apply? That one Latino that I saw in Harvard, I was like," How did you get in there?"" Well, I applied."

Elias Torres: Yeah. I went to Harvard because some people at IBM told me you don't know anything about computer science. You need to go back to school. Well, I applied, and I got rejected. Wow. No surprise. So I get rejected, but you know what I did, I was living in Boston. I walked in, imagine me, I don't... Harvard is distributed all over the place over the city. I'll send this Brighton, whatever Cambridge, I find the CS school. And I walk into this Pierce Hall and I'm like," Where's the registration office for the CS school? Tell me why I got rejected." And then I track them. I stay there the whole afternoon sitting in some pew in the office. And then they said," Well, it looks like the notes said that you don't have enough experience because you didn't do undergrads. Yes." How do we fix that? So somebody said," Take some classes at the extension school." And guess what? I took extension school classes.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: And then you got in.

Elias Torres: And then I applied again, and I went and asked the professor," Give me a recommendation." And then I applied again. So it's like, I failed, but you tried. And-

Rocío Medina van Nierop: I think thanks play well to people that don't take no for an answer.

Elias Torres: That's the other message here.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: When people ask me," What defines your growth?"" Well, because I'm freaking terca. I'm terca." And that, I think that the case for many.

Elias Torres: Because I terca. So I think we just got to use that to our advantage. Our strengths are our weaknesses. Our weaknesses are strength so...

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. And I think that a good conclusion from it is because we're Latinos or because whatever plan A might not always work, but hell you have a plan B and a plan C under years leave.

Elias Torres: Yeah. I mean, I think both sayings not to get pedantic, but I've learned from white people that I know a guy that sold a company for three billion dollars, right? And it was a crazy thing. I mean, this guy was burning 50 million dollars a month, and what his lesson was," Elias. There's no plan B." His motto was no plan B. This has to, and so you can also apply the-

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. The opposite.

Elias Torres: To the opposite. It's like, forget about plan B, plan C. This, it just takes many tries, but plan A it's going to work. You got to get this-

Rocío Medina van Nierop: But then you just try it, then you try it. It's a freaking fear of failure. That prevents a lot of people from moving in. That's also another thing I see culturally people and Latin America failure is it should be avoided at all costs. Whereas in Silicon Valley it's like," Well, it's sexually applauded.

Elias Torres: Yeah. It's applauded.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: By investors.

Elias Torres: Just raised another a billion dollars... Another company after we work. You know what I mean?

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. I heard that that's incredible.

Elias Torres: Everybody's upset, right? But it's like, people go financially makes sense. Why not back the person that has failed before and has connections? And so, we just need to get into that game. We just need to get into the loop.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Yeah. Yeah.

Elias Torres: Thank you. For what you're doing. Your time, your inaudible, you're helping. I'm so proud to have interviewed you.

Rocío Medina van Nierop: Thank you.

Elias Torres: Thanks for listening to the American Dream podcast, make sure to hit subscribe. So you never miss when a new episode drops. If you like this episode, please leave a six- star review wherever you listen to your podcast. And if you're interested in learning more about my American Dream mission, subscribe to my newsletter, linked in the show notes.


"A lot of people are afraid to dream big because they think they will fail, but if you don't ask for it, you won't get it."

Rocío Medina van Nierop co-founded Latinas in Tech to empower Latinas across the globe to grow in their tech careers. Frustrated that the majority of Latinas in tech get stuck in entry-level positions, Rocío is on a mission to empower Latinas to ask for the raise, to encourage more well-represented individuals to be allies to Latinas in their companies, and to ultimately close the Latinas in tech pipeline gap.

On this week's episode of The American Dream, Rocío challenges Elias with the statement, "The American Dream is broken."

Key Moments:

  • (1:41) What Latinas in Tech is all about
  • (3:07) Why Latinas are stuck at the entry level of tech companies
  • (24:17) We need to create workplace cultures where Latinas feel comfortable
  • (27:47) Find what matters to you, and double down on it
  • (29:08) It’s not just the job of Latinos to make tech more diverse
  • (32:28) We’ve got to be unapologetic
  • (33:19) There’s a Latino in tech pipeline problem
  • (35:23) The American Dream is broken

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