- September 15 through October 15, 2023, is Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM).
- This year’s HHM theme is “Prosperity, Power, and Progress.”
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. National Hispanic Heritage Month started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and is now celebrated from September 15 to October 15. In honor of HHM, we sat down with four of our Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement Employee Resource Group (HOLA) members to hear about how their cultural traditions and challenges impacted their career journeys.
When we spoke with our four HOLA members about their shared experiences and cultural traditions, some themes emerged. Facing and overcoming barriers was a shared experience of their career journeys. All of our interviewees mentioned the importance of close family bonds, a strong work ethic, and remembering their cultural roots. These values inform the way they navigate daily life at work while their achievements celebrate and honor their Hispanic identity.
Our HOLA members now have thriving careers in technology and each of them worked hard to overcome different challenges to get there. Director of Critical Account Projects & Programs Bonnie Rodriguez told us her career path included dropping out of high school, working as a housekeeper, and in retail for a local grocery store chain. But she was undeterred. Bonnie completed high school and eventually moved into a managerial position at a local bank. She pivoted to the telecommunications industry and worked hard to climb the ladder. Now 22 years later she’s a director, proud of her accomplishments, and looking forward to the future.
Being a woman of Hispanic culture in the tech industry, which is male-dominated, I encountered people who did not always take me seriously or believe that I could perform the role. I worked hard to prove my skills and my expertise. I worked to make sure I was equipped with the necessary skills to succeed.
Education and recognition.
Technical Accounts Manager Marie Apodaca addressed barriers to higher education and career recognition. As the first person in her family to go to college, she had little academic support from home. Marie took advanced classes at her high school to give herself a leg up then started her technology career right after college. “As a Hispanic woman in technology, I felt I had to work harder to achieve the same level of recognition.” Marie volunteered to help out other engineers and went above and beyond to give her early career a boost.
A new language.
For some people, language can also be a barrier to achieving success. Onboarding Specialist Jose Alvarez is proud he learned a second language, English, to pursue his technology career. Although he spent some time in the United States as a child, when he returned to his home country of Nicaragua, he still had far to go. Besides overcoming a language barrier, he also changed his college major from medicine to engineering. After years of hard work, Jose was able to complete his college degree in Systems Engineering and is proud of what he’s achieved.
Facing cultural opposition.
Senior Director of Global Technology Solutions Distributors Armando Martinez regrets that he doesn’t speak Spanish like his parents. “Having it as an additional credential on my resumé would propel me further.” When he was growing up in Arvada, Colorado, it was frowned upon to speak any language other than English. As a result, Spanish was not spoken in his household and few of his friends grew up speaking the language. This kind of regional cultural opposition is an experience commonly shared by immigrant families.
Despite the opposition he faced early on, Armando found ways to soar in his telecommunications career. His family instilled the value of a strong work ethic and setting goals. He had a role model in his father, who was highly educated with multiple degrees. Seeking out opportunities while still in middle school, Armando made use of every available resource. At age 13 his family relocated to Albuquerque, “a small city that struggles with gang violence and a very high crime rate.” Luckily, community leaders were well aware of the lack of opportunity and established programs to put youth on a path to success. Armando took advantage of resumé writing assistance, mentorship programs, and internships, and by his early 20s, his technology career was off to a great start.
While hard work is a common thread, all of our HOLA interviewees also credit mentors for guiding their career paths. This is one of the reasons they continue to mentor and support others. Armando told us mentoring other Hispanics is a high point of his career. “The next generation of Hispanics are going to be our leaders.” Bonnie also participated in the RingTern ERG mentorship program and said it was a great experience. She advises those who are young in their careers, “Advocate for yourself. Find mentors. Develop a strong professional network, and engage in continuing education.”
We asked our interviewees how their presence and success promote diversity and inclusion at RingCentral. “Not seeing other Hispanics in leadership or other roles can be a source of fear,” says Marie. She recalls early in her career when she was the only Hispanic and there was just one other woman on her team. Seeing someone like yourself represented is important. Bonnie expands on this idea. “We want people to know that being Latino is not a barrier to success. Cultural identity should not be a hindrance to someone’s career.”
HOLA is determined to bring more visibility to the Hispanic community within and beyond RingCentral to increase overall opportunity and representation in tech. By sharing their stories, our HOLA members hope to encourage and elevate each other to reach their career goals.
Originally published Sep 18, 2023