At CircleCI, we value diversity of all kinds. Our vibrant team what makes us who we are, and it’s what enables us to build great products. ‘CircleCI Voices’ is a new column on the blog where our team members can tell their stories and share the unique perspectives they bring to CircleCI. Our first story comes from our recruiting coordinator, David Lopez. We hope you enjoy!

Dear beautiful young queers,

I hope this letter finds you well. My name is David Lopez. I identify as a gay Latinx male, and I recently entered into the tech space from the nonprofit sector. The transition from one world into the other has not come easy. I want to share my own journey of joining the tech workforce, and show you that while it was, and is, an uphill battle, that my life experience as a queer person actually gave me many of the tools I needed to thrive here. I hope my story gives you encouragement and helps you see your potential when people try to tell you “no, you can’t.” Our presence in tech is vital. According to Google’s Diversity Report from 2017, their company’s diversity breakdown was: 70% male and 61% white. These reports that companies do every year also highlight for me why it’s no surprise that when I look for examples of people like me doing the kind of work I want to do in tech, there aren’t many. But they do make me realize that my presence as a gay Latinx male means something in this tech space, and therefore, you mean something in this tech space too.

As you start your career, you’ll hear terms like “diversity initiative.” This is because you are trying to enter into a space that wasn’t designed for us. This is exactly why you being here matters, and this is why you can’t give up! By you staking your claim in a system that is slow to change, you are creating a pathway for others behind you, so just know that your failures and your successes are not solely your own.

As I reflect on my experiences, I want to share what I’ve learned to help queer youth by make it through the doors of whatever tech company, and onto a team that will embrace their skills, support their ambitions, and accept their identity. Here’s what has helped me:

1. Learn the language and use it to market yourself

I wish my high school offered “Talk like a Techie” as a language elective just as it did Spanish, Chinese, or Italian. Throughout my life, I thought I was learning language skills to engage people in a way that would translate to any job or field. Yet I realized that the nonprofit space (where I had worked for my entire professional life thus far) and the tech world spoke two completely different languages. In one world, I could list something on my resume under “relevant experience” like, “Participated in the dismantling of hegemonic forces of toxic masculinity to construct a narrative for queer voices,” but in the other, this is seen as “Facilitated group discussions around diverse topics.” It’s a retraining of the brain to be able to oscillate between two voices. As I did more research into how to translate my unique background and set of skills into the terminology used by tech companies, I started receiving more responses and landing more interviews. So frame your resume using their words, address the job description as best you can and avoid getting too “woke” on them on paper. That comes later.

2. Interviewing and getting the offer

Ok, so now that you’ve mastered the art of crafting the perfect resume, what comes next? For me, to help me determine which type of companies I wanted to apply at, I wanted to know a few things.

1) What does the company value? 2) How does the company engage diversity/inclusion? 3) How does the company see itself impacting communities? 4) Does the role I’m looking for offer opportunities for growth within the company?

These were my personal “North Star” questions but yours might be different. It’s important to have a sense of how you’d like to grow in your own professional life, as that will help you develop the questions that are important for you to ask about with any company you are interested in. I asked these four questions at every interview I had. As it turned out, some companies I had thought were at the top of my list got tossed out as an option because of their answers (or lack thereof), and others rose to the top as I saw an alignment of values and purpose. During this process, I also realized that if I could make it through all my struggles since being a teenager, then I know that I can crush an interview. Continue to be an advocate for yourself, and get those tech coins!

3. Find your allies

I came into CircleCI knowing the types of waves I wanted to make; I just needed to be the stone to cause the ripple. To do that, I started having conversations with coworkers about anything and everything. The way I navigate all relationships is by offering up a little bit of who I am, and seeing how that gets received, with hopes that something gets offered back. If the other person meets me where I’m at in those conversations, I know they might be a potential ally for me. I’ve been very fortunate at CircleCI because many people here have embraced me, understand the path that I’m creating for myself, and are there to support that vision, as I am here to support theirs. It’s also important to make allies with people who have decision-making power! I made it a point to have those “intentional” conversations with the VP’s of my company, and now they know more about me, and they know what I want to accomplish–not only here at CircleCI, but for my own professional pursuits. You’ll be amazed at how much impact you can make when you know the right people and they know what your goals are. At the time of this letter, I’m in the process of developing my own reputation amongst my peers and the company as a whole as someone who is not only passionate about diversity and inclusion, but someone who is willing to go the extra mile and put words into action. I’ve made it a point to be my authentic self, and you should strive to do that for yourself. Trust that your allies will be there for you.

4. Remind yourself of who you are

This last point is something that I constantly find myself going back to, so it needed to be shared. The tech space can make it hard for queer people to feel like they can be their true selves. There are so many politics involved, there are hierarchies and systems at play that can cause queer people to feel like they have to be in that metaphorical “closet” again. Yet, the way I’ve come to see it is, I’ve had practice so I’ll meet every challenge head-on and if I ever feel that closet door closing in on me, better believe that I will make it a revolving door and bedazzle the heck out of it every time it spins around. So practice self-care, and know that whatever your experience has been thus far, you are worthy of all the success you can achieve for yourself. Don’t lose who you are just to get a job; you’re worth more as your true self than as the figment is someone else’s narrative.

If you’ve made it this far in my letter, then I hope you’ve seen parts of yourself reflected in my experience, and I hope that you have been able to find some relatable truths. Above all, I want you to know that you belong here! The tech world is waiting for your untapped potential, and I want to be that mirror, reflecting back to you the image of someone who has gone through it, and is making it his own. There is a company out there waiting for you to show them who you are, waiting for their next addition into a culture that needs you now more than ever.

Shantay, you stay!

Sincerely yours,
David Lopez

We’re hiring! If you’re looking for a team that values your unique experience, check out our open positions