If you are listening and you’re paying attention, you start seeing patterns and think, “this might be an issue, with all of these stories put together.” I don’t want women to have to deal with some of the stuff that I’ve had to deal with anymore.
What do you do?
I am a coach. I started with coaching women in tech, and I now do corporate coaching as well.
What led you to your current role?
I went to school for marketing and merchandising for the fashion world. I did a lot of production in New York. It wasn’t until I came to LA years ago that a friend of mine called me and said, “hey, there’s this new startup, come work with us.” I really fell in love. It’s really exciting to be in startups. It’s like: this is a new baby, and we’re working together. That was my first job, then from there I went to another one, and then it just became my thing.
I’d been in tech for a while, and I’d gone through the experiences that we all go through. There were a lot of difficult situations working with men. I got to a point a couple years ago where I was just like, I need to figure out how to fix this. I’m an optimizer, like so many of us in tech, so I’m like, “how do I make this better? How do I make this so it’s not so difficult for us to work with them?”
Then I found coaching. I left tech to go back to school to get my certification. It gave me so many tools that I wish I had when I first started, especially communication tools. My original idea was to coach men in tech with tools that would help them learn how to work with women. But, turns out, they’re not so excited about looking for help - and looking for help from a woman. Women are way more receptive to the idea, so that’s where I started with my practice.
Now I’m morphing more into corporate so that I can actually go in and do that work with the men too. The idea of bringing someone in to help with diversity and inclusion is becoming a lot more acceptable and normal. I’m making my way in that industry, coming in with a diversity mindset, teaching people to communicate with each other in the workplace.
What did you want to be growing up?
I moved here [from Brazil] when I was a teenager. To learn English, I watched a lot of teen movies, so my idea of America and what people did was, like, [the movie] Clueless. So I thought “I want to be in fashion!” That’s why I went to fashion school, but it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be.
Do you see common threads with your clients in your coaching work?
Absolutely. When they were studying, they had to cope with the fact that they didn’t have women professors, they didn’t have women peers. Their papers or their contributions in class weren’t as valued. They’ve been undervalued for a long time before even coming into the industry, so a lot of them are coming in with a lot of exasperation.
They already know, “I’m going to have to talk differently. I’m going to have to express my ideas differently. I’m going to have to put up with a lot of stuff I don’t want to put up with.” You’re already walking into this industry with this wall up, and a combative attitude. Sometimes that comes out as aggression, sometimes it comes out as fear and meekness. There’s this fine line that none of us can really walk: you’re either a pushover, or you’re a bitch.
I see a lot of commonalities in all my clients. A lot of imposter syndrome, especially when they’re doing a technical project. I’ve had clients that were straight up told, “you’re not going to be able to do this because you’re a woman.” I’ve talked to a woman who, before she goes into a meeting at work, writes the solution to the problem on a piece of paper and gives it to one of her [male] friends to say in the meeting. She’s tried so many times to speak up and give a solution, and it would just go out the window. Then a man comes up and says the same thing and suddenly they’re like, “oh cool, that’ll work.”
What is your first memory of being intrigued by technology?
I had an interest in tech, but more through the psychological side of it. I’m always interested in why people do the things they do. For me, it was always really interesting looking at tech companies and thinking, “why are they making this?” For me it was more intriguing to figure out why. So as a kid, it was just curiosity.
Have you had any mentors or champions along the way?
I don’t know if I had mentors, but I definitely had people showing me what not to do. Some male CEOs that I’ve worked for, some male coworkers. I gathered little bits of info here and there where I could to teach myself my own lessons and to figure out what not to do.
Now that I have a big community of women around me, I do connect a lot with them. I really am happy to have found Tech Ladies and other communities like that. So now I do, but not so much coming up.
What do you want to learn next?
I want to learn something technical next. A lot of women I work with are engineers, and I’m catching the jargon, but I don’t know everything. They’ll say, “I’m doing a project that involves x, y, and z,” and I’m like, “I don’t know what that means.”
What motivates you?
Women’s stories. Every day I read another story of a woman sharing her experience.
There are [also] more and more people that are not women or minorities coming out and saying, “hey, this is actually an issue.” That’s where the listening comes in. If you are listening and you’re paying attention, you start seeing patterns and think, “this might be an issue, with all of these stories put together.” I don’t want women to have to deal with some of the stuff that I’ve had to deal with anymore.
What advice do you have?
My advice for girls coming up in the industry is to find a community early on. Nowadays it’s so easy: find someone you admire on Instagram, find someone who does something that you aspire to do. Find a community from the get-go. When you’re in school and you’re maybe the only girl in that class and you never have a female professor, it’s really important to have that support system.
My advice for men is to listen, and try to be aware of your own biases. It’s really hard for us to do that a lot of times. The actual work comes in in understanding your biases. You don’t know until you look at them, until someone else points it out. It’s one thing to start bringing in more women, start bringing in more minorities, another thing is to teach your team to work with those people.