How many years have you been in tech?
Tell me about your background. What were your early years like?
I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Growing up, I always wanted to be a fashion designer. I loved the different patterns that fabrics can have and how they can be put together to create something unique. I moved to the US when I was 17, right after graduating from high school to pursue a fashion design degree. I went to school in Owensboro, KY, for my first two years and then transferred to Lindenwood University in St. Charles in 2005.
When I left Ecuador, I didn’t realize what I was really getting into. Besides missing my family and friends (which was very hard), I had to get used to a totally different culture. I realized how many things my parents took care for me, and now it was my turn to figure out. In addition, making new friends was not easy. I was always able to find somebody to party with, but true friends were harder to find.
How were you exposed to tech?
My dad suggested that I choose a minor degree in something related to technology as a back-up plan. I decided to take a few computer programming classes. It turns out that I really liked them, and was good at it. My advisor at the time suggested that I should major in Computer Science, so I went ahead and did that. I also realized that Fashion Design was not something that I could see myself doing as a career, but more as a hobby.
What is your current role?
Currently I am a Software Developer at Clearent.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Before working as a Developer at Clearent, I worked as a QA analyst. My role was to test our payment gateway API for possible bugs and issues in an automated fashion. After version 2 of our API was released, our company decided to create a Virtual Terminal, an Angular website where our merchants could take payments and search for transactions. I had the task to create automated tests for the website using the Protractor framework.
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Tell us about a time that this applied to you.
Before working at Clearent, I was the Evening Manager for the Student Activities department at Lindenwood University. While I was working there, our department went through a complete change in staff, structure, and overall focus. As you can imagine, the transition caused students working for our department to be less engaged, and to be scared that they were going to be let go. I was torn between enforcing the new policies with a strong fist, and encouraging the students that I knew were good workers.
At the time, I didn’t know what management style worked best for me. I thought that I had to be authoritative and inflexible in order for people to do what I said. That caused me to say and do things that I regret to this day. My attitude changed when one of my friends and coworker (TC) spoke to me about making sure that our office was a light for students. I realized then that even though I was warned over and over again to manage with a strong fist, I was going to create more impact by leading by example, and deeply caring for the students.
What are you learning right now?
At my current position, I am learning about eventual consistency and batch-like processes.
In my personal life, I am working on shutting down insecurities. I know many people have that “inner-talk” going on that says that we are not good enough, that nobody cares for us, and that we are fighting alone. If I am not careful I can believe that those thoughts are reality. When that happens I shut down, become very self-focused and start blaming others for feeling that way.
I have a small group of women who deeply care for me and have taken the time to know me. They are the ones that can remind me of what reality is: I am very capable, I am not alone and my talents can be used for others. It is way more rewarding to focus on helping others than always be consumed by my “poor me” thoughts.
What was the last fear that you faced? How did you feel after you conquered it?
Speaking up in a public setting is not my favorite thing to do. I have a very quiet voice, and since English is not my first language I have an accent. At work, we follow an agile development style, so every two weeks we demo what we have worked on. In one of my first demos, I failed terribly. My boss and I worked on the demo the entire day, but when it was time to present, nothing worked. It was very embarrassing.
After that, I kept my demos very short. Some days I would say that what I worked on was too technical for a non-technical audience, so I would choose not to present. Recently, however, I have been given the opportunity to work on new development that requires me to explain complex processes during demos. I wouldn’t say that I have conquered that fear. I still get very nervous every time we have demo day, but it has become easier with time.
What advice do you wish someone had given to you? What advice would you give to others starting out?
For those starting out I would give them two pieces of advice that were given to me. First, do not compare yourself with others. I used to feel bad because I didn’t know as much as my coworkers did, but I was told that I should only compare myself with myself. My boss, Jill, said that I shouldn’t see it as a race where I have to win the competition, but rather focus on improving my own “personal record”.
Second, it is ok to make mistakes. When I first started out I was afraid to commit code because I thought that if I changed one thing it would break everybody else and it was going to be a disaster. A little dramatic I would say. So, I was told that “you don’t become a real developer until you break production”. I know not every company would be happy to hear that, but it made me realize that it is ok to take risks, make some mistakes and learn from them.
I wish somebody would have told me that my work should not become my life. My family is very hard-working and I was taught from a young age to become the same way. I didn’t realize until I decided to become a Christian that work and money are often futile things that I shouldn’t put my security in. I know many people would not agree with me, but I can confidently say that because of that decision I know that things will be ok regardless of where I work, or what circumstances I have to face.
What are your hobbies?
I like reading, trying out new recipes, sewing, and recently I’ve been doing crossfit.
What do you like about St. Louis? The midwest? Why do you live here?
I live by the Delmar Loop area, so I love how there are many restaurant options and places to go near me. During the Summer I love going to Forest Park and the Zoo.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I have a twin sister, Fernanda. So if you see me and I act stand-offish and don’t say hi, it’s probably because it is not me. She works as a college professor at Espol, a polytechnic university in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She teaches video production, documentary writing, and other classes related to video and cinema.