Posted on October 13 2020
The month spanning Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 marks National Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to celebrate and honor Hispanic and Latinx Americans. The culture and the accomplishments they have made in society.
“National Hispanic Heritage Month.. traditionally honors the cultures and contributions of both Hispanic and Latino Americans as we celebrate heritage rooted in all Latin American countries,” reads an official statement from the holiday’s website. “During this month and throughout the year, we, and our partners, share history, heritage, and accomplishments of Hispanic and Latino Americans of past and present.” We are so excited to welcome Krystal Flores, a Software Engineer to speak with us about her journey as a Latina woman.
ALLY: Tell us about yourself.
Krystal: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, the granddaughter of four Mexican immigrants. One of my grandmothers had a well-known restaurant in East Los Angeles, but closed it when I was born because she wanted to take care of her grandchild. I got lucky—she continued to make chilaquiles, menudo, and much more at home (just for me!).
As a child, I loved learning. My parents thought that college would be a good idea for me, but it was my guidance counsellor who pushed me to think outside my box. At Yale, I grew in ways I could never have foreseen. I was exposed to concepts, traditions, and cultures that I could not have seen within my family nor small community in Los Angeles. Yale opened my eyes to the fact I could want more and be more.
While in college, I became a Sinophile. So after graduation, I moved to China for a few years. When I moved back to the US, I was looking for something to dedicate myself to. I luckily fell into coding. Now, I volunteer with many great groups like Women Who Code and Techtonica because I want to see more female engineers in the places I work. I also started www.devinclusiongiveaways.com, a platform for free resources for coders from generally underrepresented groups in tech.
ALLY: You are a Software Engineer, a female and a Latina. What were some of your biggest struggles to get to where you are today?
Krystal: My biggest struggle was definitely learning to code. I have a degree in history. However, I love natural languages. I’ve taken Latin, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, and more. I also love logic games. Maybe it was only natural that I’d eventually move onto programming languages.
Nonetheless, it was not easy and still isn’t. I have no formal education in software engineering. I never did a bootcamp. I took a three-house codecademy.com HTML & CSS course, loved it, and just kept learning wherever I could. At some point, I realized I could build things. Then came the hardest part, how do I convince someone to hire me as an engineer with no formal training or previous experience? There were many “No’s”, but I learned and became better along the way. Now, I’ve been in the industry for several years and have earned the title Senior Engineer. I still don’t know everything, but I have come so far from where I began and am so proud of everything I’ve built.
ALLY: What is some advice you would tell your younger self after getting to where you are today.
Krystal: Don’t try to plan it all. Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride and be open to opportunities along the way. Things work out.
ALLY: Tell us about a key Latinx role model or someone you have always admired.
Krystal: Growing up, I had no female nor Latinx role models for computing. (Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, and co. weren’t as popular back then.) However, as part of Techqueria, a national organization for Latinos in Tech, I have met so many wonderful Latina engineers. Their stories have inspired me and helped me to not only be a better engineer, but also be a better human being. For instance, this week I am moderating a panel on Latinas in Engineering for Techqueria’s Latino Heritage Month Summit. The women on this panel are badass. They’re more senior in their careers. They have CS degrees. (One woman is completing her PhD too!) They understand that growing up there weren’t a lot of Latinas like them, so they’re paving the way for more and paying it forward. They talk openly about the struggles they’ve faced including, but not limited to:
- being a first-generation college student
- needing to make good money quickly after college because they were supporting their whole family
- being the only woman and/or Latinx person on their team
- getting out of a toxic work environments
- understanding that tech isn’t just about going to companies like Google or Amazon, but that it’s about finding the right place for you at the right company for you
I admire these women. I commend them for their fearlessness. And I hope sharing their stories will inspire, educate and engage more Latinas. These women are amazing.
A huge thank you to Krystal for sharing her story.