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Month: July 2019

Transforming Lives Through Learning: Angela Romero, Principal Manager @ Coursera

In this episode, I spoke with Angela Romero, Principal Manager at Coursera.  We spoke about her experience working in a PR agency, cold calling and her role in sales at Google, Duolingo as a startup with an e-learning environment giving people practical and fun learning opportunities through technology and access to better jobs, all about Coursera, and the importance of Employee Resource Groups in working environments.

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Angela Romero

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Mentioned resources:

Time Stamps:

  • 01:43 – Welcoming Angela Romero
  • 02:00 – About Angela and Coursera
  • 02:53 – Angela’s favourite course or specialization 
  • 03:52 – Angela’s favourite learning technique
  • 05:25 – How Angela gets to Coursera
  • 07:55 – What is it like to work in a PR agency
  • 08:41 – When Angela realized she wanted to switch into sales
  • 10:38 – Role at Google in sales
  • 11:01 – Good at cold calling
  • 13:35 –  How Angela would write a perfect pitch email
  • 17:17 – What is the perfect phone call
  • 20:10 – Switching from Google to Duolingo, a startup e-learning environment
  • 23:04 – What Angela was most proud of at Duolingo
  • 26:34 – Why Coursera?
  • 32:10 – Principal Manager at Coursera. What does a Principal Manager do?
  • 34:14 – Coursera’s challenges for the next two quarters
  • 35:29 – Wanting to get into the e-learning industry… What kind of opportunities can I get at Coursera? Where will I be needed the most?
  • 36:52 – What is an ERG(Employee Resource Group)?
  • 42:06 – Angela’s last words

Key Takeaways:
  • Cold calling > “Your pitch is not really done on the call, your pitch needs to be done before. The more resources you do about the person, and why whatever you are selling to that person makes sense for them and for their business, the easier your cold call is going to be.” Learned in PR.
  • It is recommended to do a lot of research about a person before tailoring the message to the business, function of the person and seniority.
  • Phone Calls and emails are done depending the culture. In Latin America phone calls are more popular. Phone calls should be genuine. Emails should be short and genuine too; when you care about doing the right thing for the client, they can tell.
  • Having another language gives people access to better jobs. Duolingo is an app that has personalized education through technology. It is practical and fun for learning another language. Expanded to Latin America with english for latinos!
  • In a startup: It is rewarding for anyone who builds useful things that have a high impact and help others. “In startups you can put together your own strategy, bring your own ideas and learn much more”.
  • For Latinos > The Latino group in the Bay Area is very tight, supportive, and latinos have authentic relationships “We are latinos first, identity is paramount!” 
  • ERG (Employee Resource Group) All about diversity and inclusion! A group created by employees for employees, a space to help people feel they belong, comfortable and proud about their identity; a group that provides support, enhances career development, and contributes to personal development in work environment.
  • At coursera > They want to create a group (HOLA ERG) that will foster family, friends, events and meetings with other ERGs, and will focus on ways to increase the pipeline of latino candidates
  • At Google > HOLA ERG  helped her bring her identity back. Back in FleishmanHillard’s PR environment, there were no latinas in role models and Angela struggled hard to try and fit in. “Non acceptance is not healthy; Tech in the Bay Area is a white dominated industry, so people feel they don’t belong” 

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For Engineers:

  • Figure out how to we work best with universities and how to create a platform for them to be able to put the credentials on the platform in a more streamlined way.

Who is Hugo Castellanos? Find out about him on linkedin

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How to Become a Product Manager without a Tech Background: Erika Torres, PhD

In this episode, I spoke with Erika Torres, PhD., a Product Manager and Social Scientist, Marketing Officer at Prospanica Sillicon Valley. Erika has a PhD. in Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University. We spoke about her path to a PhD, her work as a professor and in hospitals, the 100 career discovery interviews she had for breaking into tech, and what would she do differently if she would have to do her career discovery journey all over again.

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Want to help us grow? You can: Mentioned resources: Show Notes:
  • 01:45 – Welcoming Erica Torres
  • 02:10 – About Erica and her journey in Silicon Valley
DISCOVERING PRODUCT MANAGEMENT Erica is a tracked psychologist fascinated about Tech, people, what inspires them and what gets in their way. She joined the National Institute of Mental Health Program for diverse first generation college students to help her get to Grad school and do an intensive fellowship research at UCSF. Beaten by the system, she started digging into Tech, having her first introduction back at Undergrad school working on an online smoking cessation program, and approaching over 100 people through career discovery interviews, choosing to do Product Management.
  • 06:57 – With a PhD, almost four years as a professor. What was it like?
A PROFESSOR DISCOVERING AREA OF INTEREST Erica was a professor for more than three years, and loved it. It was a job she would do on a side, but unfortunately would not pay her bills. It was through an insight into Psychobiology that she discovered her interest for behavioral medicine and ended up specializing in her postdoc and in hospital settings.
  • 08:43 – From academia to a hospital setting. See patients as a psychologist?
  • 11:57 – Pursuing a PhD, with a job as a professor and job at hospital. Why tech?
WHY TECH? Tech has always been of Erica’s interest, and her exposure began when she met her software engineer husband. After going through career discovery interviews she realized it was the same she had been doing so far, the same skill set, that she wouldn’t have to go back to school to leverage those skills, and found her focus in health.
  • 14:46 – Not going back to school for another degree. Any exposure to data analysis tools? Sql?
  • 16:35 – Curiosity about getting a career in tech. Why Product Manager?
  • 19:31 – The way in which Erica approached people when wanting to do career discovery interviews
  • 26:54 – First opportunity as a Product Manager
FIRST OPPORTUNITY AS A PRODUCT MANAGER Erica was giving a chance to private practice when she got contacted by somebody on LinkedIn looking for a Clinical Product Manager. She was able to do the job as a subject matter expert. It was on a part time basis, and for a whole year testing and experimenting a prototype to see whether she wanted to do the switch or not. “If you want to become a Product Manager, think about what are you a subject matter expert on that is not Tech related. All companies building products for that audience need product managers who can speak that language”
  • 31:58 – What would Erica do differently if she would have to do her career discovery journey all over again  
  • 35:44 – Erica’s last words
Key Takeaways:
  • Three years as a professor >
  • “It was an opportunity to learn more about herself and what she needed to gain more insight about”
  • Doing an insight into psychobiology, helped her discover that she really loved neuroscience and biological basis of behaviour, leading her into behavioral medicine
  • Why tech? >
  • She did career discovery interviews (Informational interviews)to discover what she liked > Before moving into tech, she got to talk with over 100 people in different areas of tech, about their experience and how they got to do what they were doing
  • “It was exactly what I have been doing; same skill set, but different terms” It was something she could do without having to go back to school to leverage skill set
  • “There is an enormous potential in health tech and tech for good”
  • Data analysis tools >
  • SPSS is a friendly user tool
  • Hugo likes Python first because it is very straightforward and has a lot of resources; “Learn how to learn, it is part of the job”
  • Why Product Manager >
  • After career discovery interviews, Erica prepared a spreadsheet with people she talked with and made a theme analysis, picking out common themes she found and writing about them “Mind map of decision making process”
  • “Any path can lead to product management; identifying problems and finding solutions” 
  • “She wanted to make a difference at scale without burning out, preserving her own sanity, keeping true to her own values, and being consistent and stable in her life”
  • Approaching people >
  •  She reached out for people through linkedin, and she searched for them sending concise messages in order to meet them, learn about them, and get new referrals
  • “Network in channels through linkedin to approach people”
  • “It is a small world when coming to latinos in tech, I have made it a point to be more involved in the community through linkedin and slack channels” “If you are in a network, you are inevitably going to find yourself in others”
  • First opportunity as a Product Manager >
  • “Having a supportive spouse and a mission helped her take a significant pay cut and experiment a whole year to see whether she really wanted to do the switch or not
  • Being a subject-matter expert on (expert on something she already knew), helped her become a product manager
  • To listeners > “If you want to become a Product Manager, think about what subject-matter you are an expert on. If you have 10 years experience in public policy, or in secondary education, or transportation or in any particular area or topic not tech related, you are a subject matter expert in that path. All companies building products for that audience need product managers that can speak that language.” “To pivot, you need to leverage the opportunities”
  • “There is  a business and tech component that you need to understand, and a user with whom you need to empathize with”
  • If doing a career discovery journey all over again >
  • “I should have started sooner, there is never a better time than now” 
  • “To pivot in a career, start NOW, do networking, connect with people, learn and take use of resources.”
Who is Hugo Castellanos? Find out about him on linkedin Thanks so much for listening to the show! If you want to know more about this or comment on the show, please join us on LatinosWhoTech or go to Conexiones 
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Summer Special: Life @ LinkedIn: Ismael Verduzco III, Social Media Lead @ LinkedIn

In this episode, I spoke with Ismael Verduzco III, aka DJ Ish, Social Marketing Lead at LinkedIn. Ish graduated from ​the University of California, Merced​ with a B.S. in Management. We spoke about life at LinkedIn, how he found his way into tech and his role as a Social Media Lead.

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Connect with Ish via linkedin, Instagram and Twitter:

Show Notes:

  • 01:16 – Welcoming Ismael Verduzco III
  • 01:19 – About Ish
  • 02:18 – About going to school in University of California; from urban area to the countryside
  • 03:08 – Things Ish does in his free time
  • 03:38 – Social media expert at Linkedin, fitness enthusiasm and DJ engagement – How does he organize himself with so many things to do
  • 05:47 – Time of relax – Downtime
  • 09:24 – How Ish got to Linkedin
  • 15:57 – Role description
  • 17:14 – Process for making content
  • 19:13 – What makes a good headline for Linkedin
  • 21:55 – The project Ish is proudest of
  • 25:39 – 60 MM Latinos in the USA but only 3% are in Tech. What can companies do better to bring diverse talent in. Ish’s viewpoint 
  • 27:03 – What is life at Linkedin like
  • 28:40 – Next play/challenges as a Social Media Lead
  • 29: 45- Next Play Concept
  • 30:28 – What does Ish likes best of Linkedin besides their people
  • 31:48 – Last words for audience 

About the episode:

Linkedin has grown in the past 5 years, and in 2016 was acquired by Microsoft. They started off with 6000 employees and today have doubled. One of them is Ish, a Dj and fitness enthusiast, working as the Social Media Marketing Lead of Talent Solutions, one of their four business brand channels, finding different content to inform HR managers, recruiters and  talented professionals on latest recruiting trends. 
Ish was born in Southern California, and graduated from University of California, Merced with a B.S. in Management, a college way back in the countryside with only 4000 students, where in his free time hosted concerts and events on the campus, was part of a business fraternity co ed, and a Dj on weekends.
He shares his professional career all the way from being an assistant operation manager in 24 Hour Fitness to LinkedIn, as well as his path through the company. He started with a contract role opened up specially for him as a Social Marketing and Event Coordinator in charge of recruiting events supporting their talent acquisition, then as a product manager, helping people in recruiting, marketing, and communications to attract and hire the best talent, and then in social media, his actual role.
We talked about how he organizes and schedules his vast agenda minute by minute, his process for doing content, the authenticity needed for a good headline and fun channels to bring your own self to work , recruiting events, the reason for being a Unicorn in the company, next challenges in social media and the concept of Linkedin’s Next play.

Mentioned resources:

Key Takeaways:

  • Organizing himself > 
  • Outline minute by minute what he will be doing that day, and being flexible when bad things happen and pivot on the spot
  • “Having time off doing things that are not necessarily productive, makes you feel free and puts away worries. Steal away!”
  • When wanting to work on a project he goes to his notetab on his phone (that uses for productivity) and will randomly get ideas for projects to work on – “Someday maybe” list > not committed to do something, but know it is there – “Being flexible goes a long way”
  • Getting to LinkedIn >
  • He got his first job at LinkedIn because he was relentless and showed a lot of interest. “When organizing events you have to be relentless, a necessary grip”
  • Content >
  • The process for doing content depends on the purpose of it
  • “Fun Fridays” > work with a content calendar and each day has a different theme, best day is friday because it is fun. He has to think of a fun meme relative to pop culture and tie into recruiting. “Can be super tough because recruiting, talent and HR are very specific, but having the chance to put a creative mind on that, and somehow twisting a game of thrones theme meme into HR and getting a thousand of recruiting professionals to comment on different issues, is super cool”; Have a content counter with a different theme for every week
  • A good Headline >
  • A good headline for LinkedIn would be “Something descriptive enough to tell what you do without being specific enough to say what exactly it is”
  • “About authenticity and bringing your own self to work on your channel” Fun ones: Indeed, Tech enthusiast, Diversity champions.
  • Best projects >
  • “Open Mic is the best recruiting event in the Bay Area; the most authentic and fun”
  • “At recruiting events you have to justify the bottom line and how much money you are spending, but can have fun as well” ”Even though you are not looking for a job and live in the Bay, look it up”
  • Hugo > “As an ERG participant, I see that a lot of times companies will give you money for your diversity group to get pizza or whatever, and you want to talk about the things that affect your perception of the company and making it more inclusive”
  • “Being able to share the experience of an event answers questions at scale“Events are inclusive, but if you are not fortunate to live near the Bay Area, you are quite out of luck”
  • ”Unicorn” > “When you build a community, it is hard to leave, it is about culture and people”
  • “Most of interactions you see are through social media”
  • Next Play >
  • His CEO uses “Next Play” concept all the time: ”If something is done, what is the next we are going to do, what is our next play”
  • Culture concept at LinkedIn > ”What is your next play in your career journey? If it is at LinkedIn, awesome, and if not, we wish you the best of luck and will support you!”
  • He likes about LinkedIn >
  • Because of side projects done at the company, Ish has been able to get into his actual role
  • Opportunity goes back to one of the biggest tenants of their platform and is creating opportunities for others
  • Last words > When breaking into Tech, use people in your network and reach out to people online, Linkedin and Latino online communities such as: TechqueríaLinkedinGroups, MeetUp, Eventbrite

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Who is Hugo Castellanos?  Find out about him on linkedinThanks so much for listening to the show! If you want to know more about this or comment on the show, please join us on LatinosWhoTech or go to Conexiones Leave a Comment

The Way of the PhD: Liliana de la Paz, PhD, Research Scientist from Gilead Life Sciences

Everyday 1 billion people take at least one pill that was manufactured by Gilead Sciences. A company devoted to manufacture antiviral drugs that treat HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and influenza. 
One of the many researchers at Gilead Sciences is Liliana de la Paz, PhD. A Bay Area native with Mexican roots. She has the unique distinction of being the first ever Latina to graduate from Stanford University with a PhD in Chemical Engineering. 
Liliana is used to being one of the few women in the room and sometimes the only Latina. From her undergrad days at Berkeley where she majored in Chemical Engineering to her Stanford lab where she spent 6 years researching protein engineering, all the way to her current role developing the next generation of antiviral drugs. 
We talked about her experience going to school at Berkeley as a first generation student attending college and the first in her family to become an engineer. We went deep into understanding what imposter syndrome is, how it manifests itself and how she deals with it. Full disclaimer: You never fully overcome it, you just learn to manage it better. 

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Key Takeaways:

  • On being the only Latina in the room:
  • “My attitude is that if I am here, I am here to play.”
  • It’s important to stay positive and to avoid falling trap of the victim mentality. If you are called into a meeting is because your opinion is valued
  • To overcome imposter syndrome, keep a record of all your KUDOS and achievements handy in your email or notes app. I keep all my presentation review notes and thank you emails I’ve received from others to remind me that I am good at what I do
  • It’s OK to feel nervous before doing a presentation, you feel nervous because you want it to come out well
  • Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you are not the right person for a job or a project and that other people are going to “find out” that you are not qualified for it. 
  • “Go to your TA’s office hours. They are probably more scared from you than you from them”
  • You never really “overcome” imposter syndrome. You learn to manage it better
  • The more you grow into an organization and take bigger projects, the more important is to be self- aware of your imposter syndrome
  • Ignorance is bliss! Since Liliana was a first generation student, her parents didn’t put pressure on her to attend college or had a 12 year plan for her career. Her parents supported her and told her she could transfer to a less demanding school than Berkeley anytime. 
  • Motivation is BS. You have to show up and do the work whether you feel motivated to do it or not. 
  • Art Tatum story- as a young blind kid, Art was obsessed with playing the piano and would learn how to play songs by ear. He would often listen to the radio and piano roll recordings to discover new tunes. In one occasion he heard a tune that was originally recorded by 2 pianists playing the piano at the same time. A piece that was supposed to be performed with 4 hands. Young Art did not know that and he managed to perform the piece by himself using only 2 hands. Nobody told him he couldn’t, so he did it.

Show notes:

  • 01:13 – Welcoming Liliana de la Paz
  • 01:46 – About Liliana and expectations
  • 08:38 – Liliana’s road map to a PhD
A ROAD MAP WITH PROGRAMS TO REACH A PhD Liliana participated in many programs that coloured her path for a PhD. She took part of STEM programs that were for undergraduates who were first in the families to go to college and created a community that fostered all students with a similar background, and programs for undergraduate research experiences that gave her the acquaintance to apply in graduate school. She made many friends during the journey that have given her support and have gone through the same struggles to pass physics. During the whole program process, she had a troop of mentors helping her shape her track, which enabled her to have an application with research experience ready, either for applying for a PhD or for a job. At graduate school, Liliana discovered that then the trajectory was becoming a professor and in 4th year students could score different options and opportunities such as finance and consulting amongst others, so, being part of programs really inform you about what you decide to do.
  • 10:22 – Many opportunities; why chemical engineering?
CHEMICAL ENGINEERING “GO BIG OR GO HOME” At High school, Liliana liked very much maths as well as chemistry. Chemical engineering combined both and she knew it was hard at Berkeley, but considering herself a “Go Big or Go Home” person, she decided to go for it. It was not until she did the undergraduate course that she knew what it was really all about. It was broad and hard, but she wanted to do it, committed to it, and it was worth it. Her initial thought at Berkeley was to be part of a college of engineering because that would be probably harder to get into, and if she didn’t like it, could switch into another college. Chemical engineering is the only engineering discipline that isn’t at a college of engineering, but at a college of its own and is called just Chemistry, which is only chemistry, chemical engineering and chemical biology. Chemical engineering is the hardest major on the campus and Cal Chemistry is the number 1 in the world. 
  • 12:46 – Many options for doing a PhD in Bay Area. Why Stanford?
STANFORD, THE BEST OPTION FOR A PhD  As an undergraduate doing research programs, Liliana took advantage learning and doing all she could about what was needed to get at graduate school. She wasn’t sure if she wanted a PhD, but she was certain about having something more than a bachelor’s degree. She went for a difficult game. Chances of getting a PhD were far more lower than getting a masters. PhDs are hard to get into and have to be paid for, but if one is accepted, they pay you. Finally she decided for a PhD. The worst possible scenario was, if she did not like it, she would leave with a masters that she hadn’t paid for. She saw lots of possible schools where to do it and her best option was Stanford, not moving from California so she could be close to her family and stay true to chemical engineering.
  • 14:37 –People helping Liliana through program process as an undergraduate
  • 27:29 – Impostor syndrome according to Liliana. How it affects her and how she copes with it.
IMPOSTOR SYNDROME AND HOW TO COPE WITH IT Impostor Syndrome is just about believing in your ability to perform; you think that everyone else will exceed the expectation but you can’t measure up or are inadequate. The further Liliana has traveled in her career, the more it has faded away, but she has recognized that if she wants to pivot in her career it will come back because she has always has wanted to prove herself and demonstrate any kind of competence. Back at high school, Liliana had a perfect record, and her kingdom fell abruptly when she started at Berkeley. She remembers how the syndrome affected her moving into a new environment she had never been exposed to before, full of the most talented students. The syndrome would never affect her if she was asked for anything technical about something she had designed and knew into detail. Anyone who suffers impostor syndrome has their own way to cope with it. Liliana has coped with it setting goals and meeting them in order to feel good about her performance. Hugo recommends Kudos.
  • 35.56 – Latina working in a lab setting. People treating her differently?
  • 38:57 – How Liliana brings her own authenticity to work
  • 40:24 – Last words and advice to young professionals

Mentioned resources:

  • Cal NERDS – program New experiences for Research and Diversity in Science, a program that helps students weave their academic and professional development together through high-impact learning practices

Connect with her via linkedin:

Want to help us grow? You can:

Who is Hugo Castellanos? 

Find out about him on linkedinThanks so much for listening to the show! If you want to know more about this or comment on the show, please join us on LatinosWhoTech or go to Conexiones
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