Let’s play a fun exercise—we promise it won’t take long! Close your eyes and envision a room full of tech professionals. Did you picture any Latinos in your imaginary world? How about Latinas? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t! Sadly, that’s just the reality of the tech world.
It’s no secret that the tech industry has a serious lack of Latino representation. As a matter of fact, recently a few industry powerhouses have undergone scrutiny due to their lack of diversity. Despite the current demographics, the importance of technology in everyday life increases, and the need for professionals who champion technology that meet the needs of the Latino community is more evident than ever! That’s why we want to give a shout-out to the Latinos who are changing the face of the industry, and like Nissan, dream of a world where technology will enhance the human experience. Check out their stories, but be ready to get a whopping dose of inspiration!
Dennis Bonilla: One cross-country road trip led him to the world of Virtual Reality!
Dennis is a Salvadoran who grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., but one day decided to leave his home behind. Without a set plan and eager to find his own path in life, he headed west…
He woke up in a motel room, on his birthday, and decided it was time to stop driving—he had found his new home. So, without money or a place to live, Dennis lived in homeless shelters and worked odd jobs to get by. One day, while digging a ditch, a migrant worker told him that he had the potential to achieve so much more. This man’s kind words inspired Dennis to quit his job and pursue his dream job in the tech industry!
Dennis has long left his digging days behind him and is now a Chief Technology Officer with an impressive 15-year track record. His journey has led him to develop visualization and simulation technology for a well-known aeronautics and space company, and also served on committees advising Barack Obama himself! Although he is now a well-respected Virtual Reality (VR) professional and teacher, he hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings, or the man that helped him steer his life in the right direction.
Despite all of his amazing accomplishments, he hopes to teach and empower young Latinos to pursue opportunities in the technology industry. That’s why he is very active in his community, participating in multiple panels, co-hosting meetups to teach Latinos how to code, build cutting-edge apps, and more! Dennis is living proof that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams!
Nora Naranjo: a Latina that is slaying the stereotypes that women and Latinos aren’t talented engineers!
Representation. Representation. Representation. That’s been one of Nora Naranjo’s main goals as a Mechanical Engineer in the tech industry. She is well aware of the underrepresentation of Latinas in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and has made it her mission to help bring more diversity into the industry by collaborating with non-profits, and organizing meetups to help underprivileged youth get an early start in the world of engineering.
Believe it or not, Nora wasn’t always passionate about STEM; she actually graduated with a degree in graphic design. It wasn’t until she started talking to friends who worked in STEM-related jobs that she ultimately decided to get a second Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering!
Nora is now a Mechanical Engineer at a start-up that provides automation technology to small businesses. When she first entered the workforce she made a startling discovery: she worked with very few Latinos and even fewer Latinas. Like Nora said, ‘There were more men named Andrew than women…’ and this already serious problem is amplified by the fact that there are overwhelmingly low numbers of Latinos in tech. The lack of diversity makes women like Nora as rare as diamonds. Luckily, despite all odds, this self-proclaimed mother of robots is shining bright and slaying biases through her extraordinary work!
Nora and Dennis are exemplary role models who aren’t afraid to tackle the many challenges they face in an industry that—dare we say—undervalues them. And yet, they are also humble enough to give back to their community. It is people like them who are redefining the industry and, like Nissan, will create the technology that’ll revolutionize our future!