Search Rocket site

Celebrating Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month

Melinda Coleman

October 9, 2023

Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month, celebrated this year from September 15 to October 15, is a time to recognize and reflect on the achievements and experiences of Hispanic and Latino Americans. Hispanic and Latinx culture and heritage are deeply rooted in the history of the U.S. and across all Latin American countries. During this month, it’s important for all of us to really stop and learn about the experiences of those in the Hispanic and Latinx community, how those have shaped the world we live in today, and what we can do to ensure we keep making progress for the future.

This year, I had the opportunity to share some of my own experiences as a member of this community during a panel discussion hosted through Rocket Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (RIDE). The panel brought together five Rocketeers – including myself – of Hispanic or Latinx descent to share and discuss our heritage and the experiences that have impacted our lives and careers.

Together with my fellow Rocketeers, we engaged in a deeply insightful conversation and touched on a mix of challenges we’ve faced personally, as well as some of the most impactful experiences that have helped shape our careers. Here are some key takeaways from the event.

Roadblocks on the Path to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

According to Pew Research Center analysis of federal government data, Hispanic workers make up 17% of total employment across all occupations, but just 8% of all STEM workers. Hispanic workers are underrepresented across all STEM job types, including health-related jobs, life sciences, math, physical sciences, computer and engineering jobs.

There are still roadblocks that exist for Hispanic and Latinx people looking to break through and establish a career in the technology field. Among other factors like unconscious biases, cultural expectations, and limited resources, one roadblock that stood out to me was a lack of access to information. In cases where your family may have recently immigrated to the U.S., having to deal with a language barrier and navigate everything from the complexities of our education system to finding and applying for financial aid can be incredibly challenging.

An important place to start breaking those barriers down lies with accessibility and ensuring everyone, regardless of their background, can easily take advantage of the right tools to make the most of their education and find a path that leads to a successful career.

The Importance of Representation and Role Models

At the start of our discussion, we touched upon the challenges and roadblocks that those of us in the Hispanic and Latinx community have faced coming into the technology industry. And the second question we explored had a direct tie to those challenges. Specifically, we discussed the impact that both role models, and overall representation, have had on our careers.

It was so wonderful to hear our panelists share their experiences and highlight the individuals who have helped shape who they are today. Whether it’s a teacher or a mentor at work, the impact a supportive individual can have on your future is massive. In my own life, I was fortunate enough to find a mentor in the CFO at one of the first companies I worked at. Having a strong role model, particularly a woman in a leadership position, was crucial for me. She was such a supportive influence in my career, and the knowledge I gained under her guidance was foundational to the success I’ve had since. With that experience in hand, I’ve had the opportunity to provide that same presence for others and act as a mentor for others as well.

The idea of accessibility and general awareness was touched on earlier in the conversation and it’s something that connects directly to representation. When you don’t always see people who share experiences or a background in common with yourself in a particular field, it becomes much easier to write off pursuing a career in that area as unattainable. This makes sharing our journeys as members of the Hispanic and Latinx community even more important.

It was so rewarding to join RIDE and all our panelists to celebrate Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month together. The experiences of everyone in our conversation were inspiring and a testament to the core values (humanity, empathy, trust, and love) that Rocket Software instills in every Rocketeer.