“Wow…it’s been a year!”
President and founder of WEI, Gina Avila, opened this month’s meeting with a few impactful words. With pride, she announced that we had been coming up on a year since our very first monthly meeting. When reflecting on her journey that led to the establishment of these monthly empowerment groups, she recalled,” If it wasn’t for the support I received along the way, I wouldn’t have made it this far.”
With this powerful statement, the floor was handed over to our guest speaker for the evening, Selina Suarez. Currently serving as a Senior Product Manager at Salesforce, this courageous woman’s path to success had been anything but easy. With vulnerability, she shared with us her inspiring story…
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Selina was the eldest of 12 children and daughter to a woman who had fallen victim to addiction. Consequently, along with her siblings, she spent majority of her childhood in and out of the foster care system. The room was filled with emotion as Ms. Suarez shared memories of being ripped out of her bed in the middle of the night and the responsibility she felt at a young age to care for her siblings in the midst of chaos. Dealing with violence in her neighborhood, along with the instability of her home life, Selena explained that school was her “safe place”. Although she could not recall spending more than a year in one particular school, one constant was her ability to excel academically.
As she grew older, the adversity continued. Despite a teen pregnancy, Selina obtained her high school diploma and continued on to receive her Bachelors from Monroe College. Still wishing to continue her journey in higher education, she then went on to receive her MBA from St John’s University while working full time and raising her two children. After acquiring several degrees and establishing a successful career, she began to reflect on this narrative… realizing the barriers she faced also existed for so many women like her. This realization, along with the need she saw for women in the Tech field, led her to the creation of her own non-profit: PepUp Tech.
This organization is dedicated to increasing the number of individuals in the Technology sector, that identify as low income and/or as a person of color. Selina explained to the ladies in the room that few U.S. K-12 schools offer technology courses and the programs that do exist outside of the public education system are a financial burden to many. As a means of overcoming the barriers preventing underrepresented individuals from entering the tech sector, Pep-Up Tech offers free training, apprenticeship, coaching, networking opportunities and workforce placement services.
With the conclusion of her presentation, she offered this opportunity to all of us, expressing that starting salaries in the tech industry can be as high as 80,000 dollars annually! WEI is sending much gratitude to Selina Suarez for sharing her story and knowledge with us this month!
If you are interested in changing your life or starting a new career please visit https://www.pepuptech.org/ for more information regarding this amazing organization and what they have to offer.