Interviews, North America

Rocio van Nierop – Co-founder and Executive Director at Latinas in Tech

The best decision in my career was leaving the tech industry to focus 100% of my time to Latinas in Tech.

Rocio van Nierop is Co-founder and Executive Director of Latinas in Tech, a powerful non-profit organization dedicated to empowering and connecting Latinas in the Technology Industry. 

Latinas in Tech is a non-profit organization with the mission to connect, support, and empower Latina women working in technology and a vision to achieve a fair representation in leadership positions. The organization comprises more than 9,000 women working at more than 100 of the top technology companies. The group began in Silicon Valley in 2014 and has since then expanded to 10 other cities: Austin, Mexico City, Sacramento, Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta. 

Rocio was previously Director of Product Marketing at Prezi, launched and led Prezi’s operations in Latin America, and has worked in technology for the last 15 years. 

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

I’m Executive Director of Latinas in Tech, a powerful non-profit organization dedicated to empowering and connecting Latinas in the Technology Industry.

Latinas in Tech is a non-profit organization with the mission to connect, support, and empower Latina women working in technology and a vision to achieve a fair representation in leadership positions. The organization comprises more than 9,000 women working at more than 100 of the top technology companies. The group began in Silicon Valley in 2014 and has since then expanded to 10 other cities: Austin, Mexico City, Sacramento, Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Washington, Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

I started working in technology in 2005, and straight away I noticed that there were no Latinos working in the industry, at least never had a peer at my level or above that were of Hispanic origin.

LiT started in 2014 as an informal gathering of friends and grew organically. A couple of happy hours turned into a full-fledged movement.

My Co-Founder, Gretel Perera and I dreamed of a group where Latinas could connect with each other, learn from each other and support each other’s professional careers.

The group eventually became big enough that we started hosting meetups at various tech companies in the Bay Area.

What was the best decision in your career?

Leaving the tech industry to focus 100% of my time to Latinas in Tech. Every single event leaves me with a great satisfaction. The connections that happen there, the level of inspiration, empowerment and the bold topics that are discussed energize me in a way that no job before did. Seeing our members get better jobs, better positions, equal pay makes me be sure that I took the right decision.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

Diversity was not part of the conversation 10 years ago. Over the last years that conversation has dramatically evolved, and Diversity departments were created.

Diversity was not part of the conversation 10 years ago. Over the last years that conversation has dramatically evolved, and Diversity departments were created. Later the word inclusion was added and now is starting to take center place so that some companies call those departments Inclusion and Diversity.

I see now that companies are aware of the problem and although we are very far from where we should be things are pointing in the right direction.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

“✊🏽Yes!💪🏽” That comes to my mind. People in the past would answer “Why?”, those two words just didn’t go together in the minds of many, but more and more women are demonstrating that we are innovators, we are producers of technology in many different ways, from engineering, to product management, research, business development and tech sales. We are all part of the ecosystem and eager to thrive.

In your words: Why aren’t there more women in tech?

The number of reasons is quite large. But I would like to specifically answer this question of Why aren’t there more Latina women in tech in a country where Latinas are a large percentage of the population?

They are not there because of internal and external factors.

  • Stereotypes and assumptions fueled by gender and racial bias.
  • A lack of opportunities and resources within our population. Less graduates, less raises, less promotions.
  • An enormous lack of role models and mentors of our own demographic.
  • The fact that companies give so much weight to referral programs, causing them to hire more people that look like them.
  • Personal insecurities because of our accents, our looks, our immigration status, etc.
  • Impostor syndrome, the constant and unfounded feeling that we are the underdog.

If you had 1 Million € to invest in women, what would you do?

I would fund a Latina entrepreneur.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

When I was 14, I was living in Mexico, where things were way tougher between gender than it was here.

I had to walk through the school of engineering to get to my dad’s office, he was a professor at the graduate school of physics. Every time I crossed that school’s yard, which by the way had 99% male enrolment, they would yell offensive slurs to any girl, any age, including a 14-year-old that looked 12. I ruled out engineering because that was not the environment, I wanted to live in. So, I studied a safe girl career, which I also got to love and still got me to the tech industry, but I’m sad that was not how it should have played. I would tell my 14 year old self that nothing comes easy, that I will later learn to pave the road for others, to venture into the unknown but knowing that I had everything it took to get it done, and that was my brain and my resilience. That everything is possible if you put your mind to it and stand up for yourself.

Rocio van Nierop is Co-founder and Executive Director of Latinas in Tech, a powerful non-profit organization dedicated to empowering and connecting Latinas in the Technology Industry. 

Latinas in Tech is a non-profit organization with the mission to connect, support, and empower Latina women working in technology and a vision to achieve a fair representation in leadership positions. The organization comprises more than 9,000 women working at more than 100 of the top technology companies. The group began in Silicon Valley in 2014 and has since then expanded to 10 other cities: Austin, Mexico City, Sacramento, Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta. 

Rocio was previously Director of Product Marketing at Prezi, launched and led Prezi’s operations in Latin America, and has worked in technology for the last 15 years. 

See more interviews of our amazing Gals.

Meet Our Other Gals

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *