Latinas in Tech: How to Build Confidence and Overcome Imposter Syndrome
By Andie T.
In a continuation of our women in technology series, we were able to sit down with Jessica P., a 5-year Schwabbie and Program Director who supports our Advisor Services technology team. In our conversation, we discussed Jessica’s career journey and her ability to navigate transformational change in the workforce. Jessica also included her advice on how to advance your career, build the confidence to apply to roles you may think you’re “not qualified for”, what inspires her most, and what she’s looking forward to seeing within the future of technology.
Jessica’s Schwab Story
Over the past 5 years, Jessica has dedicated her skills and expertise to the technology and project management team at Schwab. Throughout that time, she’s been able to gain experience and knowledge from holding a variety of different positions and being part of multiple teams. Jessica elaborated on how she ended up at Schwab and where she first started off in her career journey.
“I started as a project manager in the project services organization. I had an opportunity to move into the product side and I had someone I had been working with as a project manager and we had a really great relationship, so she asked if I’d be interested and it was a great opportunity. We were moving our content management system to a totally new platform and I was involved in that. I did that for about a year and a half.”
Support from Women in Leadership
Having a supportive leader behind you is an essential component to feeling like you’re able to take on new opportunities and explore different avenues in your career journey. Jessica described that when she first was applying to Schwab, she applied for a project manager position even though she wasn’t 100% qualified for roles required tech experience. Even though that role wasn’t the right fit, the hiring manager was impressed by Jessica and fought to have a custom role built for her at the right level, which was more in line with Jessica’s experience. “From the beginning, that was the reason I got in because she took that extra step to find a way to get me on board. After that, I’ve been continuing to build those relationships as I’ve been at Schwab, which kept opening doors.”
After Jessica’s time within the project services org, she mentioned that she had a great female leader she had been working with that encouraged her to go after new opportunities: “I had also been working with another great female leader and she was on the technology side. She was looking for an engineering manager and it was going to be for Schwab’s first digital accelerator.” Jessica went forward with interviewing for that position and moved into an engineering manager role. After being in that position for a year, she got to her current role she is in today. “I feel like I’ve had a really interesting and fun career so far at Schwab and I’m very lucky to have these opportunities start in more of a technical project management side and then get deeper with tech by being an engineering manager.”
Career Progression and Navigating Transformational Change
As the doors kept opening for Jessica in the technology career space, she elaborated on how she’s been able to handle transformational change from an organizational standpoint. “Anytime I change a role, I feel like I have to kind of shift my hat a little bit in the perspective that I’m going to be doing that role in. When I moved from the product side to the engineering side, there was a shift there. I think it helped I had prior experience to be able to understand the impact overall and being able to look at it more holistically. I can appreciate where they’re coming from and the perspective they have, and I also can share my perspective and how we can all work together. I’ve always tried to change the direction or angle that I’m looking at the role as I got into it, but not lose the experience that I’ve gained in prior roles.”
Throughout her career Jessica has been able to be immersed in the technology culture at Schwab and when asked to describe that culture, Jessica highlighted some of the exciting opportunities she was able to be a part of during her time on the accelerator team:
“I was extremely lucky that I got to be on the accelerator team during my time as an engineering manager because it was just amazing. We had all the resources at our fingertips. We were also leveraging our analytics team that was there to support us and perform different tests for us to better understand the impact of what we were doing. We had a research team, we had users come in and do user testing, so if you were thinking of launching this new screen and we needed feedback on what that might look like, we had a team that could go and do that. It was really the best experience because that's the direction Schwab is going in and we are able to leverage all those different skill sets that we have in house to be able to make the absolute best customer experience that we can and have the greatest impact. From my experience so far, I think we're open and really trying to gain all perspectives from all kinds of people with different expertise to really try to make the best products.”
Representation in Technology as a Latina
As the technology career space becomes more diverse, Jessica touched on the importance of not only being a woman in technology, but also being Latina: “I think it’s a big part of why I push myself to keep going and keep pushing and I don’t let up. I feel like I've been extremely lucky to get to the level that I am, as a Latina and it's just not very common, right? If you even look across Schwab, it's not very common and I want to be able to show ‘that there are people like us here and you can be like this too’. I feel like it's almost like a responsibility for me to go as far as I can. It’s important to keep in mind and remember how important diversity is as I build a team and making an impact in that way.” Jessica also mentioned that she is a part of our employee resource groups including SOL (Schwab Organization of Latinxs) and WINS (Women’s Interactive Network at Schwab).
Facing Challenges: What is Imposter Syndrome and How to Overcome It
In addition to navigating the challenges of being a minority in the technology space, there are feelings of self-doubt and experiencing imposter syndrome that Jessica mentioned. Imposter Syndrome, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), is a phenomenon described as “feeling like a ‘fraud’, which typically occurs among high achieving individuals and some minority groups. Many times, these individuals are unable to internalize and accept their success, in addition to attributing their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.”
Jessica elaborates on how she has faced this phenomenon herself: “I think part of the challenges I face is really myself and just self-doubt. I think it's a lot of the self-talk and making sure that the way you're speaking to yourself is how you would speak to someone else. If you’re speaking to yourself negatively, like ‘you can't do this’ or doubting yourself, you wouldn't say that to a friend, right? It’s important to be kind to yourself and believe in yourself at the end of the day. For me, that’s been the biggest challenge – the imposter syndrome, especially for moving to different roles because I haven't stayed in a role too long to feel like I'm totally an expert.”
The Exciting Future of Technology at Schwab
Over the course of 5 years, Jessica has been able to be part of the innovative solutions and ever-evolving technology stack we have at Schwab. When it comes to what she’s most excited about regarding the future of tech at the firm, Jessica mentioned the work that’s happening to integrate TD Ameritrade. “I’m really excited to see us evolve as a company and we’ve found a way to successfully integrate not just the applications, but also the people, the way that we work. I'm excited about that aspect of it because there's a lot of talent on both ends and I think the opportunities that we have to be able to work together to develop the new Schwab way of doing things and not necessarily like the old Schwab way of doing this, or the old TDA way of doing this, but coming up together with the new Schwab way that we're going to be doing all these different things – I think it's going to be super powerful.”
Advice for Women in Tech
For women in the technology space who are looking to advance their careers, Jessica offered her tips and advice which include building relationships and not putting boundaries on the current role you’re in:
“One of the most important things is to make sure you're building relationships with the people that you're working with, not only in your space, but you also have the opportunity to build relationships with every interaction that you have. Don’t just build the relationships within your own team, but also the other teams that you interact with. If there is another team that you think sounds interesting, reach out, send a note because otherwise, it's really hard to decide your future plans on where you want to go if you don't even know what's out there. The other piece, which I think is important is, is when you're in in the role that you're in now, don't put boundaries around that role. If you are a Product Manager, there's a specific job description of what you're responsible for, but there's always opportunities to do more, especially in other areas. Don't let the boundaries of your current role stop you from exploring and learning other areas out there because that could open other doors as well.”