Latinas Tech Too

What does Latina mean? I hated when people called me Latina. To me Latina meant those stereotypes that people assumed. Today, I embrace that title because Latinas are changing the tech game. I want to share my story. My name is Beltkiss Sanborn. I am currently a lead publicist, lifestyle blogger and social media influencer. I currently live and work in Jersey City with my husband and daughter. 

I am a Nicaraguan American. I am Nicaraguan by birth and American by my upbringing. My journey to becoming full "American" has been a difficult but rewarding one. I came to this country in 1989 with my mother to escape the Nicaraguan Civil War. I grew in Yonkers, NY located in Westchester. According to a New York Times article Westchester is ranks second for per capita in New York. It sounds really fancy. When I told people Yonkers is in Westchester. Most people remarked "Wow you must be rich." They ask about the raceway, the casinos and million dollar homes. I knew nothing of these things except that they were on the other side of Yonkers.  Those wonderful things are located in the North. I grew up on the South Side where apartment complexes and projects are king, backyards were a luxury. Most kids I knew played in the street or a park if there was one nearby.

From a young age, I knew I wanted to get away from this "ghetto." I had my sights set on going to school out of state. But because of my legal status I had to go to school locally. I was blessed to be able to attend a college I dreamed of. John Jay accepted me because of my grades and high verbal score on the SAT. I am a first generation college student. I did not know I was undocumented until I was 17 years old. I tried to get my drivers permit but was denied because I couldn't prove my legal status. 

To make matters worst when I filled out my FAFSA they informed me I would be unable to receive any financial aid or loans because I did not have a green card. Thanks to 9/11 that happened two years before, the regulations were stricter. I enrolled in college using TutionPay, a service that allows you to pay for college monthly. My parents filed for a green card but my petition was denied. The so called attorney never filed an appeal and was stuck paying for school out of pocket. 

The next four years I worked promotional modeling jobs. I scoured craigslist looking for cash jobs. I looked in the Village Voice. It was hard to find a job without proper documents. I found a job as a hostess. The restaurant business is brutal. One day you have a job the next you could be fired. I remember being fired one afternoon. That day I had worn a nice white top. I was cutting a piece of cake when I ended up staining my shirt. I was called into the office by one of the nice managers who told me I was being laid off. One of the restaurants I worked in was the famous Zarela's. I had no idea Zarela the owner was Aaron Sanchez' mom. I went into work one day and was told they no longer needed me. I was sad because I had bonded with a lot of people at the job. I hit the ground running circling jobs in the voice but hostess jobs were drying up. I went back to working at KFC but was unhappy. Today, I look back at those days and treat people in the service industry with respect. I know all too well the struggle of dealing with entitled disgruntled never satisfied customers. 

I posted my resume on craigslist in the administrative section. I was called by a partner at a law firm to work as a receptionist. I was lucky he hired me because I had never worked in an office. This partner saw potential in me. He began to train me to be a legal secretary. I was the only woman in the office since the practice was run by two male partners. The other offices were also occupied by male attorneys. I never felt discriminated as they treated me like a lady. I was always treated with respect, courtesy and equality. They worked around my schedule sometimes allowing me to do my homework while I worked. They also let me work Monday through Thursday so I could attend school Friday through Sunday. I left the job because I wanted to focus more on school. I am thankful he took a chance on me and taught me everything I know today. 

On my days off I would work promotional jobs. Another source of income I found. It was easy work and since I am a people person this type of work was natural for me. I still work the occasional promotional job from time to time. It is so easy and fun for me plus I get free food and samples which is awesome! I recently worked a job for L'oreal and scored some amazing makeup. 

During my senior year of college I reapplied for my green card. This time I did it on my own and was approved in less than a year. I attended my interview but was told to come back. I returned a few months later. The immigration officer told me to come to the window. He was serious, I thought to myself "Here we go again." But he stamped my passport with my temporary visa. I cried my eyes out because I had struggled to become a permanent resident and now it was done! I was happy because I finally would be able to visit my family. I could open a bank account and it meant I would be able to attend graduate school someday. 

After college, I tried working promotions full-time. The income was good but it was annoying to wait thirty days sometimes 45 days to get paid. I started a new law firm job and unlike my previous law firms this one was full of all female support staff. I was the youngest, the best looking and had more education and experience than they did. Yet, they thought I was hired because of my looks. I received more credit from the males at the firm than the women. I never understood why women step on others to get ahead.I remember working one night and being mistaken for the cleaning lady. I loved shopping at Nordstrom's and being asked do you know where the restroom is? I would say "I don't work here." I shopped at Saks and people assumed the same thing.

The most horrible treatment I received was from Latino males. They wanted to date and court me. But they never understood me. They wanted me too be subservient, meek and quiet. I was neither of those things. I won best debater in High School because I was outspoken. My father had a saying "Women should be seen and not heard." I also felt my ethnicity people wanted to put me in a box. They wanted me to be the stereotypes: wear big earrings, be loud and have lots of kids.  I would hear things like "Wow you don't have an accent." Was I supposed to have one? 

I returned to my old neighborhood with my new white boyfriend and I was called a "sellout." These are the same people that believe that "love is love." But felt me dating a white guy, losing my hood accent, speaking proper English and dressing different made me a "sellout." I never had a meaningful relationship with a Latino they always felt they had to control me and didn't think women should have careers. My husband was different he made me feel like I was his equal his partner and he made me see how far I have come. 

Because of him I landed my first job in tech. His company hired me as their creative director. But even there I noticed the CEO wanted to stereotype too. Then again he put most people in boxes too. I never realized that tech outside the US was a boy's club. In New York, there are instances of discrimination but it is getting better and more inclusive. We went to Europe for a trade show to secure partners and distributors. One distributor in particular met with the team. He shook everyone's hand but mine.The CEO introduced me as the creative director. He just stared at me and sat down. I do not what country he was from. However, he spoke Arabic. When he left the CEO said he noticed it. He threw his card on the table and said "He didn't need his business."

As a woman in tech, men and women alike assume I do not know the business. They have the misconception that because I am good looking I must not be bright. I notice it by the questions they ask, the tone of their voice and their body language. Most recently, I attended a tech event and a woman smirked "You are too glamorous to be here." I was shocked because I felt discriminated because of my looks. I felt less discriminated by the men at the event. 

 It is the age old sentiment of men who are assertive in business are hustlers. Women on the other hand are labeled bitches. As a Latina it's even harder because I have two strikes against me. I push forward by not allowing my past define me, surrounding myself with good people and motivating others. I always share my resources and do not mind lending my connections to people. I learned than true leaders give their knowledge away instead of hoarding it. 

I currently work for a start-up named Veea that is a merchant processor. It has been an amazing experience and I am lucky to be part of a team that is so diverse! If you need merchant processing for your small business contact me ! Remember the only thing that holds you back is you. Your past, where you grew up, your parents, etc. don't have to determine where you will go and what you will do. That part is up to you! 



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