Don’t let expectations, stereotypes and fear get in the way of your TRUE SELF

by | Dec 16, 2022

We had the opportunity to meet with Yesenia Rivera, Employee Experience Program Manager at SoFi, and she shared with us her career journey, what excites her about her role, and how the challenges she faced led her to her TRUE SELF.

Could you tell us about your current role, and what you do at SoFi?

I am an Employee Experience Program Manager here at SoFi. I help champion our diversity, equity, and inclusionary strategic work. This aligns with my passion to ensure that not only does everyone have a seat at the table, but a voice so that all can be able to bring their authentic and whole selves to work.

What inspired you to pursue a career progression and navigate transformational change within tech culture? 

Being a part of the tech industry, specifically working within my current remit, was never something that I aspired to – it was an opportunity that came across my path by chance (and I have never looked back since!). My background and formalized education is in instructional design and corporate training, which was a pathway cemented for me due to my innate desire to help others. My passion for working with people, proactively collaborating to seek out solutions, and helping them be able to see real dividends in their own professional growth truly helped me to navigate into the current journey that I am now on. What is so important, from my perspective, is to remember the human element of this industry – that at the core of every product, of every code, of every piece of a process are people. That this industry could not exist without the beautiful complexities of that acknowledgement is a huge driving component behind my own personal inspirations for being in this focus area. 

What has been your takeaway as a Latina in technology during your career?

As I continue  working within this sphere, the importance of amplifying diverse representation in this industry is a huge north star for me. If we were to take a hard and critical look specifically at Latinx representation, especially female Latinx representation, we still have a ways to go. Taking a step back, we see that female Latinx representation at the senior leadership level is severely lacking across prominent companies- with Latinas making up about 1.6% of individuals in senior executive roles. It is important to continue moving the needle forward to challenge implicit biases, strengthen inclusive hiring practices, and continue to bring awareness of the importance for inclusion and belonging (and equitable representation) for all. 

What would be the biggest challenge in your career?

Coming from the family and background that I do, the biggest paradox of my professional journey has been managing expectations – both the expectations I have for myself and the ones imposed by others. The subtle, yet prevalent, influences that they play in my decision making, my actions, and how I navigate my career can be really debilitating at times. There is this fear of letting down the people and the community that struggled and sacrificed so much for me to get me to this point. Even in my own awareness of the gratitude that I have for every single one of them, I find myself losing elements of what encompasses my true self just for the sake of constantly ensuring that I overachieve at any cost – and usually that cost is my personal time or even health. 

“It took a long time to realize this, but I am so happy to know now that the little voice in the back of my head telling me that I am “an imposter” or that “I don’t deserve to be here” is A BOLD-FACED LIAR!”

That a person with my first and last name, my color skin and crazy, curly hair has every RIGHT in the world to work in this industry and space that I do. I am ultimately human and am allowed to make mistakes – and not persecute myself for making them. 

Can you share more about the Support you had from Women in Leadership?

My experience with what true and ample support looks like actually started in my home  growing up. I was extremely fortunate to be surrounded by tremendous amounts of love, dedication, and empowerment  from the “village of women” that helped nurture and encourage my own identity.  I see this foundation as such a powerful example and resource for me in my career because it showcases the pure strength of what different kinds of support can foster – especially by women, for women in any regard. Within my own career journey, the many women in leadership and mentorship roles that I have been blessed to have in my life became a primary extension of that already existing foundation and truly became pillars of strength for me to never give up, to think critically – and very importantly – be BOLD in my ambitions and aspirations. 

What excites you about the future of Technology at SoFi?

EVERYTHING! What is so fabulous about being in the fintech industry, specifically at SoFi, is the rapid and fast pace that we continue to find solutions for tomorrow’s problems – and how creative innovation challenges us to propel progression forward. Being at SoFi means that we have a front row seat to what tomorrow can look like for our members to be able to get their money right in order for them to realize their ambitions. We each have a hand in changing lives in a profound way – who would not want to be a part of that?

Looking to the future, what inspires you, and what initiatives are you most excited about right now? 

What I am most proud of when it comes to working at SoFi is our continued dedication to advocate and prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusionary strategic work. SoFi is a place that believes in the assurance that not only does everyone have a seat at the table, but a voice and power to bring their authentic and whole selves to work. I joined SoFi because I wanted to be a part of something different – an organization unique in its industry, where an emphasis on people, rather than a bottom line, was a driving force. We are seeing this play out specifically in regards to our company’s priorities around building a durable culture of diversity, providing safe, yet brave spaces for all communities to have a platform to raise awareness, support, and resources on social impact issues (our ERGs), and a highlighted emphasis on continuous bespoke DE&I trainings that are not just a “check of the box”. We are on a mission to foster a true sense of inclusion and belonging for all. I am so very fortunate to be able to work alongside people that believe in this to their core and take action around it. 

What’s one piece of career advice you’ll NEVER EVER forget?

One of my favorite mentors (a Latina herself) and I had a conversation around what being Latina in corporate America truly looks like. I think as Latinas, we face a lot of external and even internal-induced stereotypes that we have to combat everyday. For me, as a dark-skinned Afro Latina, I sometimes feel that perceptions of what that is or what that can look like can be difficult for people to categorize and that is what stereotypes ultimately are – categorizing and putting people into boxes that make sense for us. 

But people are people. We’re complicated – we aren’t just one thing and we cannot (and should not) be forced into boxes.

And for us to be our authentic selves, we have to first do the work to know WHO WE ARE, but secondly, embrace the fact that as a Latina, we define what that is – not what others tell us what it is. 

That piece of advice was a defining moment for me in my own personal growth and understanding of who I AM inside and outside of the constructs of the professional work environment.

Any podcasts, books or blog recommendations for Latinas?

I am obsessed with a few podcasts at the moment:

And lastly, do you have advice for women currently in tech or looking to begin a career in tech?

Look in the mirror every morning and remind yourself to ECHALE GANAS! You are deserving of the role you are in – don’t allow any kind of imposter syndrome to creep forward. You have the authority over your life and the ability to seek out forms of cultural and intellectual empowerment to define who you are – and not let others do it for you (whether that is formal education, seeking out a mentor or a sponsor, or even doing some personal research into your own familial roots and touching base with who you are at your core from a personal perspective).

Never forget you are limitless and blessed to be Latina – which is a very powerful thing to be! 

You can learn more about Yesenia by tuning in to our collaborative event “Being Your Authentic Self: Latinidad in the Workplace” along with other members of SoFi.

Sponsored post by SoFi. Check out SoFi’s Company Profile in our website.

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