How a Developer’s Roots in Mexico Led to a Career in Tech

by | Dec 21, 2022

Alexandra Martinez, a developer advocate who works on the MuleSoft product at Salesforce, shared with us how her career journey and love of tech began in childhood, her experience exploring gender identity as a tech professional, and how she approaches content creation from an educational perspective in her role.  

From her exposure to computer programs in early education to influences from her favorite movie “Jurassic Park,” Alexandra found her spark for software. But it was at Salesforce where she found her passion for creating content.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and where you are from?

I’m from Monterrey, Mexico. I was mostly raised by my grandparents since my mom was a single mother and had to work all the time. I haven’t been able to see my family since 2019 because they’re all in Mexico (I live in Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada now). And between the pandemic and life, I haven’t been able to go back to visit them. 

I have a teenage brother who has a mustache now, and it feels weird to see him all grown up. I still remember when he was a toddler. He makes me feel so old!

Can you share more about your background, and how you got to where you are today? 

I had some key moments in both my personal life and professional career that led me to this point. 

First, my mom sacrificed a lot to be able to get me into a private school when I was little. Attending private school gave me an advantage because I learned English and how to use a computer. Earning high grades in elementary and middle school was the key to acquiring a scholarship to attend a private high school, which offered a special program for computer programming classes. As part of the program, students participated in a part-time internship at an IT company before graduating. The internship helped me gain actual work experience before turning 18.

By the time I finished high school, I was able to secure a full-time position as a software engineer (still as an intern) in the same IT company, where I worked for the next 2 years. Thanks to this job, I was able to pay for my university education. I also did a 1-year exchange program in Germany. Apart from the U.S., I had never traveled to a different country, let alone on my own! This taught me a lot about other cultures and being independent. 

I returned to Mexico and immediately found another internship to continue paying for my university studies. I jumped from company to company until I finally managed to get my first full-time job before I graduated from a university in Mexico called Universidad Regiomontana.

This prior internship experience was definitely key to finding my current opportunity at Salesforce and working on the MuleSoft product, which allowed me to move and start living in Canada.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the tech industry?

Honestly? Jurassic Park. I watched that movie too many times when I was a kid. But one of my favorite parts was when the girl controlled the phones and the doors through the computer. She said she was a hacker. That’s what I wanted to be.

That film, mixed with the fact that I had access to computers from a young age, led to a strong curiosity in software. I continued to nurture this skill after I got my own computer and internet access at home. These were the same interests that led me to enroll in the special high school program to learn how to be a computer programmer. Everything kind of fell into place after that decision.

As a developer advocate at Salesforce, what have been some of the most memorable and impactful projects you’ve worked on so far?

A developer advocate is a hybrid role between software engineer and marketing. I create technical content that helps developers learn how to use MuleSoft. I work with MuleSoft engineers to ensure the content I create is correct and helpful to prospective customers and their engineers. Everything I’ve worked on has been new to me, given this is a marketing position. I still get to develop software, just not on a daily basis. 

When I think back to my most memorable project, I remember how much anxiety I had when I gave my first in-person talk. It was at a tech conference in Las Vegas for developers. In retrospect, I realized speaking in person is not as scary as I originally thought, and I have more courage than I believed. It was affirming to realize I’m an expert in my field, and it was really easy to talk to an audience of developers. 

Afterwards, attendees, other developers, approached me to compliment me on the talk, how helpful the demo was, and that I had great product knowledge. I no longer doubt myself after that experience, and it did a lot to boost my confidence.

How has your cultural background and/or upbringing shaped you as a leader?

I know what it feels like to feel small or unimportant. This has helped me advocate for all those people of color or people who feel they are different. I tell people to ignore that professor who told you that you were terrible at math. You’re not. They just didn’t know how to teach it to you. 

It’s the same for that little voice in your head that tells you “this is not for you.” That’s not necessarily true. It may be that you’re not interested in it and that’s totally fine. But if you’ve wanted to learn something and you don’t do it because of that voice, it’s just holding you down.

As a developer advocate, I approach teaching from and believe that you can learn anything. You just need to find the format that works for you. So, I like to create different pieces of content to tackle teaching from different perspectives. Whether it’s a video, an article, a podcast — you name it. No one learns the same way. 

Whether it’s grappling with cultural expectations or navigating workplace biases, we fight through many challenges as Latinx women. What’s one you’re working through currently? 

Lately, I’ve been finding my gender identity. I came to the conclusion that I don’t always feel like a woman, but I don’t always feel non-binary either. I thought I had to choose one or the other. But the gender rainbow is so wide that I discovered I don’t really have to choose. I now identify as genderfluid and my pronouns are she/they.

My current challenge is that a lot of times people don’t acknowledge non-binary folks or any of the other genders. It’s hard enough to try to erase the gender bias in technology – like people assuming my manager was a man or hearing “architect” and assuming it’s a man – and it’s even harder to remind people that there aren’t only two genders. 

At least in English-speaking countries, it’s easier to talk about the “they” pronoun. It at least exists. But there’s no such thing in Spanish. There’s only male and female pronouns. It is so hard to start the conversation, especially because people refuse to add a new pronoun to the language. My pronouns in Spanish are “ella/elle”. 

I still have hope for the future though. At least I surround myself with people who do respect me and my pronouns. No one should be hanging out with people who refuse to treat you decently.

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

Right now, I’m just really looking forward to the next big Salesforce event where I’ll be able to speak in person. For reasons outside of my control, I haven’t been able to attend one of these yet. It will be a big challenge, but I’m really looking forward to that opportunity when it arises.

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

Oh, so many. But the best thing is to trust your gut and work on yourself. The more you love yourself, the more things you can achieve. You are the best thing in your life.

Any podcasts, quotes, books, or blog recommendations for Latinas?

  • My favorite podcast (in Spanish) is No Me Hagas Leer. My favorite quote is “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”
  • A book that every single woman should read is “Come As You Are” by Emily Nagoski – she’s a genius.
  • And from the same authors, some resources that opened my eyes to the beauty of learning are Learning How to Learn (free course), the Uncommon Sense Teaching book, and anything Barbara Oakley has done.

You can learn more about Alexandra by tuning in to our collaborative event “Engineering, A values Driven Career“.

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