LinkedIn Changemakers Transforming the Way the World Works

by | Mar 24, 2022

LinkedIn and Latinas in Tech are both committed to uplifting women working in tech. So we’re excited to partner together in creating opportunity, sharing advice, and celebrating Latina voices in the workforce.

No two career paths are the same, so we sat down with two inspiring Latina changemakers at LinkedIn to learn how they are each making a difference connecting talent to opportunity and transforming the world of work.

Latinas in Tech community, meet fellow Latinas in tech: Audrey Alpizar, Senior Software Engineer, and Gina Benvenuto, Product Manager, as they share their journeys to LinkedIn and how their culture has impacted them as leaders.

 

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, what is something about you that is not on your LinkedIn profile?

👉 Audrey: I am a first generation Cuban American, born and raised in Miami. I attended Carnegie Mellon and then joined LinkedIn after I graduated. Originally I worked for LinkedIn in California, but I am now working remotely in Miami to be closer to family. In Miami, I enjoy a lot of water activities, going to the beach and family events, eating home cooked meals, and planning my upcoming wedding.

I’m on the Sales Navigator team focusing on the experience of users utilizing the search feature.

 

👉 Gina: I grew up in a mixed heritage household – my dad is Mexican American and my mom is Italian American. As a California native, I went to college at the University of Southern California where I studied Public Relations and Entrepreneurship. After college, I moved to San Francisco where I’ve spent my career in tech. I joined LinkedIn in June leading product for the Jobs Trust team.

I work on the hiring marketplace making sure that we connect job seekers with authentic career opportunities, and that we preserve the brand reputations of our customers leveraging LinkedIn to make authentic hires themselves. My team wants job seekers to have the best experience.

 

 

2. Can you share more with us about your background, how did you get to where you are today?

👉 Audrey: I went to public school and we did not have specialized courses in computer science, coding, or anything like that. Growing up, it was just something that I came across from my cousin that I really enjoyed. In high school, I enrolled in an online course to learn more about coding and my cousin would help me with my homework to support my interest in engineering. Then I just kind of picked up whatever projects I could – at the time MySpace was really popular and the way it was designed you could learn some basic HTML and CSS. I became involved with clubs in high school and offered to build websites for them. I would just teach myself with these side projects, then when I went to college I received more formal education and completed several internships to really decide what career I wanted to pursue.

After college, my first job was actually at LinkedIn. I was on the team for four years before I decided I wanted to take a break to travel. When I was ready to return to work, I reached out to my previous manager at LinkedIn and got connected to an opportunity on another engineering team at LinkedIn, where I am working today.

 

👉 Gina: I had mentors at the time that had their background in working at Yahoo and AOL back in the early 2000s. They really opened the door for me to become more interested in tech and helped connect me to people in the social media space. With these opportunities, I saw the benefit of starting my career in tech and the potential to learn and grow the most with the emerging organizations.

I got my start in account management working at Twitter and later at Reddit where I had the chance to work really closely with the product team on feedback from customers. Then I wanted to take that one step further to understand how I can create these solutions and help the product team, so it became a natural segue to be more involved in the process and pursue product management. I was accepted to a rotational Product Management Program, which is similar to an 18 month apprenticeship, which started my career as a Product Manager and led to my work now at LinkedIn.

 

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

👉Audrey: Growing up, I was inspired by my cousin who is about 10 years older than I am. He was my role model, like a brother. He was born in Cuba before migrating to the U.S. and attending Harvard to study computer science. Every chance I could get, I would ask him to teach me about technology, how websites work, and coding. I started to get really passionate about technology through those conversations, so by the time I went to college, I knew that I wanted to study engineering. I wasn’t sure what kind of engineering I wanted to pursue, so I did a lot of internships to figure out what I was passionate about and discovered my love for frontend engineering – coding, designing, the whole process is really motivational.

 

👉Gina: I think online companies, especially social media, are such a unique space and how we interact online is very different sometimes than how we interact in the real world. Thinking a little bit more about my career, I loved social media, my background is in public relations and entrepreneurship. So it’s always been an interesting topic for me. But then as I started my career in product management, I wanted to use my skill set for good. That’s how I fell into trust and safety – wanting to clean up the internet and make it a better place. I see how much online abuse can hurt people – whether it’s harassment, misinformation, or fraud, it all has an offline impact as well. I am inspired by making the offline impact of our online lives a positive one.

 

4. How has your culture shaped you as a leader?

👉Audrey: I grew up in a Cuban household and a predominantly Latino community so there was always a bond and sense of family. Everyone cares about each other and looks out for one another.

When my mom and my grandparents immigrated from Cuba, they came to Miami with very little and they leaned on distant relatives, made new friends, and received emotional support from strangers to build their new life from the ground up. I feel like that’s really influenced my leadership style and has translated into how I am a team player. I’m not the kind of boss that is telling people what to do. I make an effort to create a supportive environment where we can lean on each other and support one other.

 

👉Gina: I would say the biggest influence that has shaped me as a leader is belonging to a really open and diverse company culture. I think LinkedIn is great at supporting not only women in product, but people from different backgrounds. It’s really great to see LinkedIn hire and create teams that look really different from one another. I am driven to bring people and teams together to work towards a common goal.

 

5. Whether it’s grappling with cultural expectations or navigating workplace biases, there are unique challenges we face as Latinas. Is there a challenge that stands out for you and how did you work through it?

👉Audrey: In college, I remember talking to my classmates about summer plans and sharing different internships I had lined up. And someone said, “Oh, of course you did.” I asked what they meant by that and they said “ You’re female and you’re Cuban, it’s a diversity check.” I was so heartbroken because I knew I had worked really hard for these internships and it was disheartening to have that work reduced to being a “diversity check”.

It fueled me to just prove them wrong. To prove that I do belong. I kept working harder and continuing to better myself. I also decided to stop listening to comments like that because it is not true.

 

👉Gina: I think a lot of times, there can be predetermined expectations for Latina women. Expectations that women will do the office housekeeping, planning events, or note taking during meetings. I’ve also been in situations where if you are a younger person, the expectation falls to you that you would maybe do some of these things. That was more common earlier on in my career.

My learning has been to not instantly raise my hand – I’m very much like a caretaker, someone who likes to volunteer for things. But, restraining myself to assess if this is something I want to do or if I have time for it. I’ve learned to take that time to assess and also to not feel guilty about it.

 

6. How have internal communities here at LinkedIn (Women in Tech (WIT), Women in Product (WIP), Hispanics of LinkedIn Alliance (HOLA), and others) created opportunities for your professional development outside of your day-to-day job?

👉Audrey: Being part of Women in Tech (WIT) has helped me to become a better mentor. There was a program where we were mentoring high school students, so it was a lot of coaching, helping them to understand what it’s like to work at a company. It was super rewarding.

 

👉Gina: I’m part of our WIT group, Women in Product (WIP), and larger product groups at LinkedIn. I joined LinkedIn during the pandemic and these communities have been really helpful to meet other product managers, women in product, and really hear what their journeys have been like and how they’ve navigated through challenges during their career.

It’s been great to have these connections and to know that you’re not alone. I think sometimes a role in tech, particularly working remotely, can be very isolating. But, it’s great to just have real conversations and see how you can apply some of other people’s learnings in your everyday life. These communities have been great for networking, getting plugged in to what is going on in the company, and empathizing and learning how you can improve your personal and professional life.

 

7. How do you reset when you’re in a funk?

👉Audrey: When I am in a funk or working through a really challenging problem, I take a break. Even taking a break for just a few minutes really helps to reset. I love to go outside, whether it’s to go on a walk, meditate, yoga, or just enjoy being outdoors. Mental health is really important and being inside throughout the day, it’s important to remind yourself to take breaks and to take care of yourself.

 

👉Gina: If I’m in a funk, I usually like to go for a walk in the morning to help clear my head. Keeping in touch with your communities for support is also helpful. With one of the groups I am a part of, if there’s something that we’re going through, we made a mutual agreement to be able to have that safe space to reach out to someone and say, “hey, I want to get your take on this”, or “I’m thinking about it this way”. Hearing a different perspective can help me work through a challenging problem or situation.

 

8. What is the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?

👉Audrey: “Fake it until you make it”. [Sometimes] you need to “fake it” to get over imposter syndrome and to have confidence to believe that you know what you are doing and that you belong.

 

👉Gina: Some of the most memorable pieces of career advice I’ve received are to be proactive and to advocate for yourself. I’ve had a lot of really great mentors along my product career journey. They have always been great champions of my work, and I see them advocating for themselves all the time – they have a point of view and actively participate in conversations. They have set a great example for me.

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