Laura Gómez is a leading voice in the tech industry, she’s been called an influencer, an innovator and a pioneer. She’s worked for some of the most powerful companies in the tech world, and has been given numerous recognitions for her achievements in the industry and for championing of diversity.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t unduly elated to speak to a Latina of this caliber, after all, I’ve been an admirer of Gómez’s work and journey for some time now. But to truly understand her success we have to understand her background and her upbringing.
Gómez and her family came to the U.S. from León Guanajuato, located in central Mexico, when she was 10-years-old. She grew up in the tech industry’s epicenter, Palo Alto. She first obtained an internship at age 17, with Hewlett-Packard, before attending college. Gómez lived a few miles away from Stanford, where she worked at the campus bookstore.
But this #ChicaTech didn’t always want to be in technology. Gómez attended UC Berkeley where she studied Development Economics and Languages. It was this same place where she finally immersed herself in Computer Science.
“I wanted to work for the United Nations, specifically with Unicef because I wanted to work with children.” Gómez said.
At age 24, she went on to receive a Master’s degree from University of California, San Diego. It was after getting her graduate degree, that she found herself at home and without a job. Her mother worked as a nanny and cleaned houses for the higher-ups in tech industry and suggested to her to get a job in the tech field. “After all, that was the only thing around.” She said.
Gómez started working in the industry just a year after Google was founded. The tech influencer has held many important positions and has worked for some of the most innovative companies like Google, Twitter, and Youtube. Despite her success and support from her employers, Gómez saw discrepancies when it came to women and minorities working in the industry, this led her to launch her own startup. Combining her passions and industry knowledge, this savvy entrepreneurial founded Atipica, a service solution company looking to shape the future of diversity in the industry, by helping connect individuals with the tech sector.
Gómez says, “There’s a great conversation about diversity in the tech industry and everyone is talking about it but there’s no actual solution.” She continued, “With Atipica I want to address these discrepancies.”
The former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the U.S. Department of State, honored Gómez for her involvement in the TechWomen program. She’s been named Person of the Year: Social Pioneer by GQ México, and Most Influential Women in the Bay area by The Business Journals. The list of recognitions and awards goes on and on.
“I grew up as an outsider and now as an insider, I feel passionate about changing diversity in tech and helping others like me find success in this wonderful industry.” Gómezsaid.
Even the way she learned to drive was ironically symbolic, having done so on the parking lot of Napster, the online service that revolutionized the music industry forever. The company no longer exists, but Gómez is shaking things up in the tech world, just like Napster once did.
One of the most significant highlights in her career, she says, was being recognized as one of Forbes México’s 50 Most Powerful Women. Gómez was also invited by Forbes México to participate in a panel on the future of technology. She says, “I was named one of the most powerful women in my home country, a place where if I would’ve stayed there, I don’t think I’d be given the same opportunities as I been given here, so it’s a bit ironic but very significant to me.”
Despite all the opportunities she’s been given in this country, and the opportunities she might’ve not had a chance to pursue in her home country, she says it all falls back to the type of person you are.
“My mom tells me I would’ve been successful no matter what, and moving here helped but my mom says I’ve always had that chispa.” Gómez said.
It’s that chispa (spark) that Gómez has had to help her push through the difficult times. Like anyone else, She’s also had her lows, but she accredits the ability to move forward to her personal strength and upbringing. She notes that most importantly, is to define yourself by the person your and not by what you’ve done and have not.
“I’ve gotten fired, laid off, I’ve applied to several jobs and not gotten a single callback. There is a lot that goes into life so I think in general, making sure I don’t define myself through those failures and definitely my successes.” She said.
Now Gómez is committed to giving back and helping others. She‘s a volunteer and mentor at Eastside College Preparatory School, a private school founded by the region and geared towards Latino and African American students.
Some of the advice she can give to young Latinas, is the same advice she gives her mentees, “Don’t victimize yourself because the rest of the world will.” She added, “We are in a state of connectivity, young women need to understand their personal brand around social media. Just make sure to be authentic and stay true to yourself and to others.”