Entrepreneurial

Paving the way

Image courtesy of Laura Gómez

Image courtesy of Laura Gómez

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 in Guanajuato, located in central Mexico, when she was 10-years-old. She grew up in the tech industry’s epicenter, Silicon Valley. 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 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 for her to get a job in the tech field. “After all, that was practically 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 is 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,” Gómez said.

Even the way she learned to drive was ironically symbolic, having done so on the parking lot of Napster, the online music service that revolutionized the music industry forever. The company no longer exists, but what I was getting at is that Gómez is shaking things up in the tech world, just like Napster 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.

“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 Prep, 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.”

¡Sí se puede!

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Who said we can’t have it all or do it all for that matter…?

Well let me tell you who can do it all, Patty Rodriguez. She’s a producer, an author, a jewelry designer, and a mom. This entrepreneurial credits most of her success to her family, and a belief she’s had since her childhood. It’s a belief of magic which has allowed her to execute her most innervisions. But for her, to belief in magic goes beyond something whimsical and mythical, to her, it’s about being creative, having a dream and being absolutely passionate about it.

I’ve always believed in magic and in the impossible this brings. I’m a dreamer, I believe and think of stuff until it hurts, until the point that belief becomes passion.
— Patty Rodriguez

Before I move forward, and tell you how this incredible mujer from Lynwood, California, daughter of immigrant parents and mother has built her brand, I have to say that I was enchanted by Patty’s unconditional and contagious devotion for creativity. It’s really no surprise that Patty is now the founder and CEO of MALA, her jewelry line and the creator and co-founder of Lil’Libros, bilingual first concept book for children.

How did she make it all happen, you might ask? Simple, the ongoing theme for her anything she does. For one, it’s being proud of where you come from, and secondly, is to believe in the impossible as a possibility, as she puts it.

Patty was born in East L.A. and raised in Lynwood, just a few miles South of L.A. Her parents migrated from Jalisco Mexico. Patty says to be extremely grateful for what her parents had to sacrifice in order to provide their family a better future.

I could never imagine in billion years crossing the border and going to  country where I don’t know the language or anybody.   
— Patty Rodriguez

She described, living in a small apartment where at any given time, six, seven, even eight people lived at once. But throughout the difficulties, she said her mom never stopped smiling. She was always so positive and always looking forward to the future.

“Seeing that only encouraged me, but not everyone is able to see that courage to make sacrifices, feel lucky to have strong family foundation.” Patty said.

Patty La Producer

Patty works for KIIS FM's On Air With Ryan Seacrest as a producer. She always had an affinity for the entertainment industry, ever since she was little she wanted to be a writer, an actress, or something along the lines of art, she said. Radio always called on her attention, she remembers listening to KIIS FM everyday on her way to school.

“One day without a reason, I had my friend go with me to the station.” Patty describes meeting Rick Dees, the radio personality and star of the station at the time. “I was leaving and saw him in the elevator, he asked me what I was doing and I told him I had no idea why I liked what they did, but I did.” She said. At the time she was too young to be an intern so Dees took her contact information and after she graduated high school, she received a call from the producer. “I thought I was never going to hear from him, and graduation came and I was called and offered an internship.” Patty said.      

But this was only the start of a long journey for Patty. During this time, her parents divorce, and she lived with her mother. She says her mother played a huge role in her success. “We had one car, and my mother would take public transportation to work so I could drive the car from school, to work my internship, it was tough.”  

It hasn’t been easy road, at one time juggling school, two jobs, an internship and a heavy commute, but you know how the saying goes, hard work pays off, she said.  It was this experience and the unconditional support of her family that Patty saw as encouragement to continue working hard to see her projects become a reality.

MALA

Her jewelry line started from the absence a necklace with the name of her city, Lynwood, the place grew up and is extremely proud of.  She was unable to find it. So she decided to make it. This caught the attention of a co-worker at the station, who wanted necklace that read “818”, the area code for the San Fernando Valley, the place on the other side of the Hollywood Hills.

If you seen the Miley Cyrus cover of Rolling Stone where she’s posing with her infamous tongue, you probably noticed the “818” necklace. Apparently, during one of Cyrus’ visits to the station, she saw the necklace on Patty’s coworker, Cyrus loved the necklace so much that she asked where it was bought, Patty’s coworker just decided to give it her.

Weeks later, Miley Cyrus was rocking it on the cover of the iconic magazine, setting off the momentum for Patty  to build her jewelry line. She described seeing her necklace on the magazine's cover as unbelievable. “I couldn't  believe it, this doesn't happen to people like me.” Patty said.

To her, the jewelry line MALA (which stands for Mischief,  Amor, Los Angeles), embodies what it means to be powerful, mysterious, a-go-getter, tough and very proud of the culture.  

During the inception of MALA, she gave birth to her first child. It was also during this time when she started to venture into publishing. She described how being a mother gave her that extra strength to pursue her goals.

It was after my son was born that I was able to understand my career path that we probably had bottled inside me.
— Patty said.

Lil'l Libros

Patty like many children of immigrant parents, had difficulties learning English and adjusting. This brought many insecurities but also gave her a love for reading which eventually evolved into a love for writing.

During our conversation, she recalled the time when her second grade teacher acknowledge her ability for writing well. She encouraged her to participate in an essay writing contest describing what she loved the most of her city, Lynwood. This meant the world to her, because It was through writing that she could express herself creatively, without being judged by her voice and pronunciation of words.     

“I won 2nd prize but this pushed me to be creative, I don’t know I’ve always gravitated to this type of thing.” Patty said.

Now that she has a children of her own, like many parents she wanted to provide the best possible opportunities for her children and avoid enduring the same hardships as she did. Teaching her children about the her culture and her mother language Spanish, was just a way for Patty to provide that well being for her children.   

In her quest for finding tools to facilitate her job as a parent, she found herself in a desert of non existing bilingual books that teach about her culture. Patty decided she could nourish the desert landscapes with her literature and write these books herself . She ended up writing a manuscript. After sending it off to many publishing houses, she got many call backs but the publishers weren’t entirely sold on the idea. The reasoned, Patty said, Hispanic parents simply don’t read to their children.

“It really hurt but this was true, but there are many reasons why Latino parents don’t read to their children.” She continued, “For one, there aren’t many resources and also, how intimidating is it to go to a bookstore and looking for something that’s not even in your language?” After this, Patty was discouraged from continuing the project.

It was after a tragedy, when her home was destroyed after a fire, where everything she’s worked for had immediately vanished. She decided to continue with the creation of Lil’Libros, even if it meant she had to do it alone. Luckily, she was able to enlist the help of her friend, Ariana Stein, who also happens to be the godmother of Patty’s son.

“The publishers don't know about me, about my struggle and my culture. They don’t know that every Friday, I play loteria with my family. I am doing this for other Latina moms” Patty said.

Patty’s unconditional believe in magic along with her strong sense of pride for her culture and who she is, allowed her to unleash her vision as a creative business woman that she is. For this any many reasons, Patty Rodriguez is a mujer Poderosa.

[This article was originally created and published for ChicaFresh]