Where are you from and where are you living now?
I am a commercial artist in advertising. Mostly doing graphic and production design. I studied graphic design in Arizona and came to Seattle about 7 years ago, since then i’ve been in packaging, print, app and UI/UX design as a visual designer. It’s been over ten years since I started calling myself a professional. I consider myself a visual design generalist but my goal is to become a Creative Director.
What was your dream career path as a child?
Did you end up following that career path? If not, why did your path change?
What inspired you to get involved in the STEM(YOUR) field?
I’ve had a few different career paths in mind as a child but my first memory of what I wanted to do when I grew up was to be a Paleontologist or a scientist in the field of ancient animal life and their fossils. As I grew I was fascinated with history and art. I considered anthropology and archeology. Basically the stories our ancestors left behind. But these distilled into art and creation. I fell in love hard with Photoshop visual storytelling techniques and broad storytelling. Many of my friends from a very key part of my high school years all fell into creating zines and other unorganized narratives and publishing them on DeviantArt. Graphic arts led to towards strategizing my long term goals and graphic design took the lead as my key to the world of marrying my need to show stories and financial security in advertising technology.
As a student, how were you able to cope with the workload and constant stress of pursuing a degree/career in STEM?
Did you have a support system?
Follow up Question
Yes: What was it and how did you build your support system?
No: What advice do you want to give students who do not have a support system currently ?
Until I decided on commercial arts as a career path, I was somewhat aimlessly fascinated in everything. I love deconstructing things. So, the coping mechanisms I developed in HS and later destroyed and rebuilt in college were(and are still) really complicated. I had self imposed pressures. My family pressures. Societal expectations and also the under-appreciated existential crisis in spending money on the complicated higher-ed system. But I had a wildly supportive collective of collaborators, friends, family. To the credit of peers and collaborators, it’s impossible to overstate how valuable it is to have someone to just listen to an idea and remix or kill it. My family and friends who didn’t always understand what I was doing but were always there to lend their ear. Those go a long way. Putting aside any notion of financial support from your core team, these folks will do more for you by just listening. Just don’t forget to reciprocate.
Did you ever experience any prejudice being a woman/Latino in a STEM field and if so how did you deal with it?
It’s hard to say exactly. For a Latino, I am a little darker and I have features that definitely make me other to a lighter skinned group. In some respects, I was comedic relief, in others I was token. It’s taken me a long time to realize how hard one has to work to be taken seriously and even still I don’t always see the same return on investment but I think it’s getting better. Which is probably more of my tactics than improving societal norms. I am fortunate to have certain privileges no less is being male but learned experiences are adaptations. When I introduce myself, I am constantly analyzing conversations and changing my tone and word use and demeanor to“know my audience.” It is not easy since i’m putting on masks so often I have to sit down and focus on myself to remember who I am.
Can you provide an example of a time when you experience imposter syndrome? And how have you worked to overcome it
The simple answer is i’m probably not going to overcome it. It’s part of my identity and i’m learning now how to redirect it towards my goals. I consider my imposter syndrome as inspiration and fear. It doesn’t scare me like a monster but like an alternate me that I can use to visualize my path. Who would I be if I did one thing versus another? My imposter walks the path ahead of me and i’m almost better for it. It’s probably not healthy, but it is mine.
Where did you attain your degree?
I studied formally at the now defunct Art Institute of Phoenix for three years for a 4 year bachelors of arts in Graphic Design.
What has been one of the biggest turning points in your life?
What are your passions?
Probably coming to Seattle. So many radical changes all packed into one. And they don’t seem to stop. I have experience more since moving here, both professionally and personally, than I have in my life. That’s hyperbole, but not that much. From being a passive member of the larger tech community to be outspoken with the local Creative community. Working harder than I’ve ever worked to find balance in my career and life. Learning how my experiences can help others and one of my favorite things is advocating for pay equity and professional transparency. For the past couple years i’ve been really driven by advocacy for professional and creative talent in the industry. I’m not especially good at it. But I have been trying. By sharing my own stories and encouraging others to be transparent with workplace culture and compensation. It’s a lot of work.
What do you feel is your purpose in life?
How were you introduced to the STEM field?
I feel like i’ve always been in the STEM field. But more realistically, my family has been very open to education and shared so much about their work. They run the gamut from retail and admin careers to social sciences and they talked to me. About the most simple mundane things and teaching me how to problem solve. In my case it’s by adding a hint of Arts for the STEAM. It’s my innate fascination with deconstructing things, manipulating technology, appreciating the STEM underlying the most complex problems and by using them as the fuel to create.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face being a Latino in the STEM field?
Are there any issues that you constantly face in the STEM field that you wish were changed and if so, how do you think they could be changed?
I believe being taken seriously is probably the biggest. Even before school, I was clued into what the professional world saw as being a standard for how one presents themself. It was the diminishing of culture. There’s also many polarized stereotypes that aren’t helpful. So, tuning the way I talk and act and portray myself from an early age basically rewrote how I would live later on in life. Even now I am over explaining. It’s the kind of thing that I observe when I visit family back in NM, I almost immediately lost my daily personality for something closer to what I grew up with. It’s not always subtle. I don’t always know how to answer the question of how it can be changed, because there are no one sized solutions for most things. But what I do when in positions of potential change is be open to my team, take an interest in my teams unique traits and just be there. The idea of change starts small and successes will be noticed and evolve. They get passed down and are given new life down the road. So I recommend for change to happen, the ones with even small power must be there for their team. Show up, take notice, be visible and audible, and take accountability.
Was there anyone who helped you throughout your journey into the STEM field? How did they help and how did you meet him/her/them?
Most of the enduring help came from my family. My wife, who is not only one of the smartest people I know, doesn’t just give me fake feedback. She is real. But I have to consider the peer system. My friends, former schoolmates, the competition. The ones who travel the road with you can make a burden lighter. It’s one of the pillars of my work ethic. We’ve heard the terms all boats rising tides and such. Beautiful sentiments but we all should be here for each other. When I get to senior level in my career, my responsibilities will necessitate making myself more available to those junior. That’s how the industries get better. I speak for design, marketing, and visual technologies, but I feel it’s universal. One of my closest friends, who I met in art school, is always down to help me work through a problem and in kind we do this without blinking an eye. Her success is my success. Recently I have been having considerable thoughts around my career and how COVID has affected everything. We talked about the lifelong struggles of pay equity and doing a certain level of work for a lower level of pay, one that doesn’t match one to one with industry standards. AND how that’s all been upended with some of the most talented creators and thinkers out of work. How does one navigate that feeling of inadequacy before the pandemic much less now in facing off with high talent. And they are facing you, knowing they are worth more, and asking for less. We and the community become sounding boards and impromptu therapists and work never stops.
What do you feel is your purpose in life?