TEKsystems Recruiter Lead Magdaleny Soberanis-Depaz shares her experience growing up Hispanic/Latina and the intersection between diversity and growth in the workplace.
Sept. 15, 2021 | By Magdaleny Soberanis-Depaz
At TEKsystems, we’re committed to nurturing an inclusive employee culture and welcoming diversity into every part of our business. In this series of personal essays, we’re highlighting the unique perspectives and reflections of our employees. We aim to not only see and recognize the diversity of our teams but also to better understand how we all play a part in fostering an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.
I’m not shy to say that I’m a proud and loud Mexican/Salvadorian American, but during my childhood, I struggled with my identity—being torn between all three. Growing up in a neighborhood mixed with Venezuelans, Colombians and Peruvians didn’t help either. Even my Spanish accent is confusing—is it Colombian? Venezuelan? More Mexican? I don’t even know anymore. But eventually, I learned to embrace my uniqueness and the little of everything I am made of. It wasn’t an easy journey, but I learned to embrace my true self and not allow negativity to hinder me from accomplishing what I want from life.
My childhood adversity helped build my resilience and drive
I was born in Los Angeles to a mother from El Salvador and a father from Mexico. However, I only remember the times in Manhattan Beach: watching the Rose Parade every year and living through the Rodney King riots, one of the most remembered and historic moments in American history. I vividly remember the gunshots, the yelling and the smoke from the burning businesses around us. That event left an impression on me that I will never forget. Thankfully, my family made it through safely, and a little over three years after the riots, we moved to New York. There are so many other reasons why we moved, but every day I am thankful for that decision my parents made. It led to opportunities, a safer environment and the path to where I am today.
As the oldest, it was my responsibility to ensure my siblings were taken care of before I even started my homework—a cultural norm in a Hispanic/Latino household.
My five siblings and I had to learn to fend for ourselves to support our working parents, as my mother cleaned houses and my stepdad was in telecom. As the oldest, it was my responsibility to ensure my siblings were taken care of before I even started my homework—a cultural norm in a Hispanic/Latino household. When my sisters were less than two years old, my mother developed breast cancer and fought the good fight for almost five years. That experience of stepping up and becoming my siblings’ mother, buying my first car to drive her to her appointments and eventually losing her, was extremely tough for all of us. It prompted me to grow up quickly and pushed me to work hard for her and my family. I wish my mother were alive to have seen this, but I was the first in the family to graduate college, move out, work in a corporate job and earn a good salary. I know she would have been so proud.
Diversity in leadership is a strength that can lead to big ideas
Today, I’m proud to say that I’m a TEKsystems recruiter lead in the NYC market, have been the multicultural employee resource group (ERG) lead for several years, and was recently appointed as one of the leads for our AdelanTEK ERG—TEKsystems’ community for people of Hispanic/Latino descent. But getting to this point wasn’t easy. I’m frequently underestimated because of my gender and the color of my skin. But based on the adversity I’ve experienced, I’ve learned never to give up and to keep pushing through to prove to others—and myself—that I am worthy of success.
Growing up in a multicultural community and learning from people of all walks of life has given me a perspective that is an advantage over most. Diversity is truly a strength. Because I am a person of color and in a leadership position, I’m able to bring different perspectives, opinions and ideas around problem-solving and solutions, ultimately creating a bigger impact on my team and peers within the office, as well as outside of the office. I want to inspire anyone that looks like me to believe that they, too, can be successful.
Racial equality and inclusion in the workplace requires empathy, open conversation and strong allies
Internally at TEKsystems, we’ve made significant progress in our inclusion and diversity journey through initiatives like Conversations That Matter (CTM). Although truthfully, the first time we held a CTM, which was around the theme “bridging connections,” I was a bit nervous. No one had led or participated in an open dialogue like this before, but there was so much going on around us in the world that topics we typically don’t discuss at work couldn’t be ignored anymore. The conversation opened up an entirely new door for everyone. We held real, honest conversations where team members who never shared their personal perspectives before felt safe to be vulnerable and talk about how world events and movements affected them. It was an emotional dialogue, but we learned from each other and felt more connected afterward. These conversations within our planned CTM actually led to more conversations outside of the initiative itself.
While we’ve worked toward a more inclusive culture at work, it’s still a long road ahead when it comes to general racial equality. Unfortunately, our biases make it difficult to make quick changes no matter if it’s in the workplace or elsewhere. We all have them. To move the needle, we need people to step up and become strong allies to those that cannot do this alone. Many Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) are alone in the workplace and are forced to assimilate with the hope of being accepted by others. That is hard and we need to have empathy and compassion for them.
About the Author
Magdaleny has been a lead recruiter in the greater New York City area for over six years. Passionate about inclusion and diversity, she also leads TEKsystems’ multicultural employee resource group (ERG) and Hispanic/Latino employee network (EN).