TEKsystems IT Recruiting Lead Martin Sanchez shares his personal experience with cultural inclusion and diversity
June 14, 2021 | By Martin Sanchez, Jr.
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.
Being Mexican was not something to be proud of where I grew up. Especially as a first-generation Mexican American, I associated that identity with being lower class. I wasn’t raised knowing equality. Instead, I grew up hearing how people who looked like me were criminals and seeing immigration and customs enforcement raid restaurants.
Today, I still sometimes walk into certain places quietly because I don’t want to bring too much attention to myself. But mostly, I am a proud Mexican American. And in my journey, I’ve grown to understand how our diverse racial backgrounds and conversations around our different cultures, identities and histories can help strengthen our society—and ourselves.
Immigrating for hopes of a brighter future
I was born in a small agricultural town to parents who left Mexico for a better life. My parents worked hard to provide for us, but as undocumented immigrants, they couldn’t access the resources that American citizens had. Since I could walk, I worked in agriculture fields to help provide for my family. In time, this life became too much for my father, and he decided to indulge in activities that forced my mom to work two jobs to help support us. All the pain and suffering she went through motivated me to work hard in school and get into college.
Grappling with my Mexican American identity
My hometown was made up of about 80% of people of Mexican descent and 20% of people who identified as Caucasian. From an early age, I was under the impression that being white was equivalent to holding authority and power. At work in the fields, the owners and the foreman were white. At school, even though the students were mostly Mexican, the teachers were white. It wasn’t until I went to the University of Washington that I got to see different cultures, races and identities outside of where I grew up.
I spent the majority of my college and early professional years covering my authentic self and showing people what I thought they wanted to see. Some of my feelings were self-imposed, but a majority were from experiences that made me feel like the only way I could make it would be to assimilate. When I first started at TEKsystems, I wore three-piece suits because I wanted to make sure no one knew I was tattooed. I needed to fit in because that is the only way I felt anyone would accept me.
Creating more inclusive spaces for people of Hispanic/Latino descent
Slowly, from learning from my personal experiences, reflecting on myself and gaining a greater understanding of the world, I’ve realized that my culture is something to be proud of—not ashamed of. I no longer cover my culture or heritage, and I choose to carry myself as someone that has an obligation to represent my ancestors and parents who worked so hard to provide me a better life. I need to make sure that I not only make them proud but carry myself in a way that will grow our legacy and move our culture forward. I’ve realized that my culture is an important ingredient in the melting pot of our country, and I now wear my heritage on my sleeve—literally and figuratively—with the addition of a tattoo I proudly display.
The world has come a long way when it comes to race, identity, diversity and equality. But with that said, we are still not even close to where we need to be. I do believe companies like TEKsystems are doing the right things to try and move us forward, whether it’s sustaining strong employee networks like TEKsystems’ community for people of Hispanic/Latino descent, or creating space for open discussions like TEKsystems’ Conversations That Matter. These initiatives push us toward greater understanding and empathy, as well as an overall inclusive culture.