I don’t have to choose: Challenging the tradeoff mindset

A great career shouldn’t come at the expense of your identity, but this is a tradeoff many of us have to make. This Latinx Heritage Month, we examine the role that remote work plays in preserving Latinx culture across the U.S.

In life and in business, we talk a lot about trade-offs. We learn that we can’t have it all, that there are certain things we need to sacrifice to get ahead in life. And as a Latinx person, that often means trading off between two of the most important values we have: our careers and our Latinx identity.

Some people access that identity through their role in their family and community. Some, through the culture of the city or region they call home. And others, in the way they dress, the words they choose, or the person they are when they don’t have to wear a mask.

My family left their country for better economic opportunities. I don’t even have to leave my house.

Lesley AlegríaSenior Recruiter at Abstract

We have employees living in cities across the United States, so I explored this idea with the Latinx community at Abstract. We were talking about what it means to work remotely for a company that cares about inclusion, when Lesley Alegría said, “My family left their country for better economic opportunities. I don’t even have to leave my house.” It was a mic-drop moment to which we all could relate.

Looking at remote work as inclusion work opens up tech careers to people without asking them to make trade-offs between who they are and who they want to become. Employers with this mindset don’t ask you to decide what’s more important: your promotion or your accent, your department meeting or your sobrina’s confirmation, your onboarding or your abuelo’s hospice bedside, your career path or owning a home in your family neighborhood. 

Remote work is a huge gift in the preservation of underrepresented cultural identities, families, and communities — one that we realize is also a privilege for those of us who have access to it. So this Latinx Heritage Month, we want to share some of the stories our team shared about the trade-offs they aren’t making and how that is impacting their lives. 

Jessica Jiménez — San Diego, California

I don’t have to choose between my career and my identity.

Jessica JiménezProduct Support Specialist at Abstract

I’ve been part of diverse teams in previous roles, but it didn’t feel inclusion was actively supported by the culture. It wasn’t explicit, but I found myself feeling the need to put on another persona and code-switch between my real identity and my professional identity. For example, there are certain things I like to wear, like gold hoop earrings. At other companies, I wondered how I would fit in or be taken seriously if I represented myself that way. 

But my team and customers are super open to who we are as individuals. I don’t have to pretend to be white, code-switch or put on a different voice. I can be confident in the information I have about the product and my ability to solve my customers’ problems. As a customer service professional, it’s my job to be authentic and build trust with my customers. I can only do that if I’m able to be my true self.

This has helped me be more comfortable with who I am, in my skin. And it has shown up for me outside of work. I recently moved and was applying for apartments. I usually feel the need to dress up when I want to be taken seriously or seen as trustworthy, but I’m learning at work that it’s ok to be myself. I put on my Adidas slides to meet the landlord. I was confident in myself and authentic, and made better personal connections with him. I got the apartment and it feels good to know that he gave it to me, the real me, not some other version of me that I thought he wanted to see. 

Jose García-Balius — Miami, Florida

I don’t have to choose between my career and my family.

Jose García-BaliusSenior Software Engineer at Abstract

When I was in college, I had my first taste with being away from my family. I was in Naples, Florida, and my family had moved back to Miami to be close to our support system during the 2008 recession. During that time, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, which was incredibly painful for her and hard on my family as her life ended. I realized how precious time with our families is and decided to work as a remote employee instead of moving to a tech hub on the West Coast. This let me spend my weekends with my family or my wife’s family, cooking traditional Cuban meals, or watching soccer games. 

I have been a remote programmer for nearly eight years, but no other company has prioritized remote work like Abstract. I’ve never felt pressure to uproot myself and move to headquarters. I haven’t been asked to make monthly weeklong trips out to get face time with my manager. And I haven’t felt like I’m not able to do the best work of my life. I don’t have to choose between the life I’m building with my family and my career, and that is really important to me. 

Jonathan Torrez — Seattle, Washington + Albuquerque, New Mexico

I don’t have to choose between my career and my home.

Jonathan TorrezSoftware Engineer II at Abstract

When I think about my Latinx identity, the word that comes to me is home. I am Xicano, born and raised in the Southwest so there’s something about the land, about the place itself, that makes me feel alive. It’s not just Albuquerque or Tucson — it’s the desert, the mountains, the sky, the piñon, and the saguaro. It’s indescribable to feel connected to a place like that. It recharges and refreshes me. 

I moved away from the Southwest earlier in my career but found myself needing to go back regularly. Sometimes it’s for my family, like when my grandfather was sick, but sometimes I just feel the pull to return home and be on the land. I didn’t realize how important it was for me to have the autonomy to go back to my homeland until it caused problems with a former employer. They chose not to support remote work unless you had “paid your dues” which was hard for me with my grandfather’s illness. I’m thankful to be back at a company where I’m trusted from the beginning and where my location is just a backdrop to the work I’m doing. It’s a huge freedom to take care of myself and my family whenever I need to.

The remote workplace as places for change

For Latinx people — and underrepresented people of all backgrounds — identity, family, and home are not small trade-offs. We believe choosing between who you are and a great career is unfair and outdated in a technology age. It’s also outdated to think that humans perform optimally in the same setting. For Jessica, putting on a different persona made it harder for her to connect. For Jose, being in a distracting office setting and on frequent plane rides to HQ made him less effective. For JT, needing permission to access his homeland made him feel disconnected from his power source. For me, it looks different than what it looks like for you and within it are the complexities of identity, values, and privilege (among many others). 

We want our people to be the fullest, most productive version of themselves and that means supporting them to remain true to themselves, their family, and the fabric of their community. If you want to be part of the team that cares about you as an individual but offers the opportunity to empower yourself to do the best work of your life, check out our open job listings. And, Feliz mes de la Herencia Latinx.

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