I grew up in Mérida, Yucatán in Mexico feeling very connected to my Mayan heritage. Yucatán is one of the states in Mexico where the Indigenous culture still prevails and is part of the language, the food, the traditions, and everything else. I feel very close to that.
So, when I moved to the United States in 2004 to take a job as a software engineer with Microsoft’s SharePoint team, I experienced a bit of culture shock. The food was different and the communication style was very different. I enjoyed the technical challenges and the day-to-day work, but the cultural changes were rough for the first couple of months.
To get settled, I looked toward to making social connections and home-cooked meals. I started connecting with other Mexicans in my age range and we built a really close group. I also learned to cook food from my region because I just couldn’t find it here.
As I grew in my first role at Microsoft, I found I was ready to transition to a more direct end user-facing position, one that integrated my love of art and technology. So, in 2010, I got my foot in the gaming world when I started a web development position for Xbox. Soon after, having honed my graphics and animation skills, I joined the Avatars’ Engine team creating tools for content developers.
It was then that a “cultural shift” at Microsoft gave me the push I needed to pursue long-awaited leadership roles. There was the thinking that we need all personality and work styles to be present to have a diversity of ideas and thoughts to really make the company thrive. That’s when I started thinking, “Hey, maybe I can be more than what I am now.”
My first leadership position, as team lead, catapulted me toward other people-management and leadership roles, and to where I am today: software engineering manager, leading multiple teams of engineers in providing foundational production technologies to development, production, and art teams. I work at the intersection of technology and art, and I love every minute of it.
As culture lead for Team Xbox Latinx, I dedicate 20 percent of my time in the workplace to bringing in and elevating diverse talent and applying that talent to build more inclusive gaming experiences. One such experience I’m very proud of involved creating a racing game set in Mexico. Right away we said, “We need to make this authentic. We need to make this respectful. We need to make sure that we are not building a stereotypical portrayal of Mexico.” That meant hiring cultural consultants and working with the Mexican Cultural Institute to ensure a culturally authentic gaming experience.
For instance, in decorating the game’s race car, designers took inspiration from Día de los Muertos. But we tried to stay away from the stereotypical skull. Instead, I suggested we go with one of the pre-Hispanic Aztec legends that led to the Día de los Muertos celebration in Mexico.
My passion for inclusion expands beyond my work with Team Xbox Latinx. I’m very connected with HOLA, a Microsoft Employee Resource Group (ERG) dedicated to supporting the continued growth and development of Hispanic and Latinx employees as well. And recently, I’m starting to engage a little bit with the Indigenous at Microsoft ERG, mostly because of my own heritage.
I am grateful to work for a company that actively supports diversity and inclusion efforts in recruiting and in the workplace and nurtures a culture of collaboration and empathy. I’ve benefited from that. Bringing in ideas from people with different backgrounds and having a commitment from the business teams to support those efforts, that’s something that just makes me very happy.