A few months ago, Lara McLeod, Head of DEI at FullStory, wrote about what led her into the DEI space the desire to belong at work. At FullStory, a majority of us have been working remotely since 2020, and it’s clear that remote work is here to stay. This reality begs the question: How can we build a sense of community that allows us to feel that we truly belong, even when we’re not physically together?
Last year, inspired by our QueerStorians group and the joyous energy their presence brought us, I began the work of launching an Employee Resource Group for Latine identifying FullStorians. I wanted to build a community that I could connect with on a deeper level–a group of people that intrinsically understand the shared nuances of our cultures; a place to learn more about the patchwork of countries that we come from; and a way to share that with our colleagues. Out of this desire, Mi Gente was born.
My journey to FullStory and Mi Gente
Growing up, I rarely felt like I belonged anywhere. My family moved around rural, middle Georgia, and I was usually the sole Latine kid in my class. I dreaded the first day at a new school. My mother would tell me to go out and be the best Puerto Rican I could be, because I might be the only one that my classmates might ever meet. My family moved every few years, and being the new kid became a normal part of life. Over the years I got used to the intrusive questions, but I always felt “othered” in some way–for speaking Spanish, eating “strange” food, or by being reduced to a stereotype.
College was a culture shock. My freshman roommate frequently made off-color jokes to other hallmates about my ethnicity and I was uncomfortable living in my own dorm. After attempting to work it out, I eventually applied to switch rooms the following semester and met with the Director of Residence Life, who seemed uninterested in why I was upset or that I felt like I didn’t belong.
After I graduated college I began working in restaurants while trying to find a “real” job and fell in love with the camaraderie and community that restaurants naturally have. I met a variety of Latine people and loved finding commonalities in our food and familial culture. When I landed in a traditional corporate role, imposter syndrome set in, and I really missed having that community where I could be my authentic self. Everything became trial and error–would I forever have to “tone down” in order to gain acceptance and recognition?
In my interview process with FullStory I finally felt things click. A workplace where I was welcomed as myself–opinionated, passionate, and sometimes loud–seemed too good to be true. I was nervous to accept the role, but my desire to stretch and be challenged was too strong to ignore. Three years later, I am so grateful I took the plunge. Immersing myself in a culture that encourages everyone to show up authentically is such a gift. But I still saw a need to create space for Latine FullStorians to come together as together we could help lift one another up both personally and professionally.
Building the Mi Gente community
This is Mi Gente’s first time celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month as a group. In Spanish, mi gente translates to “my people.” It’s a call to those who are like you to join you in joy, sorrow, or something in between. My biggest goal this year is to encourage more FullStorians to either actively participate in Mi Gente, or to be open to learning more about their Latine coworkers. Our cultures become the fabric of our lives, and how we show up at work or home is often tied into our past experiences.
In my dreams, Mi Gente is a place where we can provide one another support in our careers, help the next generation entering the workforce to feel more at ease, and offer resources for navigating what it means to be “professional” as a Latine person in spaces that often lack diversity. I want to create a community that holds space for one another and, ultimately, helps us all feel like we truly belong.