Brilliant Women in Technology: Meet Radiris Diaz

Hi everyone, I'd like you to meet...me. The reason I made myself January's Brilliant Woman in Tech is because we didn't have someone for this month, and one of our goals is to represent a cool new lady.

I also wanted to encourage everyone to recommend women that they know, or to nominate yourself if you feel you are a brilliant woman in technology.

The purpose of these posts are to highlight and exhibit careers in technology that others can pursue.

I hope you find this useful...here is a little bit about myself...

Send any nominations to RadirisD@cutegeek.com (name + email address)...Thanks in advance!

-Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

My name is Radiris Diaz. I was born on January 2nd, in Brooklyn, NY.  My parents are of Dominican decent, making me a 1st generation Dominican American.  My first language is Spanish and I went to NYC public schools all my life, up until college. I attended college at Carnegie Mellon University, where I majored in Business Administration.  I am very outspoken, love making people laugh and can fall asleep anywhere, even under extreme circumstances. -How did you get started in technology, or at your current position?

I became immersed into the world of technology as a student in Carnegie Mellon, once I realized I would have to take programming because it was mandated for all.  It was eye opening, but thanks to a special someone, I passed.  I started my career in consulting in college at IBM, and as of March, have been a part of Ernst & Young’s Strategic Technology Advisory Services group.  I worked in the Energy industry and now work in Financial Services – two industries that are both heavily regulated and influenced by legislation.  While I don’t consider myself a ‘techie’, I can say that I am where I am because of how technology impacts our lives.  For example, I purchased my first smart phone because I was so restricted from speaking on the phone on one of my projects – HELLO text messages.

Working with companies that are undergoing change, or trying to improve something they currently do has exposed me to the many ways technology surrounds us.  From the systems we use, that save us time, money and energy, to the people that are impacted and need to be trained on some of the change.

While consulting is a tough industry to describe, if you are not familiar with it, I can say that I use technology to communicate, and using it well means I communicate more effectively – from choice of words, colors, pictures, etc.

On the flip side, after 5 pm, I am a blogger, and boy do I love it.  I love blogging because this website is how we spread information – we spread our opinions on products, events, lifestyles, education, etc.  Women are usually stigmatized with being chatty and I am here to confirm that I am one of those women who love to ‘talk’.  I didn’t think this was something to brag about until a research study exposed groups work better when women are present in them – aka The Female Factor.  Collective intelligence increases with the amount of women in a group because they are better able to communicate, read social cues, and attend to a team’s individual sensitivities. I may have summarized it incorrectly, but that was the gist of it... (Go Carnegie Mellon – you brought this one to light…)  Either way, blogging is a form of journaling, and on a website like this, it is also considered a web publication.

-Was it tougher because you are a woman?

As a woman, yes – it is tougher because I am a women, especially because I am in technology.  In college it was tough because I didn’t want to be an investment banker and it seemed like that’s what everyone wanted to do, especially the men.  I didn’t think I was creative or spunky enough to go into marketing or advertising.  Consulting was something completely knew to me, and because of INROADS, and the way they described it, I realized an internship at a place where I would get a breath of experience was more valuable to me than working on Wall St, and I have no regrets.

I will also say that it continues to be difficult to be a women in technology because I can’t always look around and find something who ‘looks’ like me.  While we don’t need to work with twins, it is nice to be able to find someone to look up to, or to guide you, in the area of unknown.  As a woman, a latina woman, I found myself on projects where I was the youngest group member, and sometimes only female.

When I first started blogging, I started at HardwareGeeks.com and the reason why CuteGeek.com was started was because I felt too uncomfortable during a press meeting with an international company. I felt uncomfortable because I was being blatantly ignored, despite having press credentials, being well dressed and even smelling good (that was a joke).  This company, because of their culture, did not feel the need to speak to me, or acknowledge my presence and I pretty much went on an internal rant, and walked away.

As the PR representative chased after me to ask why I was leaving, I simply said I would not listen to someone who had no interest in showing me their products.  Women have a lot of buying power – a lot. We’re known for shopping, overspending, buying cute things and you know what – some of us do! I do! And I was pissed because the spotlight wasn’t on me.

In college I was told to look as unfeminine as possible – because I was interviewing at a bank that was on Wall St and today – thank God – I can wear the funkiest pumps I want, but the tightest pencil skirt my body desires, without being ridiculed or sexually harassed for having a working brain with some sense of style.  I don’t recommend going to work like you’re going to a club, and different industries will have different unspoken rules but it is nice to have that flexibility.

-If there was such a thing as reincarnation, would you come back as a man or woman-holding all other things equal…?

I would not come back as a man.  As a child, a middle child at that, I constantly told my mother I would get a sex-change because my brother got to do so many other cool things that I didn’t. I lied though. I didn’t get a sex change, and given the option, I wouldn’t come back as a man.  The constraints imposed on me by my family, friends, society and even cultures have only driven me to be more than I could’ve ever imagined.  Had I not been told to ‘not’ do so many things, I probably would be okay to go to work where a ceiling is right above my head, or to go into a career that I had no interest in, but seemed ‘fit for a girl’.  Being told no, and realizing it was really ‘not now’ has turned my life into an adventure worth publishing.  Women and men were not created equal – I know that. But this whole lil’ next career that I have – aka motherhood, is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

-Describe a "normal" day in your life.

In consulting, a normal day can mean flying across the country to a client, or having an all day workshop with a room full of clients regarding changes that need to be made.  It is a very difficult job to describe in one day but one team that I’ve been on, on multiple occasions, is project management. As a project management team member you evaluate risks and issues, track progress, communicate to the greater team, document accomplishments and changes and compare to the scheduled plan.  As a consultant you are a chameleon whose role changes depending on the need of the day. The ambiguity that exists is exciting because it barely ever gets boring.

As a blogger a normal day can be attending a large public relations event where companies exhibit their latest products.  It means you meet a lot of people, exchange business cards, ask questions, take pictures and then write about it when you get the chance.  Often time you get to try out products or see live demos.  Blogging is a lot of fun.

-What's your favorite aspect of working in technology?

Change.  Change is the coolest aspect of working in technology because as soon as one thing is released, whether its code in a system, or a better camera on a phone, there is someone thinking about how to make it better.

-What have been some of your challenges you faced, and how did you tackle or overcome them?

I mentioned what the challenge was above – 1.  Not being respected because of my sex.  I am slowly overcoming this one by giving women, and the many hats we wear, the chance to be heard. 2.  Being disrespected because I was a woman – clothes/age/etc. I speak up. When I am uncomfortable with something, I say something.  It is inevitable to be a woman working with men, and feel as if you are an equal when you are much younger than them, or single.  Either way, I speak up and voice any and all concerns, even if only to a confident or mentor at work, because sexual harassment does exist and should not be tolerated. 

-Have you ever felt like you needed to hide your femininity or that fact that you were a female?

In college when I was interviewing for jobs on Wall St I was advised to be as unfeminine as possible, to not look cute, not wear perfume and to avoid being attractive.  This was all for the interview – in hopes of not being taken less serious.  Hearing all of this was a bit intimidating because I didn’t really know how not to be a woman, but hey, things work out for themselves. 

You will sometimes find that you have to play a certain role, or act like the Romans when in Rome, but I’ve learned to embrace my femininity, even if only in the hot pink pen that I choose to write with.  There is a time and place for everything though. 

-What advice do you have for females interested in getting into your field?

 Ask questions. Google everything.  Dream big.  Imagine the impossible. Get a mentor.

-What's one gadget you can't live without?

My phone. The more I traveled for work, the more I relied on my phone to connect me to the world back home, and to my friends and family.   

-Do you have a personal 'mantra' or certain words you live by?

I believe everything passes with time. That sometimes no answer is the answer we need and that a job that pays my soul will always outweight a job that only pays my bills.

These are some of my favorite quotes:

1. “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Teddy Ro

2. “To tell a woman everything she may not do is to tell her what she can do.” Spanish proverb

3. “I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.” Madonna Ciccone

4. “Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” Gloria Steinem

5. “…that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, that knowledge is happiness…” Thomas Jefferson

-And lastly, what drives you?

A couple of things drive me:

1.  Believing in others and myself.  Believing in others drives me because I see how impactful it can be.  As a child, before I knew what believing in oneself was, someone believed in me, and it was their belief that pushed me further than my small mind imagined.  I have seen the difference that the simple task of believing in someone and telling them you believe in them can have, and I strive to believe in more and more people.

2.  Doing the “impossible”.  “Impossibilities” drive me because all they are an issue waiting to be resolved. I am a thinker. I like doing the unexpected, breaking norms, going against stereotypes and being different.  I say being different because I hate the stigma that comes along with being a woman, or a Latina woman at that.  I don’t like being put into boxes, regardless if they are imposed by my culture, or by society, or even the media. 

3.  Education.  Through education boundaries have been broken, roles have been redefined and doors have been opened. When I encounter “impossibilities” I use educating myself as my superpower, and through it I can do it all.

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