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Succeeding in a male-dominated field as a Latina woman with persistence and determination

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By: Elmarie Woods, UX Product Design Strategist

Growing up in a small Caribbean town, I was free to dream while gazing at the serene sunset. My Puerto Rican roots have instilled in me the importance of resilience, and that means knowing how and when to be strong. I am now dedicated to guiding younger women of color in finding their voice, through respectful, determined, and bold conversations. 

My approach to facing challenges and being turned down in the past may come across as overly self-assured to some, but having faith in oneself is key to achieving success. I strongly believe in people's potential for greatness and see obstacles as chances for growth. That's why I shifted from legal teams at Google to a design role at Palo Alto Networks. I wanted to use my skills to enhance communication among individuals and empower them to achieve amazing collaborations through design concepts. The path to building relationships can take some time, but the reward is augmented as people’s obstacles start resolving at a large scale. 

As a UX Designer, my primary role is to deliver the final product. However, this can be challenging due to the overwhelming cascade of ideas from various stakeholders, engineers, product managers, you name it. We are responsible for setting the tone, branding, and business ideas. It can be disheartening to have our hard work rejected after sleepless nights and months spent constructing ideal scenarios for user personas. And, throughout this process, a woman's voice with an accent can be overlooked. I've noticed my exact words repeated by a man and suddenly, they become relevant to the audience. To overcome my fear of isolation, I received support from female leaders who guided me through shadowing sessions and coaching. 

It's fortunate that there are many women of color in leadership positions who come together as a unit, which is inspiring for those starting their careers. I witnessed the power of speech from women in India, the United Kingdom, and Latin America. Joining employee network groups and participating in their events have helped me feel more connected to my identity. These conversations made me feel appreciated and at home after a long time of discomfort.

Recognizing and acknowledging the past that women have endured and their continued obstacles to being heard is important in order to move forward towards a more equitable future.

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