Redefining My Place in Tech


I’ve been laid off twice since moving to Portland. I’ve been traumatized by one employer whose lack of vision and inclusion means he hires only men. I’ve been in an interview where the panel assumed I was a native Spanish speaker and brought in an interpreter so that they could test my Spanish speaking skills—I’m Filipina.  I’ve also experienced ageism, so when I saw that PDXWIT had an event series called “Seasoned Women in Tech,” I was thrilled! Truly, the job market has been dismal at times, so I decided to change it for myself. How? I studied my landscape and really looked at my skill-set to see where I would be most effective. I think it is a work in progress like life, but I am happier for it.

One of the ways we can make a difference in our community, and our careers, is by looking at our skills from a different perspective. We don’t need to be an engineer in order to be highly “technical” and our skills are of use to so many outside our direct industry. Through creativity and volunteering, both you and your community will benefit.

Throughout my professional journey from healthcare and government to culinary and private sector, I relied on tech to scale up my skills and work effectively. Technically, I am classified as a creative who learned how to use tech in the 21st century. I have been a marketing professional in all these industries, and tech has been my way to create a place for myself in a space that most people see as “the folks who make things look pretty.” But for me, good marketing relies on data. Data shows me engagement, and allows me to take action to make a product or service more marketable to users. Finding a need and filling it: the very definition of marketing and my specialty.

I decided that instead of spending hours sending out resumes and learning ways to get around algorithms to be able to get a phone screen and/or interview, I volunteered for non-profit organizations (McConnell’s Boxing Academy, Feed the Mass, Street Roots, Portland Food Project and Oregon Food Bank) that I am passionate about. I discovered that my marketing skills were needed in small mom-and-pop restaurants around Portland who didn’t have a marketing plan in their business model. I could show them the power web development and social media have to influence, convince and entice a customer base to come and try their food. Portland is a foodie town and competition is fierce so being able to “tout your wares” is really key to generating interest. In this way, tech saved me from taking another job that I really was not going to be passionate about.

PDXWIT has given me the third act to my story, a community that I am passionate about and a future that I can be proud of, regardless of where I end up. I look forward to all of our upcoming events, working with PDXWIT’s awesome volunteers and meeting many more people along the way. I delight in hearing and learning from our community members’ stories and providing resources. I am having a blast, and this is just the beginning.

Hazel Valdez is the PDXWIT Event Operations Coordinator and has has worked in various industries including technology, healthcare, government and corporations. She is also a classically trained French Chef from Le Cordon Bleu and is the Sous Chef for the nonprofit organization, Feed The Mass. In her spare time, Hazel loves spending time with her wife at the boxing gym learning how to spar as well as getting in a great cardio workout! Connect with Hazel on LinkedIn.