Meet Emerald, a software developer at DefendEdge who hails from San Diego, California. Emerald is passionate about supporting military spouses and Latinas in STEM. The first in her family to achieve an advanced degree, she has a master’s in computer science. When not solving advanced tech puzzles, Emerald loves exploring the San Francisco Bay Area and its array of delicious cuisines.
“As a military spouse with a career in STEM, we are the few. We are the unstoppable force that wears many hats and we are the proof that being a spouse that supports a service member while balancing a passionate career is possible!”
What inspires you?
What inspires me is that I’m a better person today than I was yesterday. I’m always learning new things and growing my mindset and being able to do something that I never thought I could. I’ve grown so much in the last year and moving past the imposter syndrome as a woman in tech has been huge. I’ve developed amazing skills to do things. Breaking the barriers down is a huge goal too. I’m a first-generation Hispanic college graduate and military spouse in the tech field and now I can say to others “hey if I can do it, you can do it!” I’m really motivated by my goals; my husband and I sit down and together have two-year goal setting plans and we work hard to progress toward them each year.
What do you appreciate about your work environment?
I love that my current job is remote. My company knew my situation, and they hired me because I was a military spouse. I just got back from a work trip to Chicago, they flew me up to meet the team; it was so awesome to meet everyone in person. Not only did I get to introduce myself but I got to interview the CEO and ask them what they wanted to do in 5 years and what their long-term plan for the start-up is. It was great to hear their vision and be able to tell them what I wanted to achieve as an employee in the company. It was great to have an open conversation where I could tell them what my goals are and what I want to do to see them happen. I’ve really enjoyed the strong equality and openness in the company.
What do you like most about your job?
I love the fact that I can be creative. They’ll say, “I want this to happen, or we have a problem. . .” And then I get to work and be creative in finding the solution(s) to solve it.
What challenges have you personally faced that your civilian counterparts may not have?
That I had to give up my job in San Diego to move up to San Francisco with my husband, who is with the Navy. We had to live apart for 6 months while I looked for work and managed our finances. Having to move is difficult, I had never moved in my life before.
How do you see being a military spouse or being in the military space has helped you with your job?
It’s definitely exposed me to many more opportunities. I was just speaking with someone who was transitioning out of the military and I could assist them with a lot of programs and resources. It’s actually how I got my job opportunity. I got the job with Oracle because I was one of the first military spouses in the Oracle internship program. Being a part of the military community has also allowed me to get this current job. It’s given me a huge sense of family within the military community. I enjoy building connections and helping others navigate through the challenges of military life. It’s a family.
Growing up what inspired you to get into your field of work?
It revolves around a few things. I was obsessed with puzzles growing up, especially 2,000-3,000-piece puzzles. I’d just sit there all happy having a great time with these giant puzzle sets. I had a Nintendo 64 and loved math computer games. I was also obsessed with Sudoku and video games. What sparked my interest to go back into the field was taking a required coding course in my undergraduate, and that sparked my passion. I love solving puzzles.
What do you enjoy about your current duty station?
It’s in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, so I get a great taste of the tech mecca. I also get great food here, I love Mexican food. But I also love cooking at home. I also love being close to nature. We have the mountains, and the Santa Cruz bay, and Napa.
What do you wish people knew about life in the military?
I wish people would give us the benefit of the doubt. And understand that we have to deal frequently with the military making big decisions that change our lives and realize that we have to manage everything at home. We go through a lot of stress. Many people don’t realize what we do on the home front to manage finances, buy a car, manage a home, and raise a family. It’s hard, but we are so used to being put in so many roles it makes us resilient and great employees. I wish people knew that as a military spouse we have the best health insurance in the world and so employers don’t have to pay for it. We’re lucky in that don’t need most of the extra benefits a company may provide.
What advice would you give to new spouses about being in the STEM career field?
Take advantage of all the free resources! There are so many certification opportunities in tech and job advancement. Plug into your local military spouse education network and find out what certification programs are free and can give you that next leg up in your job or career. I’m a huge fan of freebies!
We’d love to learn how you found ways to balance your work and home life?
It wasn’t easy, but having a desk set up helped and having a huge monitor to concentrate with. I thought having an office would be good, but I later realized that being in a more open space, I feel more productive. Working from home, I also got cooped up so I plan an hour lunch every day and work out for 20-30 minutes, shower, and eat lunch. I miss the human interaction, but exercising has pushed me away from feeling so alone. We don’t have kids so I force my husband to go on a walk every day so I don’t feel so cooped up in the house.
Was there anything you wished you knew before transitioning your STEM career to teleworking/virtual/work from home space?
Have a good chair! It’s important to be comfortable when you’re working all day. I initially was working on a couch at home and it was uncomfortable. And it made me unmotivated. Having a schedule of work time and work out time helped me too. Before, I really enjoyed getting up every morning, getting ready, putting on my heels, and heading to work. Now that I’m permanently remote I feel like I’ve lost my sense of glamour.
What are your favorite tips or best practices for STEM professionals interested in working from home? Or for those who are currently working from home due to the pandemic?
Force yourself to dedicate time to work out every day. I split my workouts between running and YouTube videos, and I sleep great and feel more recharged. I also have a big monitor to have a full view of my workload. It can also help to put on instrumental music or movie scores in the background to calm you. Meditation videos help in the background also because they don’t make you feel so isolated. Have a schedule. Eat well and plan out your lunches so you don’t feel you have to drive to pick up food all the time. Don’t forget you’re a rockstar! Not only are you a spouse in tech, but you’re a military spouse. This pandemic gave many of us the chance to work remotely and as military spouses, we know how to handle the change because we are used to frequent change.
Resources & connections:
- Life at Oracle Military and Veteran Careers
- Military One Source Spouse Education & Career Opportunities
- Veterati America’s mentoring network for the service members, veteran, and military spouses
- Salesforce Career Trailhead Military program
- Fortinet Free Cybersecurity training