September 20, 2022

Harness Celebrates Hispanic + Latino Heritage Month

Table of Contents

Key takeaway

By Manny Ruiz, John McMichael, Elizabeth Morales, Nasser Gonzalez, Ryan Soles

Every fall, we look forward to celebrating Hispanic + Latino Heritage Month together! Originally established in the United States in 1968 as a week-long event, this celebration serves to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans. Twenty years later, President Reagan expanded it to a month-long celebration lasting from September 15 to October 15. 

September is a significant month for many Latin American countries. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua all celebrate their independence from Spain on the 15th of September; Mexico celebrates one day later on September 16th. Chile celebrates its independence on September 18 and Belize on September 21. Each of the countries listed previously achieved their independence from Spain within a 20-year time span. Additionally, Brazil achieved its independence from Portugal on September 7.

At Harness, we celebrate this month globally by inviting our offices around the world to experience the richness of Hispanic and Latino Heritage. This blog, authored by members of our Amigos de Harness employee resource group (ERG), highlights our employees' stories as they celebrate their vibrant culture with us all.

To anyone celebrating Hispanic & Latino Heritage month, we hope you have a wonderful and meaningful celebration! We would love to know what traditions you have in store, and what this month means to you. If you happen to be looking for a job, check out our careers page and see if anything strikes your fancy, or join our Harness Talent Community on LinkedIn. 

Manny Ruiz

Senior Vice President, Customer Success

San Francisco, CA 

Who is one Hispanic or Latino role model you look up to? Why do you admire them?

There are so many influential Latinos who I have incredible respect for, but the one that comes to mind right now is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC). She was born and raised in a low-income, urban neighborhood as a first-generation American heavily influenced by her culture, which I completely identify with. More than anything, I admire her fearlessness, her passion, her eloquence in articulating what she believes in and her ability to stand up to some very powerful men. If I ever think I have it tough, I imagine how much she is up against and how she perseveres. She is truly amazing.

Tell us about your heritage. Describe the culture you grew up in and some of the values and traditions your family and culture have instilled in you.

I grew up in the predominantly Mexican and Asian neighborhood of East San Jose, California. My father came here like many other low-income Mexicans. He crossed the border illegally and found work in the fields of Bakersfield and the kitchens of East L.A. He eventually migrated to San Francisco where he found a job as a factory worker. My father instilled a very strong and humble work ethic that has served as a beacon for the way I have approached my entire career.

How have you seen the landscape of the workplace change over your career?

With respect to my Latino background, I don’t think the landscape has changed as much as I expected 24 years ago when I started my career. Back then, I was part of a very small minority of Latino engineers, and I was fortunate enough to find a support system within the large tech company I worked for. Our primary purpose was to help other young Latino students break into tech. We lived in the birthplace of technology, and our communities were dominated by Latinos, yet we represented such a tiny fraction of tech workers. Fast forward to today, and although we have made advancements, we still only represent a very small portion of the tech landscape. However, with Latinos in more executive roles and even showing up in the VC world, I am still hopeful for the future!

What are some challenges you have faced personally or professionally because of your heritage?

As an executive, I have faced my fair share of colleagues and customers assuming I was at a lower level, but most of the challenges I have faced are self imposed. Feelings of not belonging, of impostor syndrome, of having a chip on my shoulder, of trying to constantly prove myself has been a battle throughout my career. While I have overcome the majority of those fears, they never disappear completely. At this point in my career, I feel much more comfortable with my place in tech, and I am grateful to be in a position to help guide others who face similar challenges.

John (Juanito) McMichael

Territory Development Representative
Denton, TX

What are parts of your culture that you are proud of and wish others understood? 

Parts of my culture that I am proud of and wish others understood is our emphasis on culture. You won't find a more proud people on the planet than Hispanics. We are driven by family, hard work, art, music, food. I think that makes us very unique compared to other cultures. Plus, we are part of a matriarch household versus a patriarch. I may be wrong, but I believe this is a common thing. For example, I grew up eating Fideo, which is a popular pasta dish made with short, golden thin noodles that I'm sure all of Mexico is familiar with. I got to teach my wife how to make pozole in the fall. There is just so much more that our culture has to give to the world, and I am proud to represent it at Harness.

How have you seen the landscape of the workplace change over your career?

I think that it's gotten a lot better in recent years, whether that’s because of immigration reform or awareness. I used to be told not to speak Spanish in school, but teachers these days can't say that anymore. I was even told that I needed to take an entry level class for English speakers simply because when I entered high school, they asked what languages I spoke at home. Now, whenever I speak Spanish with someone else, it's like I make a new family member.

Elizabeth Morales

People Enablement Specialist
San Jose, CA

Who is one Hispanic or Latino role model you look up to? Why do you admire them?

It may sound cheesy, but one of the people I look up to most in the world is my grandfather, who happens to be Latino. As a Mexican man born into a large family of farm workers in the Silicon Valley (pre-tech hub), he put himself through school and became an engineer who worked on radar tracking in satellites for Lockheed Martin and NASA. 

Of course, much of my admiration for my grandpa comes from a place of love and appreciation as he is such a caring patriarch for our family. Further, it is extremely inspiring to hear about the ways he overcame adversity in his childhood, so he could be successful and break generational poverty. In adulthood, he served his country, built a successful career, cultivated a loving home with my grandma where everyone was welcome, and has taken care of his extended family in innumerable ways. 

I will always aspire to be more like him – driven, intelligent, and caring about every human.

Tell us about your heritage. Describe the culture you grew up in and some of the values and traditions your family and culture have instilled in you. 

In my Mexican family, one of the values most central to our culture is the importance of family.

My favorite way that my family bonds is over food. Whether it is eating home-cooked dinner together on a weeknight or sitting on the floor of my grandparents living room with plates full of Christmas dinner – food always brings us together. 

Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, the women in my family gather at my grandparents house to make the year’s Christmas tamales. My sister, cousins, aunts, grandma, and I cook the meat, mix the masa, spread the masa on corn husks, and steam the tamales, spending hours chatting and bonding. It’s a tradition that I cherish so much, and I believe it showcases just how well food brings us all together. 

Most importantly, anyone with a seat at our table is family – whether related by blood or not, and whether they stay for the night or a lifetime. 

Nasser Gonzalez

Senior Software Engineer
Belfast, Ireland

What is something special about your culture?

Spain is a small country with a lot of different cultures, and we have a lot of different celebrations. One of the most important celebrations is "Las fallas de Valencia." During the whole year, the Valencian people build wooden monuments called "Fallas," which are massive and beautiful. At the end of the celebration, in the evening of the 19th of March, all but one will be burnt during the "Crema" (Burning).

Tell us about your heritage. Describe the culture you grew up in and some of the values and traditions your family and culture have instilled in you.

I think that family is a very important pillar of our culture. Most families meet on Sundays to have a gathering and to have lunch together. I find that life in Spain is more centered around family and friends than in other places. Outside of Spain, meeting someone is like an event while meeting a friend or a family in Spain is the norm. It would be really weird if you are in Spain, and you don’t call a friend to get a quick coffee during the week to catch up.

What are some challenges you have faced personally or professionally because of your heritage?

In Europe, Spaniards are stereotyped as being lazy. I find myself always trying to work harder than everyone because I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh look, the Spaniard is slacking.’ 

Ryan Soles

Enterprise Sales Manager
San Francisco, CA

Ryan Soles headshot

What is something special about your culture you want to share?
The food, the people, the language, the history. I grew up in a very traditional Catholic Mexican household (influenced by my mother’s side of the family). We would do the Mexican hat dance as young kids, host mariachis, and my grandfather would invite our priest over to host mass.

Tell us about your heritage. Describe the culture you grew up in and some of the values and traditions your family and culture have instilled in you.
I was raised in a traditional Hispanic household in Hughson, California, which is a small farming town in the Central Valley. Even though my father is Irish, I was raised predominantly by my mother's side of the family. My grandfather was born in Jalpa, Zacatecas, Mexico. One of the values that I still carry with me today is hard work. 

I spent every summer working at my grandfather's agri-labor service/fruit packing house. Even though I was a grandson, I had to start from the bottom. The idea of putting in the work is what has helped me have a passion for hard work and to never give up. On the religious side of things, we would hold Stations of the Cross, celebrating Three Kings Day, and making tamales during Christmas. Every celebration includes mariachis, with my entire family in attendance, which is more than 30 aunts, uncles, and cousins. These traditions are what has helped shape me, and they are what I'll pass on to my children.

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