When Pete Torres transitioned to the IT industry after serving in the military, he encountered a noticeable lack of Hispanic representation at conferences and events he attended. Even when he was young, the idea of a career in technology was \u201cnot really an option,\u201d he says, owing in part to the IT industry\u2019s decades-long issues with Hispanic and Latinx representation.\n\nNow a director of engineering at Capital One, Torres is among many of his generation seeking to change the equation \u2014 and to inspire Hispanic and Latinx students to consider IT as a viable option for developing a meaningful career.\n\nFor Torres, having children of his own was a turning point, and he began to think about the importance of instilling an interest in STEM fields at a young age. He considered what he wished he knew when he was younger and looked at how to \u201cpropose this potential career path to other people that might not be aware of it,\u201d starting him on a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey that continues to this day.\n\nInspiring a new generation \u2014 and diversifying the talent pipeline\n\nAccording to Pew Research, Hispanic and Latinx professionals fill only 8% of STEM roles in the US workforce, despite representing 17% of the total job market. Furthermore, their labor is valued less by employers, with Hispanic IT professionals earning just 83% of what their White colleagues make, a number that has dipped from 85% in 2016. All this, despite industry-wide efforts in recent years to rectify diversity issues in IT and STEM.\n\nFor Torres, the path forward requires operating on two timelines at once. First, Torres has worked to strengthen diversity at a professional level at Capital One. And second is his work to help create opportunities for young people to embark on careers in tech. Through Capital One\u2019s Hispanic employee resource group (ERG), Torres and his colleagues have spent a \u201clot of time reaching out to the youth and driving diversity of thought\u201d across the organization.\n\nThis work includes helping to create a more diverse talent pipeline, as evidenced by Capital One\u2019s efforts to connect underrepresented students at the college level with technology opportunities, as well as local chapters\u2019 work with elementary schools. This outreach gives young people a chance to see people working in IT who share their \u201clast name or similar upbringing, out there talking in a suit and tie \u2014 it just brings confidence and lets them know that [IT] is now a career path and an opportunity,\u201d he says.\n\nQualcomm is another company diversifying its talent pipeline through programs that take the underrepresentation of Hispanic and Latinx individuals into account.\n\nCisco Sanchez, who got his first job at FedEx through InRoads, an internship program that creates career pathways for underserved students, worked his way up the FedEx ranks for 25 years before starting as CIO at Qualcomm just over a year ago. At FedEx, Sanchez was a sponsor of the Diversity Leadership Committee, which he has now carried over to his career at Qualcomm, where he is part of the LatinQ ERG. LatinQ focuses on identifying biases across the organization and helps ensure there are strong talent pipelines that give all employees the same roadmap to success, says Sanchez.\n\nOne big move Qualcomm has made in its IT recruiting efforts is to avoid falling into the trap of hiring only from a handful of prestigious colleges and universities, Sanchez says. As someone who came from a nontraditional talent pipeline himself, Sanchez knows there are plenty of IT skills that can be taught to anyone who is motivated and has an interest in learning.\n\nPlus, Sanchez says, with the rapid pace of changing technology, a four-year degree doesn\u2019t guarantee you\u2019ll be up to speed on the latest skills after graduation. As such, Qualcomm has shifted to looking at candidates who have different types of schooling \u2014 certificates, non-computer science degrees, and people with no experience who can be quickly trained on the latest coding skills.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s this conscious effort of \u2018How do we retrain our mind a bit to start to pivot into a different direction?\u2019 When you open the ability to hire from a larger population of people, you also create the ability to have deeper and more diverse candidates,\u201d he says.\n\nMentoring to make a difference\n\nThe value of mentorship and sponsorship can\u2019t be understated when it comes to fostering and growing your career. But for underrepresented groups in the tech industry, it can be difficult to find mentors and sponsors inside and outside the organization. Mentorship is all about creating connections that help professionals better understand what it takes to go to the next level, says Tim Grijalva, president of GoDaddy LatinX technology and director of learning.\n\n\u201cI think that individuals that have opportunities, whether that\u2019s been through academic, or they\u2019ve had mentors in their life, they\u2019ve had more exposure to understand\u201d what it takes to develop a career, he says. \u201cIt\u2019s about conversations. It\u2019s about asking questions to understand how you become manager or director. For folks in the Latin community itself, it\u2019s a challenge because I think not everybody feels that some of those higher achievements are available to them as a Latino. And it\u2019s often hard to understand who you can ask and who you can have the conversations with to understand [a path forward in tech].\u201d\n\nIn fact, there was a time when Grijalva himself wasn\u2019t sure if he\u2019d be able to land a job at GoDaddy without a background in engineering. But after getting a job in learning and sales, his career grew with the organization, putting him on the path to leadership.\n\nCapital One\u2019s Torres says he is lucky to have found strong mentorship opportunities throughout his career and credits his mentors as allies whose faith and trust in him helped give him a platform for his career. And now, Torres is paying that support forward.\n\n\u201cI see myself now as being in a position where I can push or pull up people, and that\u2019s extremely important to me. The importance of having that mentorship, awareness, ability to bounce ideas off someone, and to gain perspective and understanding of the way other people think was invaluable to my growth and my development,\u201d says Torres.\n\nThe power of ERGs and opportunities to build a path to leadership\n\nAnother way companies are helping have an impact is in facilitating \u2014 and empowering \u2014 ERGs. These groups give employees a safe space where they can connect with others who share similar backgrounds or experiences, giving them stronger connections at work. Such environments can be crucial to empowering employees to voice their opinions and give authentic and genuine feedback, which is vital in moving the company forward.\n\n\u201cIn my experience, we come together, and we are very authentic,\u201d says Torres of his ERG experience at Capital One. \u201cWe wear our hearts on our sleeves and it comes across very naturally. Again, that\u2019s probably a result of our upbringing and our experiences. What I\u2019ve learned is that [can be perceived as] somewhat intimidating by others, and that it wasn\u2019t coming from a place of fear, it was coming from a place of lack of understanding. So I\u2019ve spent a lot of time in my leadership career focusing on creating that safe place for people to be themselves and to be authentic.\u201d \n\nERGs also give employees a chance to connect, network, and grow their careers within the organization. A huge part of DEI is not only who and how you recruit and hire but also whether your diversity efforts continue all the way up the organizational ladder. Building diversity in leadership is about creating and exposing underrepresented groups to opportunity.\n\nAt Qualcomm, diverse hiring panels help ensure there are fewer biases in the hiring process, says Sanchez, who adds that the company\u2019s panels reflect the diversity they want to see in the organization. Once candidates are hired, internal coding bootcamps can help open new opportunities within the organization.\n\nAs for leadership opportunities, Torres says Capital One works closely with nonprofit groups such as Hispanic IT Executive Council (HITEC) to develop leadership and emerging executive programs and tech college classes for employees to work on developing new skills.\n\nGiving back and pushing forward\n\nLike Torres, Grijalva also believes in the power of helping to uplift the next generation. To that end, GoDaddy\u2019s Latinx and Technology ERG has built a partnership with a local high school in Arizona that has a majority Hispanic and Black demographic, where they review resumes of juniors and seniors.\n\nThey also help students better understand how their background and experiences can boost their resumes and even help them in interviews. Grijalva says they hold conversations with the students about how to show up to job interviews, what challenges they might face, and that \u201cyou don\u2019t have to speak perfect English in order to nail your interview,\u201d he says.\n\n\u201cBecause most of the time when you\u2019re going for a job at a job interview, leaders are looking for commitment and dedication. And by having those conversations younger, they really start understanding that it doesn\u2019t matter much about the color of [their] skin or [their] accent in this meeting. Really what it comes down to is having a mentor showing [them] a roadmap,\u201d Grijalva says.\n\nMaking a difference indeed.