[su_label type=”info”]Latinos Redefining tech: Julian Gutierrez[/su_label]

Julian Gutierrez of Code 2040 poses for a portrait at the company’s headquarters on March 2, 2017. Photo: Drago Rentería

Julian Gutierrez had dreamed of becoming an artist and doing comic book design when he was younger. He conceived superheroes in his head and drew them to manifest their power. He was confident that art would form a huge part of his career, and considered turning to the advertising industry to get a jump start in the professional world.

But Gutierrez is now the community partnerships manager at Code2040, a nonprofit organization committed to closing the skills/opportunity gap in the tech industry. Code2040 offers summer programs for college and graduate-level students with strong technical skills, helps young professionals land top internships and full-time jobs with tech companies, and supports entrepreneurs of color in a year-long residency program powered by Google Entrepreneurs.

Had you asked him 10 years ago where he would be now, he most likely wouldn’t have responded with, “in tech.” In fact, he doesn’t have a technical background. So how did this non-engineer break into the tech industry and what has he drawn from his personal and professional background?

Gutierrez, 31, grew up in Watertown, Connecticut with his sister and their Peruvian parents. He attended Catholic school before attending New York University (NYU). After graduating from NYU with a bachelor’s degree in communications studies, he remained at the university for another five years, assisting with development events and alumni relations.

After spending almost 10 years at NYU, Gutierrez moved to San Francisco without a job, and took short-term gigs at Indiegogo and Dolby, which sparked a curiosity for tech. While at Indiegogo, he managed customer support during the launch of Indiegogo’s new website, and when at Dolby, he worked in their human resources department, coordinating professional development trainings for internal staff.

Julian Gutierrez of Code 2040 poses for a portrait at the company’s headquarters on March 2, 2017. Photo: Drago Rentería

Through a staffing agency, he learned about other job opportunities. His current position at Code2040 presented a big challenge and steep learning curve. “I felt like an imposter. When you work with tech people, you learn that they speak another language, and I didn’t follow at first,” he said. “Coming from a stable work environment [and moving] to a startup, I found myself questioning my fit the first month in the organization. Gradually, I became comfortable not knowing and asking more questions.”

Gutierrez wasn’t only learning tech jargon, he was also picking up  commonly used terminology from scholars and activists. He first heard “Latinx,” a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina, when he began work at Code2040 (Code2040 includes the term in its mission statement). Gutierrez made the decision shortly after to use the term widely. “I [decided to use “Latinx”] in the spirit of inclusion, and being open and respectful to everyone in the community.”

Despite the pushback that Gutierrez has received—mostly from Latino community members who question terminology that conflicts with tradition—he thinks it’s important to expand one’s vocabulary if it means that more people will feel safe. Gutierrez also believes that a lot of Latino culture contains machismo elements, so the journey to understanding the benefits and importance of the term, “Latinx,” particularly around gender inclusion, is not an easy one.

Gutierrez is proud of the work he is doing through Code2040. He finds excitement when he facilitates connections between students and corporate partners. He first meets with companies that he believes hold a high commitment to Code2040’s mission and have or are building a more inclusive space for their employees.

Code2040 establishes a partnership with a corporation, which it then exposes to potential hires, who have been recruited through Code2040 programming. Code2040 also creates safe community spaces through events that allow for company representatives to attend and network with students, while also learning more about Code2040’s mission. Gutierrez enjoys incorporating new technology in the workplace: he uses Slack, a real-time messaging platform, to connect with the Code2040 community, and Asana to manage projects and events internally.

Gutierrez’s biggest superhero? His father. His father is an electrical engineer who didn’t have access to computer science classes, but tore apart televisions and remote controls to kick off his career. Gutierrez hopes he too can be a role model.

The tech industry has generated a lot of buzz in the last few years, and understanding the social complexities behind the industry has been a focus point for diversity advocates. Whether it is holding the industry accountable for its lack of diversity or rejecting sexual harassment in the workplace as was the case recently at Uber, Gutierrez feels transparency is what will create a more honest, vibrant and diverse industry.

On a more personal level, Gutierrez is helping redefine the makeup of the tech community. He seeks to create more visibility about Latinos in tech, leverage their stories to inspire others, and leave a legacy in his community. We look forward to following his success. If we’re lucky, we’ll be his sidekick.