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Of Identities and Privilege: Levelling the Playing Field – Great Learning


Buried in the marks of memories are questions one often wonders – what is it that made me who I am today? The world we live in is an amalgamation of cultures, languages, people, and their experiences. Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of this intricate web of relationships – to acknowledge and honor where we come from and how it shapes us. 

Meet one such wonderer- Gabriela Alessio Robles. Gabriela is a Senior Analytics Engineer at Netflix, working on personalization and creative production. When asked about how she would describe her cultural identity, she answers with an explanation that talks to the nature of distinctions we make among identities and how often identities are actually an amalgamation of various heritages. “I fully know that I am a hodge-podge of everything”, she says. 

The journey of growth through learning

Gabriela talks about how even her earliest memories of learning involved realizing she thrived with challenges. She decided to pursue Chemical Engineering and expresses her love for understanding the processes and phenomena behind things with a sense of wonder. The cohort in her college was very small, with very few women. She graduated into a recession with a lack of specialized jobs and she decided to venture into the financial domain. Gabriela decided to pursue an MBA degree with a joint Data Science degree. 

Being a Data Scientist from a background other than Computer Science, she remarks on how lucky she was to have met professionals and opportunities that let her explore the field. As a student, she describes how microaggressions and an environment that stereotypes women led to many female students in her cohort not completing their programs. 

“I don’t think getting any degree is easy, whether you’re doing literature or economics or engineering. When you don’t see a lot of people like yourself and there’s a sense of bad competition…”

Added to this systemic pressure was also the idea of explaining a cultural identity in America. As she explains the idea of belonging to a culture and the impact that it has on both professional and personal domains, Gabriela delves into how cultural identities equip individuals with a perspective that is different. It allows space for understanding issues surrounding cultural identities more sensitively.

“Back home, I never had to identify myself as a Latin or Hispanic person because everyone is Latin or Hispanic. Ofc there are many heritages and we come in many different colors but here I had to start identifying myself as Latin or Hispanic. It comes with some complications and baggage, assuming how much privilege you have…” 

The truth about shared realities

As Gabriela discusses the various ways in which her identity as a Hispanic woman working in her domain, we notice how much multiculturality and its acknowledgement works towards fairer representation. As the conversation progresses, it becomes evident that Gabriela possesses a strong sense of social justice, She explains the roots of this driving force as originating from her mother’s efforts towards helping communities with issues afflicted by a genocide. Drawing inspiration from the many ways in which her mother contributed to increasing social awareness and taking steps towards changing things, Gabriela talks about how she tries to contribute as much as she can within her domain to make the field more accessible. 

Her experiences as an individual with an intersectional identity paint us a clearer picture of the lived realities of the current world. Raised with a strong sense of justice and fair representation, values that come with social awareness, and understanding the minute details of systemic inequities, Gabriela still faced a set of problems in the technological domain as a woman of color. 

“It’s pretty daunting to be the only woman in the room, but then on top of that, you’re also the only person of color…It makes speaking up very daunting even if you’re surrounded by nice colleagues. That’s where allies really do play a role.”

She talks about wanting to have been consulted for professional decisions in many rooms, even if it is for things as simple as deadlines or confirmations. With an intersectional identity comes the pressure of not being able to say no to things to preserve a seat at the table. 

“If people are doing “x” you need to be doing “4x” just to be perceived at the same level.”

In her advice to young Hispanic women across the globe, Gabriela encourages them to take up technological skills as a process of learning and failing and learning from those as well. Inspirationally, she talks to young professionals about how important it is to just break into a field and do their best to thrive. Great Learning’s efforts towards helping professionals gain skills that help them realize their potential gain from Gabriela’s views and insights!

Find out more about the PGP in Applied Data Science Program here.

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