“Anywhere I go, I have this flavor,” says Miguel L., his brown eyes twinkling. “Well, I call it flavor, but Panamanians call it salsa, which is that little bit of spice that excites you about life.”
Miguel embodies the spirit of leading by example and bringing your own flavor of salsa to the table. Lifting others up and being seen for who they are is a value woven through the fabric of many Latinx and Hispanic Meta employees’ lives. During Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re telling stories of being the first in their families to do something new, help others feel seen and understood, and much more.
Miguel left his native Panama as a teenager to become the first of his siblings to go to college in the United States. And while being bilingual in Spanish and English helped him get his first job in data systems, it wasn’t always welcome as his career advanced.
“There were some folks at a company I used to work for that were Hispanic, and someone heard me speaking Spanish to them,” he explains. “Later I was told, 'We don't speak Spanish here—it's rude.' And that was shocking to me at the time.”
In that moment, Miguel made a decision that would affect him for years to come. “I thought, well, the only way to be accepted or move forward at work was to be Americanized. And so I transformed myself.” Miguel changed his hair and style of dress, and stopped speaking Spanish at work. “I just tried to fit that mold,” he says.
Years later, a friend who worked at Meta told Miguel the data engineering team was hiring. “We have a different culture out here,” the friend said. “You should try it."
On his first day of orientation, Miguel learned about the Latin@ employee resource group and immediately joined. “The leaders in the group said, ‘Yeah, come on. The more, the merrier. You can be yourself.’”
Data engineering manager Miguel embraces the many flavors of life.
“Here at Meta, it's so refreshing, because I can be myself, from the colors I wear, my accent, even speaking to others. I sometimes start a meeting with ¿Que tal? and people say, 'What does that mean? I want to know!' Whereas before, speaking Spanish was a closing door.”
Miguel, now a data engineering manager, pays it forward as much as he can. “As a leader, I feel comfortable extending an invitation because I felt that invitation when I first joined. And eventually, those around me are going to feel that, too.”
A native Texan, Jasmine takes in the views at Meta’s offices in Austin.
Jasmine V. knows a thing or two about being herself while simultaneously being part of more than one culture.
“I’m bilingual, and there are often times that I think in Spanish and I speak in English. Every day I code switch and honestly, it’s a superpower,” says Jasmine, a public policy manager who connects local underrepresented communities with Meta-sponsored opportunities and initiatives.
Not only is Jasmine bilingual, her heritage is Mexican and Puerto Rican. She embraces this cultural duality and the richness it adds to her life.
“Even in my cooking, there are times where I'll bring in some seasonings that are Bori seasonings, and then some seasonings that are Mexican and it's just this beautiful blend of cultures.”
Born and raised on San Antonio’s south side, Jasmine became more aware as she grew up that the odds were stacked against her. “My parents wanted my brother and I to be successful, but we lacked resources and we lacked access,” she explains.
Like Miguel, Jasmine prioritized her education. In high school, she knew it was a way to a better life, so she started keeping track of scholarships on a spreadsheet and shared it with her classmates. This led to her being a Gates Millennium scholar and eventually finding her way to Meta.
“I think of the young Boricuas who may not think that tech is within their reach,” Jasmine says, “or the young Latinas that are like, ‘I have to learn coding to work in tech.’ And I'm like no, you don't have to. There are so many things that you can do here.”
When Jasmine connects with her partners for her work at Meta, it feels like a full-circle moment. “When I talk with underrepresented communities, they understand me, because I was once the kid in the after-school program that was the last one to get picked up because my mom picked up a couple more jobs. And so I always tell them, 'Dream big, because I have a seat at the table now.'”
Keelcy uses her background in immigration law to help further the careers of those around her.
Similar to Jasmine, Keelcy W. draws on her family’s experiences and uses her professional skills to assist others in bettering their lives.
“I actually never saw myself being in tech,” Keelcy W., a US immigration partner, admits. Inspired by her parents’ difficulties in navigating their lives as immigrants from Mexico, Keelcy initially pursued a career in immigration law.
“I saw the lack of resources and lack of support my parents received when they were first trying to have a savings account, open a bank account, things that we take for granted now. I wanted to know more about how I could help folks like my parents make sure they can better themselves.”
Keelcy got her law degree and worked in an immigration law firm right after school. After a while, she started considering other ways to be of service to people like the clients she was helping. "I started asking myself, what other support is out there for visa holders?”
To make this happen, Keelcy pursued a masters of law, focusing on business immigration. During this time, she learned that many tech companies have in-house support for employees who have company-sponsored visas.
“That led me into tech, and that led me to Meta, which is where I am now. I am a US immigration partner and I support our company-sponsored employees here at Meta through their visa process.That includes supporting our folks as they navigate international visa requirements to making sure we have internal programs folks can opt into if they wish to become lawful permanent residents.”
“Growing up, I didn't even know my job existed,” Keelcy says. “I did not think this was something companies would support, but it's so refreshing. I'm very proud to see we prioritize these types of roles. And when your employer is able to help you move down your path, not just from a professional perspective, but also from an immigration perspective, that to me is really important. Everyone should get the support they need to achieve the American Dream.”
Gelberg celebrates after earning his MBA.
“As a first generation college graduate, there were people that helped me out,” says Gelberg R., a data center design engineering manager. So I have always felt a sense of responsibility to pay it back to others, just like others were there for me, especially early on in my academic and professional career.”
Gelberg spent part of his childhood in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, in a neighborhood where gangs were prevalent and the grass in the public parks grew waist high because the city neglected to mow it.
But Gelberg wasn’t all on his own. His parents were supportive. “There were people along the way that helped guide me through that turbulent environment,” he shares.
Like Miguel, Jasmine and Keelcy, Gelberg is intentional about making others feel supported and comfortable within Meta, too. “I'll talk about my life or I'll talk about my personal story and journey,” he explains. “And if there's somebody who speaks Spanish, we might talk in Spanish so that there's no stigma in terms of speaking a different language.”
“I learned at a young age that things wouldn't change unless I took the initiative to make that change,” Gelberg says. “So that's almost always been the guiding principle for me – just try to open a path for others, try to help others, be there for others.”