What comes to mind when you read the words, Open Doors? For me, I immediately think of access, opportunity, and in some ways, even freedom. Maybe it's a little deep, but an open door could make all the difference in someone's life. At least that’s been the case for me.
Here's a bit of my story.
My childhood was full of experiences that some might regard as struggles or misfortunes — whether it was losing my dad at the age of nine, having to walk through metal detectors just to get to class, or merely growing up in the gritty backdrop of North Philadelphia. However, the reality is you don't know what you don't know. I knew things were hard, but hard was normal. So although my youth may not have been picturesque and full of rainbows, it still had an intrinsic and authentic beauty to it.
We had the best summer block parties that featured fire hydrants on full blast, homemade DJs showing off their mixing skills, and the best array of food you could ask for from a multicultural community. Imagine making your way down the street and adding fried chicken, rice and beans, and maybe even some baked mac and cheese to your plate, all the while trying to avoid bumping into the neighbors dancing on the sidewalk.
As a kid, I loved going to school. Call me crazy, but I would actually get pretty upset when we had days off. It was an outlet for me, so I naturally excelled at it even as a young kid and kept it up into my high school years. This is where my journey began to take an interesting turn. Whether it was in the library or in the computer lab, I began to get real access to computers for the first time. Once I realized that I could take the drawings from my sketch pad and bring them onto this new medium, I was instantly hooked. So I worked multiple jobs and saved up to buy my first computer: a used Bondi Blue iMac G3. It was a beauty, it belonged to me, and it ultimately became my ticket into the tech arena.
Once my obsession for design and tech became apparent, my computer lab teacher took notice. One day, Mrs. Bell pulled me aside and told me she’d submitted my name to be considered for a first-of-its-kind apprenticeship program. Lockheed Martin was kicking off a program that would give high school students a shot at working with them. After an intense interview process, I received the acceptance letter and landed my first real tech job at 16. It goes without saying there was a little Puerto Rican dance party at my house following that news.
Mrs. Bell opened a door for me that would prove to be pivotal in my life. I went on to work at Lockheed Martin for 10 years, then joined the likes of Google and Yahoo in Silicon Valley, along with a few startup ventures in between. Although there were many obstacles I've had to overcome on this journey in tech, my life could've taken a much different path if it wasn't for the doors that were opened for me. Mrs. Bell, Lockheed Martin, and the little army of champions it took to power that program became the shot I needed.
Today at Welcome, I have the honor of leading a fantastic team, serving incredible customers, and building a company that has a lasting impact. Though we might be a young company, we have great ambition. We know we can't solve all the problems in the world, but we can be part of contributing to the change we desire.
One of our company's core values is Open Doors: We build technology that unlocks access. We open doors and create space for diversity of people and thought. We believe when we look like the world, we can build for the world.
As our company scales, so will our initiatives toward this core desire. In the meantime, we're not waiting. We're starting something now.
I'd love to invite you to join us as part of our Opens Doors Event Series, where we highlight the unconventional stories of leaders from diverse backgrounds. Our hope is that their stories inspire yours. Whether you’re in a season of creating your own door to walk-through, are able to hold a door open for someone else, or are now able to create doors of opportunities for those behind you, we want you there.
These events are open to EVERYONE. So please invite your friend, son, daughter, partner, or even your boss. You’re all welcome here.
Think of it as a front porch conversation with friends after a lively summer block party. Come as you are.
Shoes are optional.