Tatiana Fernandez is a first-generation Asian Latina. Her mom is from Guatemala and her dad is Chinese but was born in Cuba. Both of her parents immigrated to Los Angeles and that’s where Tatiana was born. Fernandez relishes her many interesting identities, such as being autistic, 1st gen and queer.
Fernandez is also a huge raver, but has taken a break from the music scene due to the pandemic. She credits her rave passion for driving her to look for work in the social media industry. She’s always wanted to go to festivals for free, loves social media and cherishes the community, but did not end up getting a job in the industry. Today, she loves her current job. At the moment she is working in the tech industry with the Meta company, focusing on social media managing and strategizing.
When Fernandez is not at work, you can find her creating content for her TikTok account dubbed “illumitatiii, where she shares information with her 32K followers about mental health, the marketing industry and the Los Angeles culture.
WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING A FIRST-GENERATION CHINESE, GUATEMALAN, CUBAN LATINA IN TECH?
Basically, in the spaces that I worked in within visual publishing those jobs have been primarily white spaces. I was always the diversity hire, I was always the Brown girl. All my previous workplaces have been mostly white people with a sprinkle of East Asians or prominently Asian, and I was always like the Brown girl. I felt very much like the token Latina girl there. In tech, what’s nice about it since I joined after the events of 2020 is that it is really diverse now. Most teams that I worked with, if you were to break it apart, it’s a good mix of people.
WHAT WAS YOUR DREAM JOB AS A CHILD WAS IT TECH?
I didn’t even know tech was a thing honestly, until now. I always had a dream, I like to have a job with fame. As a kid, I was so out for lunch, I don’t think I ever had aspirations, like maybe I’ll be a lawyer or whatever. Like that’s what my parents told me to do. I don’t think I ever talked about the future, so I really didn’t know what I wanted to do.
YOU WERE RECENTLY DIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM AS AN ADULT. DOES IT AFFECT YOUR WORK?
Yes, it does in so many ways. For example, being on screen and having to present is really hard for me because I’ve always learned to mask and be autistic within an unreal life space. It’s hard for me to read the room, interact with my coworkers, only because I don’t know how to behave in that context and that’s a really hard element of it. Another hard part of it is structuring my day or struggling with auditory processing. I can have someone tell me things and I’m supposed to catch on quickly, but there’s definitely a delay, so a lot of the times I have to be writing what they’re saying so I can go back and register what was actually said because otherwise it’ll go in one ear and come out through the other.”
HOW DO YOU COMBAT BIAS IN THE TECH INDUSTRY?
I don’t think I had ever had to confront any bias personally within the tech industry. I think if it ever comes to that, it’s more on weighing in on things and how to potentially remove biases or anything that might be off-putting. One of my main things about working in socials is always making sure that I like don’t touch anybody’s biases or I like helping dismantle stereotypes and being inclusive and diverse to any content that I make.
WHY DO YOU THINK ASKING FOR MORE MONEY FROM EMPLOYERS CAUSES ANXIETY FOR FIRST GENS?
I really sat with myself for a long time to deconstruct, like what is it about that question that makes us so anxious, and I think it’s rooted in like our parents having to work mostly minimum wage jobs, getting paid under the table, working insane hours, and seeing that just sticks with you. Every time I would go up to my parents to tell them I’m making $15 an hour, they would be like ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ And I would think to myself, ‘I’m doing well,’ because 15 dollars was good enough for them. Every time I tell my parents I fought for more money, I knew my parents would chew me out. They would say, ‘Why would you risk this?’ And I think that’s a universal experience for a lot of my friends who are 1st generation.
It’s also anxiety-inducing because often we’re asking a white person for more money and it’s scary. How do I convince them that I deserve more, when I have always been taught to settle. I believe it’s a psychological level where it gets tricky because I’ve been told my whole life to accept the bare minimum. We accept what we think is good enough and it’s converting those things of self-esteem and questioning yourself for being good enough, and it’s those questions you ask yourself that can be anxiety inducing.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN ENTERING THE TECH WORKFORCE?
My advice would be to feel okay to say no. I think a lot of us go into this industry and feel the need to always say yes. That leads to extreme burnout. I think there’s so many layers of burnout, especially if you come from different identities. If you’re a woman, if you’re a person of color, not only are you working but you’re subconsciously trying to navigate having to have a conversion with someone who is so different from us. That’s another level of energy that the white counterpart is not having, they’re not having that internal dialogue. I truly believe it’s okay to say no and it’s okay to have boundaries, figure out what those boundaries are and stick to them because otherwise you will suffer and no one will help you. At the end of the day you need to figure that out and really put that into place and then figure out what self care looks like for you, because you will be tired and you will be unhappy.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO USE TIKTOK TO SPREAD AWARENESS ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH, WORK LIFE AND YOUR CULTURE?
Honestly, I’m amazed. I know I don’t have a huge platform, but I’m amazed to see the feedback and like the change that I was able to make to some of these people’s lives. I’ve jumped on so many calls with people who just needed help getting their foot in the door. I’ve also done resume screenings, as well. I understand that in my 1st generation community, we don’t have a lot of resources. If I can be a resource to someone, that is everything to me because I wish I would have had someone like me growing up. My life would have been a lot easier. It is an honor that people watch my stuff. Even if I get 500 views on a video, I think to myself ‘Wow. I may have changed 500 people’s way of thinking or even helped them make their day a little better.’ It’s truly rewarding to see how I’ve changed some of these people’s lives.”
Amairani Hernandez is a native of Los Angeles and a graduate of California state University of Los Angeles with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She is a freelancer and focuses on stories about Latinos, including social justice, art and culture. She also likes to sing and dance in her free time and loves to listen to the radio in the mornings.