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Xiomara Contreras is an Associate Product Marketing Manager at Google where she builds strategies and campaigns for the small business team. Her work focuses on increasing the number of multicultural businesses that are online by helping them grow with Google products. She graduated from Northwestern University with a major in Communication Studies and a minor in Latina/o Studies. She is a proud Chicagoan and attended a boarding school in Concord, Massachusetts. Xiomara is also a first generation college student, and the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She is interested in the intersection of social justice, education, and technology. You can find her painting, drawing, writing memoirs, learning to do digital drawings, and volunteering with organizations the that helped her get to where she is today, including High Jump Chicago, the Daniel Murphy Scholarship fund, and the Pullman Foundation.
1. When did you know you wanted to be in tech?
I never decided that I wanted to be in the tech industry. I thought it was only for engineers and did not think about the business side. I was undecided in college about my career goals, so I applied to the Management Leaders for Tomorrow program to develop professionally and find internship opportunities. My MLT coach pushed me to apply to tech companies, even though I did not believe I had anything to offer to the industry. I knew little about it and was not sure if I would find my passions there. Even so, because of her encouragement, I applied to several tech roles, including the Google BOLD internship. This lead me to a full-time role in marketing, where I am still learning a lot and tackling daily challenges. I am curious to see where my tech and marketing experience takes me in the years to come.
2. Who is a role model that you look up to?
My older sister. Growing up, she faced a lot of obstacles, teachers gave up on her and some of our family members had low expectations of her. Through all of her struggles, my sister was always there for me — taking me to school, cooking food for us, and standing up for me. I was in middle school when she moved out of the house, but she still checked in on me and my little sister. She worked after school and on weekends to help our family, and to support herself now that she was not living with us.
When the local community college kept putting her in remedial courses, she made the choice to do a medical assistant program. Although the program put her in debt, she pushed forward and made what she could from it. I’ve learned from her to stand my ground, be loud, fight, and not let others step on me. Now, she is the mother of two beautiful children that have changed my life, and everyday I wonder how she does it.
3. Where is your hometown?
4. What’s a challenge you’ve faced in your career journey?
I had some difficult years in high school. I attended a boarding school in Massachusetts, starting at the age of 14, and had to adjust to a predominantly white and wealthy institution. I was behind in my education and no longer felt intelligent. Though I had supportive teachers and friends who wanted me to succeed, I still felt like I did not deserve to be there. Why were they dropping over 50K a year on me? I was also weary of sharing my home life with my peers, almost ashamed of where I came from.
During my sophomore year my mother and stepfather divorced, leading to a downward spiral of emotions and financial trouble. During my junior year, my mother got into a car accident, which left her unable to work for a year, and later she could only work a few days per week. I moved five times during high school because of our financial struggles, and during my senior year we were evicted from my grandmother’s house, and then had to figure out how to pay for funeral expenses for both my great grandmother and grandfather within a span of four months.
I felt guilty that nine months out of the year I had stability — a room and three meals a day. Through all of this, I somehow came out of my shell during my junior year and I found strength in my family. I learned that sticking together prevented us from hitting rock bottom; living in cramped apartments with other family members, getting help from my other grandfather, and making sacrifices for one another. Through all my worrying, my mother assured me that things would be okay and that I had to focus on my education. She wanted nothing to get in my way.
5. Describe a time you were proud of yourself.
My proudest moment was giving the graduation speech at the Latinx student congratulatory in college. I was honored to have been nominated and to speak to these beautiful families. Many people in the room were first generation college students, immigrants, and working class people. It was so special to see them in a room celebrating something so revolutionary, so against what this country expected from us. When I gave my speech, I shared my grandmother’s and my mother’s stories. I cried and the audience cried with me. Instead of feeling embarrassed, I felt community and support. I gave the speech in both Spanish and English. I was proud to have been a product of this collective love, of sacrifices, of dreams handed down to children, and of people who chose not to forget where they came from.
6. What’s something that’s been on your mind a lot lately?
Mental health in communities of color, access to resources, and destigmatization. How do we make sure we are not over medicating Black and Brown kids with ADHD, but also make sure they are being recognized and served? How do we open up conversations about depression and anxiety and overcome generational differences and provide free therapy and access to medication? What is the balance here?
7. Favorite food?
My abuelita’s mole rojo.
8. Mac or PC?
9. If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?
Eighth grade teacher.
10. If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
You are worthy. You are an asset in any room you step into. You are more than your academics. You deserve a break. You need to take care of your mind and body. It is okay to fail. It is okay to not always be strong and let yourself cry and let others hear you cry. You are not everyone’s rock.