Latinas Engage in Technology
By Gloria Romano-Barrera
Hispanics make up 17 percent of the U.S. workforce but only 8 percent of those work in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) job. Despite the continued underrepresentation of Hispanic Americans in STEM professions, Leigh Ann Lucero at Microsoft Corporation, Dyan Gibbens at Trumbull, Dr. Maria-Cristina Spiak at Boeing, and Ruanna Owens at TomTom are breaking the stereotype in the IT industry, inspiring the next generation of Latinas in technology.
Leigh Ann Lucero
Associate General Counsel, Gaming, Corporate, External & Legal Affairs
A member of Microsoft’s Corporate, External, & Legal Affairs (CELA) team for over 13 years, Leigh Ann Lucero, Associate General Counsel, Gaming, has supported many groups with the Xbox Gaming business. She has led a team of legal professionals who advise multiple business groups, including Xbox Game Streaming, Gaming Ecosystem Organization, Gaming Marketing, and Customer Experiences Business Development.
“As a legal adviser, I’ve had the privilege of working with business clients and external partners who are creative and passionate about bringing engaging and inclusive games and products to consumers,” she shares. “My responsibilities range from advising on legal and regulatory issues to transactions and negotiations to supporting product planning and strategy. I’ve been part of multiple Gaming product launches including the Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles, the Xbox Game Pass subscription service, and the Project xCloud game streaming platform.”
Lucero’s professional journey started with roles in higher education administration, followed by practicing law first at a law firm and then as in-house counsel at a financial institution. When it was suggested that she apply to Microsoft, she was not confident in the opportunity to pursue a legal role in a large tech company. However, she was confident in her abilities as a business adviser and a transactional attorney.
“I had significant experience in counseling and bringing a diverse set of opinions and ideas together to solve problems,” she shares. “I realized that I had several successes in learning new subjects, and I was excited by the prospect of supporting a consumer product like Xbox.”
Lucero is actively involved in Microsoft’s CELA D&I initiatives, embracing the company’s commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture, and a workplace where their authentic self is celebrated.
“As a current Chair of our Hispanic & Latinx CELA employee network, my focus is growing our future Hispanic and Latinx legal leaders,” she shares. “This means not only supporting professional development programming and networking but serving as a mentor and sponsor. Fortunately, I encountered strong mentors, both men and women, who thoughtfully guided me and modeled how to first identify and then actively promote my strengths, skills, and accomplishments. And it is because I listened to one of my mentors, that I applied for a role at Microsoft.”
“For me, choosing a STEM career culminated from a series of experiences as well as a desire to use technology to improve environmental responsibility, support international stability, and empower the next generation,” shares Dyan Gibbens, CEO, Trumbull, Unmanned. “With my father working in the FAA – Federal Aviation Administration for 41-years and my mother (a former teacher) taking us to museums, it seemed like a natural progression in hindsight. My parents would take my sisters and me to airshows as young girls which fed my curiosity of engineering. As a young girl, I remember being intrigued by the design of the F-117 during its second public appearance in Fort Worth and wanting to learn more about aerospace.”
Gibbens studied engineering, instructed skydiving, and learned to fly at the U.S. Air Force Academy. While serving as an Acquisitions Officer and engineer, she earned her MBA. She then supported Air Force One and Global Hawk UAS engineering and logistics. As a PhD candidate, her research in industrial engineering and management focused on unmanned systems (drones), RFID/wireless systems and computer vision/machine learning. In 2019, Google selected Gibbens as 1 of 8 individuals globally for their Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) focused on AI ethics. Since 2013, she has led Trumbull, a Forbes Top 25 veteran founded startup, focused on automation, data, and environmental resilience in energy and defense.
“Trumbull is an extension of serving in different ways,” she shares. “At Trumbull, we serve our clients, we serve the environment, and we serve the next generation. We support national security through our efforts in energy and government. We use technology to digitize the inspection process, to support environmental responsibility and efficiency, and to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.”
Born in the U.S., her mother is of Spanish descent and father is of Mexican, Spanish, and other descent, she believes her ancestors were voyagers and developers.
“On my mother’s side, her descendants traveled from the Canary Islands as one of 16 families to help settle and establish San Antonio, Texas in 1731,” she shares. “On my father’s side, the Medinas are entrepreneurs running family-owned and operated restaurants, hair salons, and art exhibits. On good days, I like to imagine I inherited leadership and entrepreneurship traits from both sides of my parents. In addition to a strong work ethic, my grandparents stressed education. My parents, first-generation college graduates, stressed that education provides optionality.”
Dr. Maria-Cristina Spiak
BGS Process Management Lead
“Since I was a little girl, my mom used to tell me that I should pursue STEM because math came easy to me, but it was when I was 15 years old that I knew exactly what I wanted to study in College while watching a novela,” shares Dr. Maria-Cristina Spiak, BGS Process Management Lead, Boeing. “I realized I wanted to be a Computer Systems Engineer when I saw a character with that profession in action. He became my hero design and implementing computer systems. Still today I love Sci-Fi because it is a quick look into what the future will bring to us if we continue developing in STEM.”
With over 20 years of experience creating, developing, and managing computing and technical systems, software quality assurance, training, consulting, and process improvement, Panamanian-born Dr. Spiak, started working at Boeing as a Data Architect. In 2007, she became a Quality Manager in the 737 Program. In 2014, she became a Supplier Program Manager in SSG Supplier Management to lead the newly created SSG Supplier Quality team. In 2015, she supported the promotion of Quality Culture at the Boeing Commercial Supplier Management organization. Today she is the BGS Process Management Lead. In this role, she establishes BGS process management governance structure, lead corrective action, root cause analysis and process improvement activities. Standardize the sustain, the gains process, collection of best practices. Research and implements innovative best practices and aligns BGS process management with QMS and internal audit.
“It feels great when we close a project on time that support our organization,” she shares. “Collaborating with our partners to reach our goals gives me great satisfaction. I consider an accomplishment when one of my mentees get promoted. I enjoy people development.”
“I love the people and the culture, and the fact that it’s a global, multicultural, company that is doing important work that actually has a tangible impact,” says Ruanna Owens, Digital Marketer, TomTom, the location technology company. In her role, Owens specializes in developer relations and B2B marketing. Owens transitioned into tech after having a career in education where she taught third grade in Oakland, California. After five years of teaching in education she decided to switch careers to a place where she could still utilize her skills and continue to make a positive impact.
“I realized that my skills were transferrable and that I could bring my passions into my work in tech,” she shares. “Now that I’ve been in tech for a little while, I realize even more how the tech industry can be a way to drive meaningful impact in underserved communities. I’m fortunate now to be involved in my company’s women’s employee resource group (ERG), and Latinas in Tech, thanks to my current position.”
Owens successfully transitioned her career by building her portfolio through taking online courses, running her blog, networking in organizations and platforms such as LinkedIn, and taking part in volunteer and internship opportunities. Her persistence in adding to her resume eventually paid off, as recruiters in tech started to take notice which granted her interviews with different employers.
“It wasn’t easy, but throughout the process I also reminded myself that every rejection was a redirection to where I was truly supposed to be,” she shares.
Owens loves the creativity aspect of her position and supports the TomTom Enterprise Business Unit with website content, digital marketing, copy editing, content strategy and creation, just to name a few.
As co-lead of TomTom’s women’s ERG for North & Latin America and co-lead of the Silicon Valley chapter of Latinas in Tech, she is passionate about education and tech for good and committed to increasing equity and diversity in the tech industry.
Owens, who is of mixed heritage takes a strong interest in other cultures and has a passion for diversity, equity, inclusion, and multiculturalism. Her strong values and belief in collaboration and empathy for immigrant communities has resonated into her professional life and are an asset to the company as she works with diverse groups and teams on various projects.
“My role makes an impact at TomTom and beyond by telling the stories of how maps and location tech are disrupting industries and making a positive difference in the world,” she shares. “I love the people and the culture, and the fact that it’s a global, multicultural, company that is doing important work that actually has a tangible impact – location technology is such an important and wide-reaching part of everyone’s lives. I also appreciate the flexibility, the exciting mission, the opportunities to travel and work with colleagues from around the world, and the fact that I am always learning something new and growing in my career.”
Owens is also a leader of the Silicon Valley Chapter of Latinas in Tech, a nonprofit organization with a mission to support, connect, and empower Latinas working in technology through professional development, recruiting, and mentorship. Owens is also passionate about being a resource for young people and others who are looking to make a career change.
“Technology is so much more than technical roles. If you’re interested in technical roles, that’s awesome and we definitely need more Latinx engineers, developers, and data scientists,” she shares. “But if you’re not a technical person, there’s still a place for you in tech. There are so many different areas and roles within those areas: marketing, content creation, sales, events, HR, the list goes on. The opportunities are endless! I never thought I would end up in tech. Now I’m affecting change in a whole different way that I never thought I could. In tech, you have a huge opportunity to have an impact and challenge the status quo. Having a diverse representation of cultures, voices, and ideas enables inclusivity, innovation, generational wealth and socioeconomic equity.”