Erick Espinoza on Self-Awareness in the Professional Space

Photos by  Dianna Ascarrunz

Tell us about yourself. Include where you're from, what you do, how you’re thriving and anything else everyone should know about you.

I am a product manager, business strategist, and social activist who lives in Austin, Texas. I am originally from Houston. I moved to Austin in 2006 to attend Saint Edward's University, where I majored in international business. In 2016 I decided to go back to school to get a Master’s Degree in Technology Commercialization at the University of Texas. I have found my way to support the Latinx community in Austin by serving as the VP of Professional Development of Prospanica, an organization that empowers Latinx professionals to achieve their full educational, economic, and social potential. In my free time I like to travel, read, hike, listen to podcast/e-books, watch movies, and play and watch sports (especially basketball).

How do you identify culturally?

I identify as Latino. Specifically, Nicaraguan - American.

How does your cultural background inform your thinking and sense of being in the world? How has it informed past decisions, successes, failures?

Being Nicaraguan in the United States, particularly Texas, can be difficult at times. Most people in Texas automatically assumed that anyone of Latin descent is Mexican. When I tell people I'm Nicaraguense, I usually get a puzzled look. I typically take this as an opportunity to inform them about my culture. Many Americans don't know much about Nicaraguans. This is primarily due to the population and size of our nation. This has always made me feel like an outsider. Both in my personal life and in my career.

I've been reading a lot about impostor syndrome—the sense that you are a fraud in your industry, role or position, regardless of your credibility, authority or accomplishments. This feeling is especially prevalent among minorities. Women and minorities are disproportionately represented in my industry— technology. This lack of representation has emphasized my own battle with impostor syndrome. However, it has also empowered me to speak up and help change the status quo.

Early in my career, I started to notice that the vast majority of my co-workers fit the same profile. I recognized the issue but was too afraid to speak up because I did not want to bring attention to myself and have people find out that I did not belong. As my career progressed, I began to convince myself that I did belong. But it was not until recently that I found my voice and courage to speak up to make sure other minorities do not feel unworthy.

This is how I found my community calling. If you are in your position it is because you have earned it. We have all worked extremely hard to get where we are, and I don't want anyone to suffer from impostorism just because you are underrepresented. That is a systemic problem, not a personal problem. I strongly believe that diversity and inclusion are essential to the success of any community or organization. This is why I will continue leading and advocating for minorities through technology literacy, social empowerment, and professional development.

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What inspires you and who do you look up to?

I'm inspired by my mom, siblings, and KIPP teachers. They have all sacrificed so much to make a better life for their family and students.

My mom is an immigrant woman, single mom, and does not speak English. Yet she has always guided me to be the best version of myself and provided me with everything I need.

These are some of the people I look up to (in no particular order): Melinda Gates (philanthropist), Bill Nye the Science Guy (environmentalist), Barack and Michelle Obama (social activists), Elon Musk (futurist and technologist), Anthony Bourdain (author, chef, overall badass).

What is your best piece of advice to anyone who may be struggling?

The best piece of advice I would give to anyone who is struggling is to be self-aware and true to yourself. Make sure you stay physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy, otherwise, you won't be any good to anyone. Make sure to always incorporate these four pillars into your life to ensure you don't burn out - Mindfulness, Exercise, Diet, and Sleep. If you are struggling with anything, chances are that one of the four pillars are unbalanced.

What are your future goals and aspirations?

My future goals are to have a balanced life where I can provide for my family and have a positive impact in my community. I want to influence and inspire those around me to reach their full potential. I’m hoping that continued dialogue will highlight the difference between equality and equity so that everyone has the same opportunities. In terms of career aspirations, I want to eventually run my own technology business that builds products that improves our livelihoods.

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Share one thing people should know about the Latinx community?

The Latinx community is extremely diverse. Just because we share a common language does not mean we have the same culture. I think this is something that many people get confused. Every Latin-American county has its own unique culture, cuisine, dialect, religion, history, appearance, etc.

What is your favorite Latinx driven project and why is it your favorite?

My favorite Latinx owned business in Austin is La Mexicana. They have the best Tres Leches cake I've ever had and they are open 24 hours! I’m also a big fan of Diana Ascarrunz’s work.

My favorite non-profit is Latinas in Tech. I love their mission of empowering women to work in tech.