What You Put Your Attention On Grows

with Melissa Ortiz

Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hi! My name is Melissa Ortiz. I’m a web developer and women in tech advocate. I’ve worked with React, WordPress and dabbled in Ruby on Rails. I’m highly introverted but also strive to be a positive influence on the people around me. I was a stay at home mom for the better part of the last decade but decided just two years ago that I wanted something more for myself and started looking into career fields that suited me. Software developer felt like a natural fit and while the journey has been nothing short of exhausting and frequently frustrating, it’s full of moments that leave me feeling satisfied and happy to be on the path I’m currently on. I’m a mom to three amazing kids, Zachary, Jasmine and Victoria as well as a military spouse. You can say my plate is full but so is my heart (so mushy and cliche, I know) I fell in love with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoy reading books whenever I have a spare moment, which is few and far in between these days.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” This really resonated with me because for a very long time I didn’t take action for fear of judgement. When it clicked that not everyone is going to like me and that’s ok, it was a really liberating feeling.

What would you say to 16 year old you?
You are responsible for your life and future. Don’t let other people’s opinions sway what you do with your future.
You are amazingly smart and know what you are doing.

Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel?
I’ve felt doubt pretty much my whole life. Unfortunately I didn’t have a great support system in my youth. It made me feel like I constantly had to prove myself and be the best. I developed a perfectionist mindset which was so exhausting. It’s not a good feeling, but the silver lining is that it helped me discover some of my potential and that I could always do a little more than I thought I could do.

What message do you think every woman should hear?
There is no one right way to do things. We are all different, have different goals and desires. Because of that, we can help each other and learn from one another without fear of our own thunder being stolen.There is more than plenty of it to go round and you know what? Helping others helps you too.

Have you always had confidence in yourself?
Definitely not! I struggled with intense anxiety for many years. At one point it got so bad I felt anxious checking the mail. I feel like life is very much a rollercoaster. Some days I feel so confident and know I can accomplish anything. Others, I have no energy and don’t know how I’m going to accomplish anything. Something I’ve learned with age is that this is normal human stuff. I take it as a sign that I need to recharge my batteries and take care of myself. Taking care of my body has helped tremendously with my confidence. What you put your attention on grows.

What do you love most about yourself?
I am incredibly resilient, curious and optimistic. Looking back, I am proud of myself for never giving up and taking the easiest route. I’ve always wondered what a better life would look like and knew it was on me to make things happen. I truly believe happiness is a state of mind.

Did you always know what you wanted to do as a career?
No, in high school we took one of those career assessment tests and it placed me as a private investigator lol. After graduating high school I attended community college for social work, due to age restrictions within the program I had to put a pause on that degree for three years in order to be old enough to intern somewhere. In that time I had children and grew as a person. When I went back to finish, I realized that career path was no longer for me. I knew being a stay at home mom was only temporary for me so I started brainstorming. I made a chart with my traits and qualities I wanted to use and started googling career paths that interested me. Software development came up and didn’t require a college. I joined a front end online bootcamp and the rest is history.

Were you scared to start the process?
Oh heck yes! Being home with my kids was a safe choice. I could have stayed home, in fact, it was hard for many people to understand my choice and desire to reenter into the adult workforce. I still question my choices and have to keep telling myself that those voices are just scared and are trying to keep me safe. My inner dialogue had to become stronger than my fears or else I would have quit a long time ago.

If you weren’t doing the job you have now, what would you be doing?
Some kind of social work. I feel strongly about helping others and the power of support to evolve communities.

What are your biggest passions?
I’m passionate about getting more Latinas involved with technology. According to a study published by the Bureau of Labor in 2016, Latinas held only 1% of computing occupations. That’s a real problem with tangible consequences. If we don’t have a diverse set of experiences and backgrounds in the building phases, innovation is stifled and products are not representative of their audience. This is bad on multiple levels which I could go on and on about but I’ll save that for another day. Diversity is good for everyone involved.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Mistakes aren’t a bad thing. Changing this mindset was really tough for me (recovering perfectionist). Making mistakes means you’re trying and growing. Learning Software development really forced this lesson to sink in. I’ve failed more times than I can remember and still make mistakes everyday and I have to be forgiving and solution oriented.

How do you manage your work-life balance?
It takes a lot of communication with my family. When I have a product delivery date coming up, I have to be clear with them that I’ll be spending more time working and won’t be able to do some of the fun stuff they want me to do with them. They’re usually pretty understanding since its not all the time that that happens. I’m trying to teach them to communicate their needs with me because one thing I fear is them resenting me for not spending enough time with them and in my mind the way to avoid that is to give them the tools to tell me what they need from me and I’ll do my best to give it to them. It honestly doesn’t always work out this way and I end up pushing too far and I have to touch base with my priorities and reevaluate in that moment. Balance is impossible to maintain all the time. I think it’s a matter of how fast you are able to get back to a good place for yourself.

What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
Each morning I start my day by doing a quick review of my goals that I have written in my planner, sometimes it’s just a quick glance, and other times I have more time to do some elaborating. In the evenings I write three things I’m grateful for and write a quick summary on how I felt I did for the day. I admit I don’t always get around to doing this in my planner because I’m just so exhausted, but I do think about it while I’m lying in bed unwinding and getting ready to fall asleep. I feel like even thinking about it really helps me stay focused and keep moving forward.

Where do you find inspiration?
There are two things I do, the first is to connect with nature. I live very close to a nature preserve where I enjoy taking walks while letting my mind wander and recharge. I love watching TED Talks on youtube! After I get the kids in bed sometimes I’ll unwind with a TED marathon watching thought provoking and inspiring content really helps fill my inspiration tank.

What motivates you most?
My kids, and all the children. They are truly the future. If we don’t encourage them and show them a different, better way how will they know any better? I’ve heard people say things like “This generation has no hope, they eat tide pods” and yet, I don’t see them doing anything to help show them what they could be doing instead. Lots of talk but not much action.

What is something on your bucket list?
I want to start a fund that sends bright kids who would otherwise not have the chance, to space or technology camp every summer.

Who is your biggest role model? Why?
Grace Hopper, she was Rear – Admiral in the US Navy and also one of the first computer programmers! She worked on the Mark 1 computer for Harvard in 1944 and played a crucial role in developing the first commercial computer. She was a serious bada**! Eternally curious and dedicated to her students she set the bar very high for following generations. I admire her drive and passion and the fact that it was such a smart and passionate woman who shaped the early days of computer programming.

melissa ortiz

Melissa Ortiz is a web developer and women in tech advocate. She is passionate about getting more Latinas involved with technology.

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