It was wonderful to sit down recently with Lala Castro of LatinaGeeks whose own story of triumph over hardship and of pushing through stereotypes which serves as an inspiration to us all. LatinaGeeks is a media company Lala started with partner Tanya Salcido with a focus of inspiring and empowering more Latina women to be involved in the tech industry and to embrace their "inner geek".
As a Latina woman in tech myself, it actually came as a surprise to me, when thinking back on my career, that I could only name a handful of Latina women like me in technology. I never really thought about the reasons for why this could be, but did find it strange to reflect on. As Lala puts it, technology especially in Hispanic cultures is not a “feminine” career, many Latinas feel intimidated by technology, which is why she created LatinaGeeks ...to make technology more accessible. LatinaGeeks is a platform to share resources and knowledge regarding tech and to empower women to embrace technology, because it truly is everywhere you look whether on your phone through the multiple apps we use daily or in the kitchen with new smart gadgets. It’s important for all of us to know the coming trends and to embrace them rather than be intimidated by technology. As Lala puts it, she wanted to create a space where women could educate each other “Comadre to Comadre “. As a native Spanish speaker, when I hear the word Comadre, it has a deep sense of sisterly love, its actual translation being godmother or sometimes even midwife. It feels like sisters who are also best friends.
Lala’s own journey into technology started at a very young age, when she was inspired by a field trip to Boeing at the the age of 8, she knew then she wanted to create and invent something. But at that age and time, she didn’t have role models to inspire her on that path and her traditional Mexican family wasn't necessarily encouraging of a STEM career.
Another hurdle she had to overcome was getting pregnant at a very young age, which caused her to drop out of school. Yet, that hardship actually motivated her to break away from both stereotypes and provided her with the drive to not only provide for her son, but to also become a role model to him. What for many could be seen as insurmountable obstacles became a path to Lala’s successful entrepreneurial journey driving her to launch and create a successful ecommerce business, before they really existed. Her ecommerce site selling jewelry gave her a real world education on sourcing, logistics, marketing, design and more. Top media outlets such as Oprah featured her brand twice and other top publications like Life and Style showcased her jewelry.
Eventually bigger brands came into the space and their bigger marketing budgets inevitably impacted her business bottom line, which led to her shutting down business. However, the experience taught her the ins and outs of building a successful business and also opened the path for working with more brands.
From there, Lala started working in social media for a digital marketing agency and fell in love with the work. This served as launching pad where she taught brands how to engage with their customers on social. She worked with brands such as Toshiba and Johnny Rockets and ran their Latin American accounts which solidified her passion for Hispanic marketing and led her again to the path of start her own company. However, as a serial entrepreneur, this time around she is approaching things differently, she’s experienced financial success in her career and this time around is more focused on enjoying a balanced life.
What does true success mean?
For Lala, it means being able to wake up and love the life you have. It’s more than having a passion for making money, Lala wants to give back and she is doing that through her culture, food and travel brand Sparking Lala where she is committed to helping small business owners share their journeys through marketing and social media. She’s also giving back through her work with Latina Geeks, providing educational resources and insights to make tech accessible to our underserved Latina sisters.
When I asked Lala what advice would she give to other young female and / or Latina entrepreneurs, Lala left me with these wise words, that I personally took to heart.
“You don’t need to change who you are, embrace your personality. For Latinas embrace your culture more. Use it as an asset to grow in your career. Invest in your education, try to learn something new, always be growing, stay curious and study voraciously about the topics that interest you. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Be fearless!"
Today there are countless resources for those that have the desire, programs such as Sabio in Los Angeles which is teaching people how to be developers. These resources are easy to find if you search for them, with many programs specifically targeted for minorities and underserved populations, just seek them out.
And lastly, for any ladies or brands out there that are interested in working with LatinaGeeks , please inquire. I’m personally ecstatic that I am now a Comadre helping mis hermanas learn about technology and how to get ahead in their careers. Thank you Lala for being a shining light and inspiration to us.