“When I started working at Salesforce, I was so excited to see all the Equality Groups,” remembers Wendy Zveglic, Senior Manager, Solutions Engineering Marketing Cloud at Salesforce.
“When I saw a post about Latinoforce, I thought ‘Yes! I belong. Here are my people.’ But there wasn’t a local ANZ version of the group yet.”
It wouldn’t be long until Wendy, Sergio Cutrera, Principal Solution Engineer at Salesforce, and a group of other Latino Salesforce employees, including Leandro Pérez, Midori Hiroishi, Carolina Teicher, Gareth O’Connor and Geovanna Pazmino, would bring ANZ’s Latinoforce group to life.
“Before Latinoforce, we used to go to the churrascaria near Darling Harbour just to catch up from time to time and speak to other colleagues in Spanish and share the spirit of our culture,” says Sergio.
“Sometimes it’s so good to connect with people from your own background, and we wanted to share that culture with others.”
“Our culture is all about inclusivity and flavour, joy and celebration,” Wendy says.
“We wanted to bring that Latin flavour to Salesforce in Australia.”
A trip back to Argentina for Sergio would help get the ball rolling. Latinoforce was the first equality founded in Argentina, and they were eager to help their ANZ colleagues build the group Down Under. Leandro Perez, VP of Asia Pacific Marketing, came on as their executive sponsor, with Segio serving as the President and Wendy as the head of philanthropy. Latinoforce ANZ was launched – just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning.
“We were born in lockdown,” says Sergio.
“It wasn’t an easy time for many people, especially for some of our colleagues living by themselves. “I’m totally convinced that the spirit of working together is quite important. So we planned events to help bring people together.”
“We had all the more reason to create something that would bring connection, diversity and culture at a time when people were really lacking connection,” Wendy agrees.
Latinoforce Event Chair, Geovanna Pazmino, took the lead to fill September with Latinoforce local events. The first event was Dine with Latinoforce — a competition that saw people sharing photos of food they’d prepared and posting their favourite Latino food or ordering their favourite Latino dish from a local restaurant to support them during lockdown. Dishes included tacos, ceviche and empanadas, with winners receiving Latinoforce branded swag. But the real thrill was the virtual shared feast and the opportunity to introduce foods — an essential and vivid part of Latino culture — to an audience hungry for connection, fun and insight into other cultures.
A sample of just some of the dishes Latinoforce served up and shared in the event Slack channel during the Dine with Latinoforce event.
Travel with Latinoforce has been another very popular event.
“We asked people to send photos of places in Latin America they’d travelled to or dreamed of going to,” Sergio says.
“This one really puts a smile on people’s faces – to travel with your mind after so long not being able to go anywhere.”
“It gave our leadership team a chance to share their heritage and the places that are meaningful to them,” Wendy says.
“Our Spanish language sessions also get a full house. It’s for anyone who wants to learn Spanish for travelling or because they have a partner who speaks Spanish or just for pleasure,” Sergio says.
And, as Wendy explains, the language sessions are a wonderful way to demonstrate how diverse Latin culture is.
“There are so many different ways to say the same thing! Mexicans have a different expression from Chileans who have a different way of saying it to Ecuadorians or Europeans.”
“We’ve done playlists of favourite Latin songs and shared them across different Slack channels, via email and in Zoom meetings to help lift people’s spirits,” Wendy adds.
“And we’ve shared lists of the Latin movies that have influenced us and invited other people to share the ones they’ve loved. We’ve partnered with Faithforce to talk about shared religious traditions and others that are unique to Latin cultures, like Mexico’s Christmas Posada. It was wonderful to have someone from Mexico talk to us about the essence of that celebration, and the foods, drinks and costumes that all play a part.
“We have a lot of allies: people who love the culture, the food, the music. And it’s really important that people know you don’t have to be Latin to participate – you’re welcome to come and have fun and learn something new.”
Beyond bonding over shared culture and community, Wendy says Latinoforce gives her a powerful platform from which to encourage and support other Latina women to consider tech and engineering roles at Salesforce. She’s worked with a not-for-profit women’s project to do exactly that.
“Sometimes I have that feeling of imposter syndrome and wonder how on earth I made it as a Latina woman in engineering,” Wendy says.
“I didn’t grow up seeing a lot of Latina women in leadership positions or in tech, so I want to show others that it can be done. If they’re doubting themselves but they see someone like me, then they know they can do it too.”
Both Sergio and Wendy say that once lockdowns ease, the group plans to offer Salesforce training courses and mentoring opportunities to members of the Latino community. The hope is that this will open more pathways to jobs in tech, and show others that there’s a community here ready to lift them up.
“It’s really important to me to be able to bring my whole true self to Salesforce and to work and pay it forward to help others,” Wendy says.
“We are really looking forward to being able to host more in-person events when lockdown restrictions ease,” Sergio says.
“Giving back to the community is a big part of what Latinoforce is about.”
An event to raise money for Assistance Dogs Australia in September was a long time in the planning with fellow Salesforce Equality group Abilityforce. Held virtually to celebrate the end of the Champion Month/Heritage celebration, the event raised $2,437, with Salesforce donor matching to bring the total to around $5,000. It is just one of many events Latinoforce plans to take in person post lockdown. “We have big goals,” Wendy says.
“It’s been hard with lockdown, but we are looking at partnering with other Equality groups and nonprofit groups in our ecosystem to help our Latino community build skills and confidence in areas that have not traditionally seen high levels of Latino participation.”
And in the meantime, Latinoforce is open to anyone who finds something in the culture that resonates with them.
“Come and share the journey with us and have some fun,” Wendy says.
“If you find something you love or connect with, then you belong. Latinoforce will always make you welcome. It’s like a warm hug from grandma. Especially at times like this, you need things to feed your soul. That’s what Latinoforce does.”