Scholarship provides student foundation to pursue tech career

Scholarship provides student foundation to pursue tech Career

While Camila Ramos Garzon was studying computer science at California State University, East Bay, she pursued her interest in teaching people about technology. That passion eventually led to her current job as a developer advocate at PlanetScale, which offers a database-as-a-service platform.

During college, she took a paying job with a nonprofit, teaching kids about technology. Scholarships from SVCF — which covered the full cost of her tuition — allowed her to develop her interest in teaching.

“The scholarships allowed me to focus on my career growth and work at things I loved, not just what I needed to do to make money,” Ramos Garzon said. The scholarships covered everything except room and board, which she was able to save on by living at home.

The Latinos in Technology Scholarship (LITS), established by the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley (HFSV) and administered by Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), helped her through her junior and senior years, as well as for one semester of a fifth year.

“Latinx people make up approximately one quarter of the population in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, yet they experience widening disparities in income, education, health and housing compared to their white and Asian counterparts. SVCF’s longtime partnership with the Hispanic Foundation aligns with our foundation’s mission to close the equity gaps in Silicon Valley.”– Emiko Thompson, Senior Scholarships Associate, SVCF

Building Up Latinx in Tech

Teaching at Technology SchoolThe LITS program, which gives up to 100 Latinx science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) students the support they need to graduate from college, has two goals: to address the education gap among Latinx students and to increase diversity in high-tech employment.

“Although Latinos make up almost 30% of the population in Silicon Valley, only ~4% work in STEM and high-tech. The Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley is actively working to increase that statistic. The Latinos in Technology scholarship was created to address this issue by supporting Latinx STEM students financially, professionally, and helping open up opportunities for them in their career fields.” - Melissa Canela, Education Program Manager, HFSV

LITS recipients, Latinx students who have a declared major in a field related to STEM, receive up to $30,000, paid over three years. They are also considered for internship opportunities with the Silicon Valley companies that are the scholarship’s corporate funders.

Applicants for the scholarships must have graduated from high school or be attending college in one of eleven Northern California counties. They must have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 and demonstrated financial need, and they must be U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens (legal residents or DACA recipients).

A Passion for Teaching About Technology

For Ramos Garzon, the support she received from the LITS scholarship and a previous SVCF scholarship, the Samsung@First Scholarship, was key to building her career while she pursued her degree. When she graduated from Cal State East Bay in December 2021 with a degree in computer science, she had already been working in the tech industry for over a year.

Her path to her current tech job started with the teaching position, enabled by her scholarships. In 2018, she founded a nonprofit, STEMTank, to teach kids ages 8 to 18 about technology. STEMTank, with a mission to increase the number of students of color learning about tech, has served more than 250 students in the East Bay and online.

Ramos Garzon then landed a summer 2020 software engineering internship at PayPal – after SVCF connected the LITS recipients with the company. When she completed the internship, she was offered a full-time job for after she graduated, but she asked if she could start right away instead.

“I didn’t want to wait a year,” she said.  From September 2020 to October 2021, she juggled working at PayPal and finishing college.

She left PayPal in October 2021 to join PlanetScale — taking a job that combines her technical skills with her love of teaching. As a developer advocate, she gives talks at conferences, makes videos for YouTube and TikTok and engages the developer community, helping them learn how to use the company’s tools. She says the job is a satisfying mix of engineering and teaching.

“I’ve always been passionate about education,” Ramos Garzon said. In her current job, “you’re teaching people how to use your product. That’s what drew me to developer advocacy.”

Ramos Garzon was recently accepted to the Schwarzman Scholars program, a master’s degree program in global affairs that involves spending a year in China. Success stories such as Camila Ramos Garzon’s are not uncommon from SVCF scholarship recipients. Aligned with the foundation’s mission to reduce systemic disparities, SVCF’s scholarship opportunities increase equitable access to college and educational resources, giving young adults the opportunity to thrive in Silicon Valley.

 The deadline to apply for the Latinos in Technology Scholarship for the 2022 – 2023 academic year is March 18, 2022. If you are interested in applying, please visit the SVCF website to view the application requirements.