If being a woman in tech is hard today, imagine how tough it must have been for a female Ecuadorian immigrant in the 1990s. In this episode of Before IT Happened, our host Donna Loughlin talks to Mercedes Soria, co-founder of the AI-driven security company Knightscope and one of Silicon Valley’s leading advocates for women in tech. Mercedes came to the U.S. to study engineering and has overcome one obstacle after another to become one of the tech industry’s most inspirational thought leaders on diversity. Today, Mercedes is a Grace Hopper Celebration award winner, a TechWomen mentor, and a Women in STEM advocate. Her dream is to mentor girls who will later come to the U.S. to be engineers. That way, she says, her efforts will come full circle. Tune in and listen to Mercedes’ inspiring story as a trailblazer for women in tech.
Before any world-changing innovation, there was a moment, an event, a realization that sparked the idea before it happened. This is a podcast about that moment — about that idea. Before IT Happened takes you on a journey with the innovators who imagined — and are still imagining — our future. Join host Donna Loughlin as her guests tell their stories of how they brought their visions to life.
Jump straight into:
(02:15) - Mercedes’ childhood in Ecuador and her mother’s support to strive for more - “Ecuador is not close at all to the level of development that the U.S. is in terms of computers and engineering, which was where we studied.”
(07:58) - The tough years: Going to college in the U.S. - “All we knew is that we had to study every single day that we were in school. That happened until we got our engineering degree.”
(18:13) - Working at Gibson then jumping to Deloitte - “I applied to a hundred companies, and I only got three calls, and from those three interviews only Gibson would sponsor me to stay in the U.S. and work for them.”
(24:24) - How Mercedes got involved in equity and mentorship - “I was going to show this guy that I deserved to be in the job that I was given. I didn't want other women to have to go through that. Not only the fact that I was Hispanic but the fact that I was a woman in technology.”
(30:27) - Knightscope in Silicon Valley and winning the Grace Hopper Award - “If you're a woman, especially in technology in Silicon Valley, you have to prove your worth. As soon as you come in, it is assumed that you don't know anything.”
(38:04) - Tech Women, 50/50 Women on Boards and becoming a speaker - “Somehow someone from Tech Women told the State Department that I could be a really good speaker for the United States. And they called me.”
(45:39) - Solve24: Youth accelerator for STEM - “We're changing lives for girls that might not have known what technology is, or that might not have had the self-confidence to decide that they want to be in technology.”
Read Mercede’s Forbes article Three Effective Strategies To End The Shortage Of Women In Tech
Join Chief, the exclusive network of executive women
Get involved with the U.S. Department of State’s program TechWomen
Learn more about Knightscope's autonomous technology
Before IT Happened is produced by Donna Loughlin and Studio Pod Media with additional editing and sound design by Nodalab. The show coordinator is Deanna Morenci. The Executive Producer is Katie Sunku Wood. All episodes are written by Jack Buehrer.