GET Cities is excited to introduce the inaugural cohort of the GET Chicago Fellowship, launching January 2021.
We at GET Cities envision a tech industry that is an engine for, not against, equity. Developing an industry that makes space for a diversity of backgrounds and identities is not a product, but a prerequisite of that vision. When we began our research last year, we found a gap in widespread support for women, trans and nonbinary people in the first five years of their tech careers. Only 24% of tech jobs in Chicago are held by women, and only 3% and 4% are held by Latinx and Black women, respectively. By 2024, we aim to increase these numbers and increase data transparency so others can do the same.
We designed this fellowship to support the retention and advancement of women, trans and nonbinary people early in their careers by providing mentorship, professional development, networking, and project-based programming. We have brought together a remarkable group of Chicago-based technologists representing every corner of the city’s vibrant tech ecosystem working as UX designers, developers, data scientists and more. From bootcamp graduates to university-educated engineers, each Fellow brings a powerful set of talents and experiences to the table. They will be working collaboratively to create projects that advance inclusion in tech, and you are invited to get involved!
We’ll be hosting a series of public events – including career talks and demo days – where you can learn about and give feedback on fellows’ projects. Follow us on Twitter or email us at email@example.com if you have any questions about getting involved.
Meet the GET Chicago Fellows:
Adilene Esquinca Pronouns: she/her/hers Adilene was born and raised in Chicago and went on to graduate from MIT with a degree in chemical engineering. She now works as a business analyst and software developer at Tech Elevator, a coding bootcamp, and is a Venture for America fellow. Adilene runs marketing for Halal Beauty Cosmetics, a makeup startup she works on with a Venture for America peer. Adilene is particularly passionate about the lack of representation in the beauty and fashion industries. To be able to tackle outward representation in these industries that now rely heavily on technology for nearly all company operations, the tech workforce itself must be diverse. By working in tech and exploring the beauty industry startup space, she hopes to push progress towards more inclusive representation in these industries, both internally and externally.
Annie Xu Pronouns: she/her/hers Annie grew up in sunny San Diego and graduated in 2019 from the University of Chicago with a BS in Statistics and MS in Computer Science. She is currently working as a software engineer at Narrative Science, a software company based in Chicago whose mission is centered on data storytelling (surfacing data insights to users in the form of plain English). She started as a summer intern there and has since worked full time for about 1.5 years. Her background is in backend software development with some full stack experience, and her team focuses mainly on building and improving the data pipeline for their newest product, Lexio. Annie is passionate about learning in all areas of her life and empowering others to do the same.
Brianna Lee Pronouns: she/her/hers
Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Brianna Lee relocated to Chicago two years ago. She has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Arizona State University. She is a newcomer to the tech industry with a career history in construction and project management. She is excited to start a new role as a Project Manager at Microsoft this coming February and drive successful delivery of projects focused around Cloud Migration and Artificial Intelligence. She hopes to contribute to the GET Cities Chicago Fellowship with her project management skills as a tech generalist. She is passionate about providing education, exposure, and opportunity where it is needed most and is thrilled to combine talents with her team members to drive change as members of the GET Chicago Fellowship.
Brittney Hopgood Pronouns: she/her/hers
Brittney Hopgood is passionate about creating holistic solutions, regardless of the medium, that are grounded in cultural awareness, ethical values, and equity-based design. With a B.Des in industrial design from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a certificate in User Experience Design from General Assembly, she has worked across various disciplines that explore different aspects of product development. She currently works as a product designer (UX) and resident accessibility specialist at CDW, where she supports their cross functioning eCommerce teams by leveraging research insights and analytics to deliver effective inclusive design solutions that meet customer and business needs. When she’s not spending time with her Shih Tzu son, you can find her binge-watching a new show or detangling her hair.
Cecilia L. Avila Pronouns: she/her/hers
Cecilia recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a BS in Computer Science and is looking to move into software engineering. She is passionate about supporting minorities in tech and increasing the exposure to STEM in communities that do not have that access. During her undergraduate studies, she was directly involved in the founding of the Latinx Organization for Growth in Computing and Academics (LOGiCA) and served as the secretary, treasurer, and co-president. It was the first Latinx group in the CS department and focuses on building a community for all minorities while growing academically and professionally. In addition, she was a Teacher’s Assistant for Break Through Tech and a Programming Design course at UIC, which has inspired her to continue teaching in the future.
Cheyanne Hewitt Pronouns: they/them
Born and raised in southern California, Cheyanne trekked north as a theatre major at the University of North Dakota. Upon graduation, Cheyanne relocated to Chicago and has called the Windy City home ever since. Having always believed in the power of technology to change the world, Cheyanne set about learning programming as a hobby and finally broke into the industry last year – first at a startup specializing in automation testing, before joining Rocketmiles as a software engineer in test. Cheyanne’s passions revolve around making information accessible and empowering people to research, fact-check, and take action.
Cristal Casellas Pronouns: she/her/hers
Cristal Casellas works for Deloitte Global Technology Services as an IT Project Manager. Cristal is a first-generation college graduate from Penn State with bachelor’s degrees in Telecommunications, Spanish, and Information Sciences and Technology. Her passion for diversity and inclusion drove her to be involved in a variety of multicultural organizations at Penn State, including serving as part of the executive board for the Puerto Rican Student Association. In the past, Cristal worked for the independent LGBTQ+ production company, Ballroom Throwbacks. Her Deloitte journey began in 2019 as a GTS intern. Currently, she’s involved in a variety of initiatives like volunteering for Year Up Chicago, working towards Ethical Tech and Trust in the organization, and the Inclusion Pillar of Deloitte’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. She hopes to one day play a role in bridging the digital divide and working towards an inclusive technology industry.
Fatima Gomez Pronouns: she/they
Fatima comes to code by means of storytelling, understanding coding as one of many tools to serve that end. With a background in Latinx Studies and Creative Writing, they focused on the ways individuals cope with and choose to heal (or not) from institutional injustice. After college, Fatima worked at a small workforce development nonprofit in Logan Square as an employment coach, working with them to find solutions to the systemic barriers they faced toward financial stability and their employment goals. These experiences sparked their interest in social media and software more broadly as powerful ways for people to tell their stories for the purpose of activism, organizing, and policymaking. After graduating from General Assembly’s Software Engineering Immersive in September of 2019, Fatima started working as a developer at DataMade, a data and web consultancy in Chicago. They also enjoy engaging in story through reading, writing, and TV, and have been known to shred on an electric violin from time to time.
Gabrielle Williams Pronouns: she/her/hers
Gabrielle works as a software engineer at Clearcover, a Chicago fintech startup. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a mathematics degree, she moved to Boston and joined General Assembly’s web development boot camp to begin her career in tech. Shortly after finishing, she started as a software engineer intern at Zipcar and later was hired full time. She is passionate about building opportunities for people who might not otherwise have them, and is a firm believer of “sending the elevator back down” once someone feels comfortable in their career. At Clearcover, Gabrielle is building an engineering internship that focuses on giving people from non-traditional backgrounds opportunities to learn from other engineers, while also giving engineers an opportunity for mentorship and management experience within the organization. She looks forward to working and collaborating with other individuals in the GET Cities Fellowship.
Jackie Tapia Pronouns: she/her/hers
Jackie graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2018 with a B.S. in Computer Science. At UIC, she was very involved within the Computer Science Department, especially with student organizations and volunteering for Girls Who Code. Since then, she has been working in the tech industry as a Full-Stack Software Engineer for nearly 3 years. She currently works at Sprout Social as a backend engineer focusing on the social listening feature which enables businesses to uncover actionable insights, overcome competitors, and improve overall brand health in the digital space. Jackie is passionate about increasing diversity in the workplace and fostering an inclusive culture where underrepresented genders and races feel accepted and valued.
Jesse van Oss Pronouns: they/them
Jesse used to make costumes for opera, and now works as a UX Researcher. Their work in opera centered around the telling of stories and using fabric to assist the vocalist in expressing their character. Today, Jesse works on a different stage. In conversation with the user, Jesse creates products that hold an instance of the user’s story. Jesse is excited to bring this experience and perspective to the GET Chicago Fellowship.
Julie Simms Holder Pronouns: she/her/hers
Julie is an IT Professional with over fifteen years of experience within the legal field in multiple IT functional disciplines. She has a strong background in legal support, software documentation, security practices and policies. Julie currently works for Seyfarth Shaw as a Security Incident and Risk Analyst focused on governance, risk and compliance (GRC). Julie has a strong background in legal support, software documentation, security practices and policies. She brings to the table problem isolation and analysis, process creation and improvement, development and execution of projects, and data analysis. Julie is passionate about continuous learning and leveraging data insights, and plans to transition into a data science role, with a strong interest in cybersecurity.
Jyn Kim Pronouns: she/her/hers Jyn was born and raised in South Korea and moved to the US following a university exchange student program. She joined the U.S. Army Reserves in 2015 to earn her U.S. Citizenship and spent her time in logistics driving trucks. She participated in the Code Platoon bootcamp for veterans where she launched her tech career. Following that program, she secured an internship at UL (Underwriters Laboratories) doing software development. Jyn is now thriving as a software engineer at ActiveCampaign, a Chicago-based SaaS company. Before Covid, Jyn loved to spend time traveling and practicing yoga, and has recently started painting, building furniture, and learning home improvement skills. She is passionate about the environment, mental health, and physical wellness.
Lynnette Colombo Pronouns: she/her/hers
Lynnette is a User Experience Designer who is changing the lack of web accessibility through research, usability testing, and thoughtful UI. After a long career in the fashion industry, she was inspired to transfer her skills into the tech industry. She completed General Assembly’s UX Design Immersive in 2020 and now works as a freelance UX designer. Lynnette volunteers with Code for Chicago and Code Your Dreams. She is a firm believer in equality in tech and is passionate about increasing opportunities for people within the industry.
Mayra Martinez Pronouns: she/her/hers
Mayra’s focus as a UX Designer is on creating fundamental frameworks for products so that they provide measurable value to the people who use them. She currently works at a credit rating company where she collaboratively creates design solutions for the integration of financial data for a web-based application product. She is looking forward to learning how she can help address the need for more representation of BIPOC/WOC designers in financial tech.
Myka Martinez Pronouns: she/her/hers
Myka came to the tech industry by way of the social sciences with a background in ethnographic research and studies in material culture. Her work prior to pivoting to technology included collaborating with stakeholder communities and corporate clients to solve real-world problems. In the course of her work she discovered that through the application of ethnographic research methods, analysis of quantitative and qualitative user-data, and collaborative design, she could contribute to the creation of software technologies in new and exciting ways. Graduating from General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive program in 2017, she brings an ethnographer’s mind to full stack development. The barriers and setbacks she has faced due to her gender identity motivate her to not only persevere in her ambitions in tech, but also change the culture that has held her and other transgender women back in their careers.
Rocio Meza Pronouns: she/her/hers
Rocio Meza was born and raised on the Southwest side of Chicago in Little Village and went on to attend both Cornell and Columbia University, where she studied statistics and sociology. With her background, she is passionate about the intersection of society, technology, and analytics. She is always interested in finding ways to tell a full story with data with a more human-centric approach. Throughout her career, she has worked as an analyst/consultant on various projects ranging from tech, cyber security, education, and e-commerce. Currently, she is working at McDonald’s within US Strategy and Insights providing business insights, testing various new initiatives, and finding ways to better understand financial data. In her free time, she enjoys painting, trying new recipes, and baking sweets. She also has a small dog named Luna who keeps her very busy!
Roxie Li Pronouns: she/her/hers
Roxie is originally from China, and graduated from University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2019 with a degree in Computer Science and a minor in business. She currently works at William Blair as a Technology Project Analyst, where her work involves internal application development, workflow automation, and building interactive business intelligence reports. She is interested in continuing to apply her quantitative analysis skills to the financial industry. She is also passionate about empowering women in the workforce, especially in male-dominated fields such as technology. She hopes that more programs like GET Cities will help break the gender stereotype and allow more women to be in leadership positions in those fields. Besides her professional interests, she enjoys going to concerts and mixing music in her free time.
Shannon Suttles Pronouns: she/her/hers
Shannon graduated from Butler University in 2017 with Bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Physics. She currently works at Navistar as a Sr. Product Development Engineer in the Certification & Compliance group. She works with a very diverse group of thinkers in a fast-paced environment. In her spare time, she is a freelance designer for small businesses, specializing in creating logos, websites, and apps with the user experience in mind. She is passionate about ideation and solving problems in innovative new ways. And she believes that the advancement of technology depends upon bridging the gap between society’s needs and the innovations that will improve lives. She finds the limitlessness of the connections between individuals and technology extremely captivating and is passionate about finding new connection points.
Sofia Javed Pronouns: she/her/hers
While working on human rights foreign policy and foreign assistance, Sofia was inspired by the innovative work she saw happening at the nexus of technology and human rights. She decided to learn software engineering and development so that she could create projects with code and contribute to technological innovations aimed at improving human rights and governance in the United States and around the world. Sofia recently graduated from the Grace Hopper Program at Fullstack Academy and is currently searching for a junior developer role in Chicago. She is particularly interested in working in the civic tech space and exploring opportunities in data science, machine learning, AI, and VR/AR.