By Itzel Cantu
As a first-generation Latina college graduate and corporate employee at JPMorgan Chase, I wanted to use my position of privilege to give back to underserved and diverse communities while finding my place as a working professional.
I applied to be a technologist on a Force for Good project as a new hire in the Technology Analyst program, now the Software Engineer Program. I was elated at the opportunity to spend a portion of my workday doing good while building stronger ties with my new cohort of software engineers. Force for Good gave me the platform to advocate for true inclusivity and access to opportunities by ensuring the solutions we built were considerate of any disparities. This is meaningful to me, as I was shaped by similar experiences during my childhood and upbringing. JPMorgan Chase’s Force for Good program connects the firm’s employees with socially focused organizations to build sustainable tech solutions over a period of 5 to 8 months.
For my first Force for Good project, my team partnered with a Houston based nonprofit that organizes food drives and holiday toy drives for the Houston homeless community. Their mission resonated deeply with me, as it seemed to me like the epitome of compassion. My team was entrusted with the task of creating a Customer Relationship Management integrated volunteer portal, an opportunity that allowed me to combine my professional and personal interests. It was a journey of dedication and empathy, one that not only enhanced my technical skills but also connected me with like-minded colleagues who shared the same vision. Through this experience, I realized the power of technology in making a difference and fostering a sense of belonging within a community.
Emboldened by my initial involvement, I stepped forward to take on the role of a team lead during my second cycle with the Force for Good program. This decision was fueled by a desire to challenge my imposter syndrome and continue developing my skills. The nonprofit we partnered with this time provides education and opportunities for individuals from low-income backgrounds or those facing significant employment barriers. We worked on developing a learning management system for online courses like GEDs and technical certifications, which would be delivered virtually at a discounted non-profit rate. The task was a reminder of the digital divide — that not everyone has access to technology and high-speed Internet. This project reminded me of my extended family's journey, for whom Internet access was sometimes limited to smartphones—a reality often overlooked. The confidence I gained from this experience helped me rise from an associate to a senior associate and eventually to a Vice President role. Working on this project was not only gratifying on a personal level, but pivotal in overcoming imposter syndrome and shaping my aspiration to becoming a confident team lead.
In a remarkable turn of events, I was asked to serve as a team lead for project supporting Hispanic Technology Executive Council (HITEC)—a community of Hispanic technology professionals giving back through scholarships and networking opportunities. It was inspiring and exciting to collaborate with a team of all female JPMorgan Chase technologists, who were also experts in user experience, user interface design and front-end development. Together, we enabled HITEC to migrate to a new website that’s not just user-friendly but also cheaper and easier to manage.
Force for Good has provided a sense of fulfillment, professional growth, and the chance to align my career goals with meaningful contributions to the community. It gave me a platform to drive change, advocate for the underserved, and show that technology, when used thoughtfully, can truly be a force for good.
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