Ruffle Feathers with Ximena Martinez

Ruffle Feathers with Ximena Martinez

We are highlighting a previous episode of the ¿Quién Tú Eres? podcast, where we explore the conflict we often face between "professionalism" & being our authentic selves.

Ximena (Mena) Martinez is a Mexican American #STEMinist, techie, and PhD student. Through her social media (@menaverse_) she shares her experience as a Latina in tech and academia and provides resources for students interested in STEM.

In this conversation, Ximena Martinez takes us on a journey through her experience between professionalism and authenticity.


These are some of the episode highlights:

For Ximena, authenticity means not policing all the facets that make us human beings. Not policing yourself on how you’re speaking, what you’re saying, and how you dress. It means freely expressing yourself without having to add an extra layer before presenting yourself to the world, “In a nutshell, it's being closer to who you are inside of yourself,” Ximena says. 

When it comes to policing, Ximena, feels it's a matter of safety and survival. She shares that growing up, her parents thought of policing as a safety issue. “Such as the way we speak to certain kinds of people,” states Ximena. From an early age, she started to gather that in order to survive there’s a certain way you have to present yourself. 

She reiterates what an ordeal it was traveling to the white part of town for “official” business. Ximena says, “We would get the talk but we never got those talks when we were going to be around our neighborhood.” She remembers having to travel to these neighborhoods because the necessary resources provided there weren't readily available in her community, which consisted of mostly immigrants and farm workers. Growing up, Ximena began to realize that being “trained” was a form of survival. 

Ximena mentioned her parents decided to move due to gang related safety concerns and the lack of resources within her immediate community. However, as a kid, Ximena wasn’t seeing the bigger picture and hated that her parents were uprooting her from the place where she already had family and friends. Ximena remembers wondering why she was being uprooted and taken to a foreign place, where most people were white and nobody could say her name. Ximena says of the move, “For a while, I struggled with that but I adjusted.” 

As she was getting older, Ximena began to realize that prior to arriving in  America, her parents did the same by leaving their community, connections, and friends in search of better opportunities. As most immigrant families do for the betterment of their lives and the generations to come. 

Ximena mentioned she started owning her identity and being more unapologetic about it after getting into the workforce. She started correcting people when they mispronounced her name or she offered an them alternative. She then adds, “My nickname is Mena, or Ms. Martinez, whatever is good for you but stop butchering my name.” Ximena says that practicing authenticity began with the help of an ally and friend that corrected others when mispronouncing her name. As a result, Ximena learned to advocate for herself, “It was a weird experience but the more vocal that I was, the more allies I started to get. Some of the cultural things started to shift, such as, hiring practices and the language of job descriptions.” 

Ximena speaks on professionalism and it’s proximity to whiteness as well as  how everything about her identity counters that notion, “I don’t represent what these companies consider professional. I have piercings, tattoos, some of the things that I say, not in their lingo. I’ll have to explain myself or I’ll say these little phrases that I try to translate from Spanish to English that people didn’t understand.” 

Believing that corporate America is a weird place, Ximena started to rebel by showing up to client meetings wearing clothing that didn’t cover her tattoos. She then says, At a point, I stopped caring about the comfort of the people around me.” Creating representation is important to Ximena because it is not something she saw growing up as being valued. Additionally, Ximena believes that the lack of representation or misrepresentation can be damaging, “Now we look at the research and see how important it is for people, kids, young people to see themselves depicted, to see their stories, to see somebody who’s just not one dimensional as character, somebody who’s got depth and they’re not stereotypical, especially, crossing over into science communications and tech world.” 

Ximena reported that the reason she started practicing authenticity was because she didn’t look like science people or like any of her idols and thus she wants to represent that for somebody else.“The messages that I get from young girls and women…keep me motivated to keep going and keep growing. At first, I didn’t feel worthy but then I started feeling this responsibility,” Ximena says.  


Ximena Martinez inspires us to change the narrative by showing up as our authentic selves. Make sure to connect with Ximena Martinez on Instagram.

Listen to this episode to learn more about her journey: Spotify & Apple Podcasts

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