Knowing Your Worth as a Woman in Tech with Liliana Torres
Written by Cait Sarazin
Liliana Torres is an accomplished Senior Data Analyst at McKesson Corporation based in Dallas, Texas. Liliana met with our Senior Content Creator, Cait Sarazin, to discuss changing her career when she moved to the U.S. from Venezuela, challenges unique to mid-level engineers, and the importance of believing in yourself.
Can you share your career journey and how you became a Senior Data Analyst?
I’m originally from Venezuela and studied computer science in college. Unfortunately, I had to start my career over again when I moved to the U.S. because I had to learn a new language — not only to communicate with other people but to understand programming languages that use English instead of Spanish.
I ended up getting a job in customer service, but my sights were set on IT. I worked hard to move up within the company. I asked myself, how can I go the extra mile? How could I go out of my way to find opportunities to apply my computer science skills and solve technical problems?
I’m incredibly passionate about data science because I believe it can answer all of an organization’s questions about growth. So I shared my opinions, talked to and learned from everyone I could. I learned how to write queries, clean up data, and get actionable answers. The company eventually promoted me to a data analyst role that allowed me to explore my passion and pursue creative solutions.
McKesson later hired me in my current position. I am thrilled about the opportunity to work in IT, represent women in tech, and sponsor others’ career growth. I want to show people that it’s possible to reach where you want to go as long as you keep chasing your goals, even if you start with nothing.
Can you tell me more about challenges unique to advancing from a mid-level to a senior engineer role, as opposed to when you first started?
The biggest challenge is that as women, we sometimes believe that we aren’t capable enough. Being around a lot of men can be intimidating. We’re taught to feel that we’re not good enough to move from the middle to senior level. Sometimes it’s not because other people explicitly tell us we’re not good enough; it’s about how we feel regarding our broader places in society.
That was a significant challenge I had to overcome my feelings and realize that my reactions to societal pressures shouldn’t hold me back. I know my worth, and even if other people see me differently, I am comfortable with who I am — failures included, which are inevitable in life. I have failed several times, and each lesson teaches me something new.
I also love to learn new things. Improving my skills helped me get from the middle to senior level. Technology changes every day — all the things we can do today that we couldn’t do years ago are amazing — but executives are less likely to notice you if you aren’t on top of things.
You then need to demonstrate your knowledge. Give your opinion and ask high-level questions. Don’t feel foolish when asking; you have to do it anyway or risk not learning something. It’s impossible to improve yourself if you don’t try, so try as many times as you need to get where you want to be.
That’s excellent advice. Besides constant learning, what else would you say is necessary to overcome failure?
Staying positive and believing in yourself is crucial because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. I have met many people who want to transition into IT but struggle because they aren’t confident in their abilities. If you believe in yourself, know your worth and leverage your skills, you can make it where you want to be — as long as you understand that you cannot control everything and people will tell you “no” sometimes.
It’s imperative to learn from such experiences. Maybe you’re not the right person for a job because we all have different characters and different ways we work — but that doesn’t mean you’re not qualified. It might be a blessing in disguise because we want to fit into a place where we can make a difference.
Those are the main things I would advise people to do: stay positive and don’t ever think you don’t deserve it. You deserve everything because you are working for where you want to be.
You mentioned staying positive and knowing your worth. What have the roles of community and mentorship played in your career so far?
I thoroughly enjoy reading the success stories of people who worked hard to get where they are. It’s intriguing to see how far they’ve come, especially immigrants who had to start over. Moving from another country is like being born again. It’s incredibly challenging, but sometimes it’s necessary because your original country’s quality of life is insufficient.
Growing up, however, I always admired my mother, who worked to advance women’s rights in Venezuela. She even helped write a law a few years ago that requires women to constitute 50% of preliminary elections. My mother is a role model for me in that she influenced my work ethic and my ability to believe in myself.
While I believe it’s empowering to have specific mentors, I also think it’s essential to look at all of the people around you. The person who sits next to you at work might have an incredible story. What can you learn from them? The tech community at large is what drives me to think creatively, so everyone is my role model in some way.
Definitely. What has your involvement in Women Who Code been like, and how has it impacted your career?
I’ve been a member of Women Who Code Dallas/Ft. Worth for over a year. A community that allows me to help others while incorporating the technical aspects of IT is something I’ve always searched for. I love being able to share my experience with people worldwide, and I’ve made many kind and inclusive friends through Women Who Code.
For example, I was excited about the Python track Women Who Code that launched last year. I connected with this particular community and have been a leader for several months now. It’s empowered me to do things I was afraid of previously. I was anxious about giving a Tech Talk and speaking in public, but I did it three times last year! The thought of the audience asking me technical questions I didn’t know the answers to, was terrifying but that fear wasn’t reason enough to not get on stage. Women Who Code’s community helped me learn to do it anyway and convince myself I’m capable of anything.
Liliana Tores is a Senior Data Analyst at McKesson Corporation, a healthcare service, and medical supply company.