Featured Geek: Ana Díaz-Hernández. She's Geeky About tech startups.

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Our featured geek is Ana Díaz-Hernández and she works at a venture capital firm called Kapor Capital, on the investment team. They invest in companies aiming to close gaps of opportunity; a lot of communication, health IT and Edtech companies. Ana manages the portfolio and interacts with amazing founders every day. Her pride and joy is, however, their fellowship program called the Kapor Center Impact Fellows.

Read more about this geek loves technology policy, social change and diversity.

What is your full name and tell us about where you are from.

Ana Díaz-HernándezMy name is Ana Díaz-Hernández and I was born in Sacramento, CA. I moved to México when I was 6 years old and lived there until I was 12, when my parents moved our family to a small town in rural southern Georgia.

I’ve now been living in the Bay Area for 7 years and I love it– but answering “where I’m from” is never easy.

Tell us about your Latina background and your family. What does your family think about your geeky passions?

I grew up in a Mexican family that moved between Mexico and US. When we lived in the US, we always spoke Spanish at home. When we lived in Mexico, we always spoke English. I’m very fortunate that my parents considered our bilingualism to be such a big priority. It’s kept me very tied to my family in Mexico.

My family is full of nerds, just not necessarily of the techie variety. My parents are very into film, art and archaeology. Much of my childhood was spent doing very educational activities, like going to museums.

My father is a professor of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Georgia. I was very privileged to have him as an example in a world where there’s not that many college faculty from underrepresented backgrounds. He taught me, implicitly, that I could do whatever I wanted to do. I considered academia for a long time because I saw how much he loved it.

My mom is a geek about social justice. She is a migrant student counselor for middle school migrant students in a very gang-ridden part of Southern Georgia.

The two of them have shaped a big part of why I care so much about educational equity and access to opportunity for diverse students.

My parents have always been extremely encouraging in my endeavors, even when they didn’t fully understand what I was doing. The world of tech startups was completely new to them– but every time I joined a new startup, they tried to use the product and gave me feedback. They’ve grown a lot in their tech knowledge in parallel to me gaining mine. I’m very proud of how cutting edge they are now! My dad has more twitter followers than I do: https://twitter.com/El__Mojado

Tell us about your geeky passion. What are your interested in and why?

When I was in high school and college, my free time was consumed with research relating to water and sanitation. I lived in very arid places growing up, and I saw the need to do better water resource management. This led to me a more quantitative side of Anthropolgy, where I incorporated Civil Engineering and Urban Planning with my former experience in spatial analysis (GIS). That was the beginning of my identity as a “#LatinaGeek”. My work in development and urban planning spanned much of my undergraduate career.

However, in 2009, I was working in Senegal on a water project, and discovered an amazing thing: Seemingly every young person had a cell phone– even in the rural villages I was working in. They were doing amazing things with them, like seeking health care, learning things, or paying bills.

I came back from Senegal, fully invigorated. Wow! Mobile technology has the power to completely empower people with limited means, when the tech trends have fully skipped over them. They jumped straight over dial up and right into mobile. This convinced me to switch gears and dedicate myself to tech products.

I found my experience fit perfectly with a startup company called Spool. Spool was content delivery platform with an artificial intelligence engine that pre-cached video content. All the sudden, we were solving very difficult problems relating to latency and limited connectivity. Almost half of our usership was in the developing world. It was an exciting team and I learned a ton in those 8 months I worked there. We got acquired, and I joined Dropbox.

I cannot over-emphasize how much one learns at a fast growth company like Dropbox. I met some of the most talented developers in Silicon Valley, and worked with industry leaders like the founder of Python. I’m very privileged to have had that experience.

Fast forward to today – I now work at a progressive venture capital firm called Kapor Capital, on the investment team. We invest in companies aiming to close gaps of opportunity. We invest in a lot of communication, health IT and Edtech companies. I get to manage the portfolio and interact with amazing founders every day. My pride and joy, however, is our fellowship program called the Kapor Center Impact Fellows. We recruit students from diverse backgrounds to paid summer internships at tech startups (you can read more about that below!)

Are you bilingual? If so, how does it help you in your career?

Yes – I’m fluent in Spanish and English, and have some limited experience with French and Portuguese as well.

Being bilingual and having a cross-cultural mindset has been fundamental to my career. I got into user experience for the Latino community because of my knowledge of our culture, language, and shared experiences. I did sales and internationalization at Dropbox because I was able culturally context switch very well. My work at Kapor Capital now is heavily dependent on my ability to connect to the domestic Latino community.

Tell us about the gadgets you have in your purse right now. What top 3 gadgets do you need to have in your purse to help with your day-to-day tasks?

The three gadgets in my purse are my MacBook Air, my iPhone, and my iPad. I’m an Apple user, clearly.

I spend much of my day meeting people, so the iPad is often the tool of choice. I’m in the process of learning to code though, so evenings are spent close to my laptop.

Not currently in my purse, but an object of my new quantified-self obsession, is my Fitbit Force. I love seeing how much activity I’m performing in a given day and being able to add an extra walk in there if I’m running behind on my steps!

What is your website and/or blog? What does it focus on?

My website is www.anadiazhernandez.com and it’s currently a work in progress. I blog and tweet about technology policy, social change, diversity in Silicon Valley, and investing. I also periodically blog for The Kapor Center, so you can find my posts there.

After studying Anthropology, I often wear my theory hat as I observe the world. While I’ve taken a very different direction in my career, I keep applying my Anthropology lens to how I make conclusions about what I see and hear in the startup ecosystem.

Where can we find you online? Please share your social links with us!

You can find me at the following sites. I’ve recently gotten very excited about Twitter, so don’t hesitate to follow me! I love engaging with like-minded people in the Twitter-sphere.

I’ve been very privileged to find some Latina Geek mentors in my career – particularly some good friends I met at Stanford. I love to mentor other young Latinas.


What else would you like to share with us?

Please distribute information about our Kapor Center Impact Fellowship to your network! We’re specifically looking for diverse students to apply.

We’re looking for undergraduate and graduate students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in tech to apply to paid internships at tech startups. Students apply to a centralized application and we work with them to match them with startup tech companies who have matching needs.

The fellowship includes payment of $800/week, a travel and housing stipend and professional development activities. The fellowship will run from June 16, 2014 through August 16, 2014.

We will follow up with application process February 1st if we think there’s a good mutual match with a company we work with.

They can find more info here: http://kaporcenter.org/fellows/