By John Kregler, StartOut
Vanessa Archambault-Morales (she/her) grew up in the little city of Santa Fe Springs in Los Angeles County. The daughter of Mexican-Americans, Vanessa wasn’t brought up with her Latina culture at the forefront for fear of racial prejudice. Her grandparents, who spent a great deal of time raising Vanessa, discouraged speaking Spanish in the house because they didn’t want their granddaughter to be discriminated against at school.
Nonetheless, Vanessa worked hard throughout her early life and became the first member of her family to consider education after high school. After spending two years at a local community college, Vanessa transferred to UC Berkeley uprooting her life to the Bay Area. This, as Vanessa describes, was a bit of a cultural shock.
“When I first moved to the Bay Area, I didn’t know anybody,” Vanessa said. “I was in this brand new world where people’s parents had been in Tech for years or were doctors or lawyers. I quickly realized that I didn’t have the same background as others and that I’d need to treat college life differently to get by.”
While enrolled in school, Vanessa worked full time for the UCPD often working graveyard shifts until 6 a.m. and then heading straight to her morning classes. Vanessa and her family were no strangers to hard work and long hours, so the pattern became routine.
After graduating into the recession with a degree in Environmental Science, Vanessa eventually landed a job working with software developers at Apple. She’d spend hours a day learning about what they did and how they worked and then would take that knowledge home to work on projects by herself. Eventually after countless hours practicing and studying, Vanessa became a fully self-taught software engineer.
And this experience has guided Vanessa into her current chapter as the Chief Technology Officer at DealEngine. Vanessa believes that her unique journey into the tech world has humbled her and it motivates her to fight for those who are underrepresented in the industry.
“I want to help more people who look like me get into this world. It’s so hard for people to get their foot in the door, and I think my story is testament to what could happen if you’re just given a chance.”
DealEngine came from Vanessa and her business partner, Kal Deutsch, wanting to create a platform to help entrepreneurs succeed. They wanted to help founders figure out a path forward with their ideas and fundraising journeys, similar to their own company’s goals. After networking and research, the team eventually found StartOut and applied for our Growth Lab’s 8th Cohort. Through it, Vanessa says that DealEngine has been able to connect with a number of angels on the NetworQ, get advice on branding and marketing for the company, and has personally connected Vanessa with her LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, Vanessa has taken time to reflect on what being an out, Latina founder means to her:
“To be honest, I made the decision early on in my tech career to not be so open about my heritage because of the bias and discrimination I saw. I wanted to be able to excel without having my background limit me and I kept quiet about those things at work. But today I’m so proud of my family and my ancestors. I’m embracing my Latinx roots and encouraging others to do the same if they feel they have the space for it. I think we’re continuing to make progress with anti-discrimination efforts, but there’s obviously so much work to do. I’m going to continue doing my part and hopefully, seeing someone like me in the world — a lesbian, Mexican-American, first-in-her-family to go to college, CTO — will encourage others to do the same.”