I can’t believe it’s here. Today, I and 9,000 of my SHPE Familia descend on Phoenix, Arizona, for our 2019 National Convention. After months of planning and plenty of sleepless nights, the energy and excitement I feel is beyond measure.
I’m so proud of my team and all their hard work, and I want to thank everyone—our National Board, senior leadership, regional and chapter leaders, our Industry Partnership Council, the many volunteers of the National Convention Planning Committee and all SHPE members throughout the country—for making this amazing convening possible. And believe me: It’s going to be amazing.
While I’m not expecting too many costumes for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos (which is a bummer—it’s always been my favorite holiday by far), it feels appropriate that both will coincide with our convention. As a reminder, the theme for this year is “The Power of Transformation,” and few images capture this idea better than one of the iconic figures of Dia de los Muertos: La Calavera Catrina. Typically, the mask of Catrina is depicted with a smile on her face, signifying that while death is inevitable, life is sweet and should always be worth savoring.
But I think the symbolism runs much deeper than that. For me, the overarching message of this holiday—and Catrina in particular—is that we should celebrate the best of who we are. Not just as individuals, but as a community.
That’s what makes this year’s gathering so special: It’s a chance for us to acknowledge all of the amazing things SHPE has achieved—record membership and convention attendance, new initiatives, a bevy of programs and partnerships—despite the challenges we face along with the Hispanic community at large.
At the same time, I’ve talked a lot over the years about having the courage to take off our proverbial masks—not to be afraid to share who we really are. Because it’s only by being true to ourselves that we can truly experience the world around us and clearly see what lies in front of us—and the stakes at hand.
For the hundreds of young Hispanics who will interview for positions at some of the world’s best and most innovative companies this week, those stakes couldn’t be clearer. This is their chance to get their foot in the door; to land their dream job; to take their career to the next level. They are putting themselves on the line—taking off their masks and revealing who they are, what they’re made of, and all that they have to offer—and for that they deserve our utmost respect and well wishes.
More broadly, as a collective, we Hispanics find ourselves at a crucial point in our history—and the stakes have never been higher. Today, Hispanics occupy just six percent of all STEM jobs in the U.S, despite being 16 percent of the overall population. By 2024, 17 percent of all U.S. jobs will be in STEM. As a large and rapidly growing percentage of our population, Hispanics have a real opportunity to make an impact in these fields and beyond. Our job at SHPE is to ensure there’s awareness of and access to these many future-centric opportunities—and not just at our convention.
For me, “The Power of Transformation” isn’t the climax or culmination of SHPE’s story, but the first chapter in a new, more empowering narrative—one in which we don’t have to put on a mask but instead one in which we identify, come to understand, and unabashedly celebrate the amazing strides we’ve made. It’s a time to revel in our accomplishments and honor our work, while at the same time being diligent and determined in how we plot our path forward.
So even if you have no intention of dressing up this year, remember the lesson of Catrina, particularly in the context of our convention. It’s important to savor life’s sweet triumphs—something we fully intend to do this week in Phoenix.
Raquel Tamez, SHPE CEO