The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force presents Excellence in STEM, with Juan Machado, IT Associate Director of Infrastructure and Security at the University of Georgia.
In this interview, Juan shares his experience overcoming doubts and mistrust of his credentials in the United States as a computing professional educated in Colombia.
Continue reading for insight and advice from Juan Machado.
Why Did You Choose Your Current Technical Field?
Juan Machado To be honest, I was in high school in the late 80s, computers were a new thing and I thought they were cool. I was a good student, loved math, and visited 1 prestigious university in my city in Colombia and was immediately accepted. After 2 years in school, I concluded that I loved Computer Science.
What does a typical day or week look like for you as an Associate Director of Infrastructure and Security?
Juan Machado Checking systems, reading and acting on commercial and government cybersecurity advisories, and being as proactive as possible with all our on-prem and cloud infrastructure resources.
What’s been your greatest professional challenge as a member of the Latino community, and how did you overcome it?
Juan Machado At the beginning of my professional career in the US, I got too many automatic distrust of professional “doubts” because my college education was from a “third-world” country where “homes don’t have real roofs and donkeys are everywhere” (that was the phrase used by a co-worker at that time. It took them a short time to realize for themselves that my college education was top-notch. In fact, the professional credentials evaluation/equivalence done by the US government on my credentials came back saying that my undergrad degree was similar to graduate school studies in the United States. I could have played politics or made connections who would vouch for me, but I decided to let them see the quality of my work. Working in the south of the United States was hard at the beginning because there is a lot of racism sometimes coming from people that don’t even realize they are being racist with their actions, comments, or beliefs. My advice for newcomers is to not let these external factors opaque who you are, be you, and show your professionalism. Everybody knows that Latinos work hard, and you are not going to be the exception.
What is one piece of advice you can give Latino students and/or early career professionals?
Juan Machado My advice is always the same, work hard, give 200% and always be yourself. I have encountered a lot of professionals that only do what they are told to do and always “stay in their lane”. That’s something I see that differentiates the professional Latinos where we don’t only do what we are expected to do in our job description but always try to learn and improve other processes outside our job responsibilities. Latinos have that extreme curiosity and resourcefulness that makes us different. During that professional climb, try to participate in peer mentoring programs, not only for Latinos but for every other culture. The growth of the Latino population has impacted the face of college students of today, and you are part of it. Find and join Latinx organizations in your college and geographical region for peer networking, but don’t focus just on those, networking also happens during cross-pollination with other cultures.
What would you consider are Hispanic traits or behaviors instilled by your family that has made you successful?
Juan Machado Never forget where you came from. I am a first-generation college graduate as a Computer Engineer and later obtain two master’s degrees in Computer Science and Business Administration. Learn something new every day and teach something new every day too. The road to where I am as a professional was not easy, try to make it a little bit easier for the new generations.
What do you miss from your country of origin?
Juan Machado I miss a lot of things from Colombia: my family, my friends, the people, the food, the flowers, the mountains, the weather, and especially my culture.
What would you like to tell people about your country of origin?
Juan Machado Just one thing: It is COLOMBIA, not Columbia
About Juan Machado:
Juan Machado is the IT Associate Director of Infrastructure and Security and has been with the University of Georgia for 23 years. His education background includes a MS in Computer Engineering and an MBA with multip certifications in Cloud, IT Security, and PMP. When he isn’t teaching network telecommunications and IT security, he spends his time with his wife and dog, and enjoys watching his twins daughters compete in club volleyball.