Laura Bermudez is one of those lucky people who found her passion at an early age and was able to turn it into a career. “I’ve always loved math and science,” says Bermudez, who learned to program in high school and studied computer science in college. Today, she’s a software engineer at Meta—a role she earned after participating in the tech company’s one-year Rotational Engineering program.
Her career as a software engineer began back in her home country of Costa Rica, where she worked for 10 years. But when her husband—also a software engineer—got a job in Seattle, they decided to relocate. “I was pregnant with our fourth child when we moved, so I decided to take the opportunity to stay at home with my kids,” says Bermudez.
But six years at home was enough for Bermudez, so when her sixth child was one, she prepared to go back to work by earning a certificate in software product management at the University of Washington. “I thought I wasn’t going to be able to program again,” she says. “I felt overwhelmed at how fast technology was changing and like my knowledge was outdated.”
Bermudez then completed a web development bootcamp, where she was in class with people who had never programmed before. “I thought to myself, ‘If they can do this, why can’t I?’ I had a degree and had done this for 10 years of my life,” she says.
Her confidence regained, Bermudez learned about Meta’s Rotational Engineering program through a recruiter there. It’s one of the company’s various Pathway Programs—along with Facebook University and the Return to Work program—that aim to train and prepare engineers and other tech professionals for careers at Meta.
Here, Bermudez talks about her experience as a rotational engineer, how she’s overcome the challenges of being a Hispanic woman in the tech industry, and why being a mom has helped her succeed in her career.
What was your experience looking for a job after being at home with your children?
Finding a job wasn’t easy. The interviews were hard and the gap in my resume came up in every one. People would smile when they saw I had spent six years at home and say things like, “Being a mom is the hardest job.”
Even though many people see it as a halt in your career, I don’t see it as such. The years I spent at home were when I grew most as a person. I wouldn’t be the professional I am today without that very valuable experience.
I was a little discouraged after my initial search and decided to apply to a return-ship program as a technical program manager. I got into a program at a big company and then was contacted by a Meta recruiter for an interview as a software engineer.
What was the interview process like for the Rotational Engineering program?
I was obviously very nervous, but I received lots of support from my recruiter. I was given enough time and resources to prepare for the interviews. I always felt my recruiter was an ally, someone I could speak to openly and ask any questions I had. I got the job as a rotational software engineer and returned to what I really wanted to do. Even when I didn’t believe in myself, the company did—and gave me an opportunity.
Tell us about your experience as a rotational engineer.
I did my first rotation on the Messenger Kids Machine Learning Growth team. I had always wanted to try the machine learning field. Although I ended up realizing it wasn’t for me, my kids felt very proud that their mom was working for Messenger Kids! After that, I moved to the Accessibility team for my second rotation. Accessibility is something very close to my heart since my sister is a special education teacher and my little brother has special needs. It is a dream come true to be able to use my profession to make software more accessible. This team has been extremely supportive and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
What challenges have you faced as a Hispanic woman pursuing a career in an industry where women (especially BIPOC) are underrepresented, and how did you overcome them?
Back in the day while studying, it was hard to be the only woman in the classroom. I also felt like some professors were not always thrilled to have women in their classes. I was once told I had to be five times better than my male classmates to be considered good in this field. That advice really made me mad, but that anger drove me to make a bigger effort.
I also had the blessing of having inspiring women around me. My mother was highly academic—she holds three bachelor’s degrees and two masters—and worked as a college professor in the education department. She had six children and always had a full-time job. For me, it was normal for women to pursue careers. Her example has defined who I am and now I want to be that same role model for my kids.
What skills or lessons has being a mom taught you that you apply to your career?
I think one of the biggest is that there are always ways to be more efficient and get more done. When I had one child I thought he took away all my time, and now I have six and there is still time for everything. I think being a busy mom has taught me to use every minute wisely and to be less afraid of taking on more responsibilities.
I have also learned to deal with different personalities. Each of my kids is unique, with their own talents, tastes, and temperaments, and yet we need to work as a team to get things done and live harmoniously. We must take all their uniqueness into consideration when guiding them through life. I think that has helped me to understand people better, understand their reactions, and try to navigate through the differences.
What advice do you have for women who want to pursue a career in an industry where they are often underrepresented?
Don’t be afraid. There is no reason to stop doing what you love just because some people think you shouldn’t. If you are passionate about it, go for it. There is no obstacle we cannot overcome when there is passion, and fortunately there are open-minded companies like Meta that support everyone in following their passion.