This article was written by Microsoft Mixed Reality Program Manager for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as part of our Humans of Mixed Reality Guest Blogger Series. Dr. Dalya Perez shares her personal career journey in technology, and how she came to discover and love the mixed reality space.
To my fellow Mixed Reality community members, my name is Dr. Dalya Perez. I am the Microsoft Mixed Reality inaugural Program Manager for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Like so many others, I began a new role recently amidst remote onboarding, racial justice uprisings, and a global pandemic, all while juggling the last month of a PhD program, dissertation, parenting a toddler and a tween, and tag-teaming work from home strategies with my beloved spouse in our cozy home. To say the least, it has been a heck of a transition, but I’m beyond happy to be here with all of you doing D&I in this moment in history. Thank you sincerely for welcoming me, and I look forward to meeting you if I haven’t yet.
Pictured above: Dr. Dalya Perez
I come from humble beginnings. I am the daughter of a Jewish Egyptian refugee mother and a Filipino immigrant father, and a first generation undergrad/grad/PhD in my family. I grew up in Bothell, Washington, just up the road from Microsoft’s Redmond campus, yet never visited until my interview last year. I grew up in a multi-ethnic-racial community, constantly navigating and code-switching between middle-class white suburbia at school, Ashkenazi centric synagogue culture, Catholic Filipino family, to name a few. Our home was full of relatives, grandparents, and foods from across the oceans. I grew up grappling with those questions of “what are you?”, “where are you from?”, “why does your food smell weird?” - all while trying to figure out how and where I belong.
Pictured above: Dalya's parents Josee and Mel Perez circa 1969
Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been deeply ingrained and interwoven across my personal, academic, and professional journeys. From my early career working in Latinx health clinics, to being the Executive Director of an LGBTQIA+ youth organization, I began my career with grassroots community organization. As a critical race scholar, I dedicated myself to studying educational leadership and policy and to implementing design-based interventions that bring about remediation and close equity disparities for underrepresented communities. In my last team, the Brotherhood Initiative, I was a founding member of a research project that aimed to brdige the graduation gap for men of color in higher education. I am proud to say that we were successful in graduating the first cohort with a 99% graduation rate. The key to this success was getting critical stakeholders across divisions and roles to collaborate. I believe that building collaborative relationships between people who view the problem space from different, unique vantage points is critical to designing strong D&I programs in all industries, but especially in tech.
Pictured above: University of Washington's Brotherhood Initiative
My career at Microsoft
Joining Microsoft has taught me that cultural and systemic norms that have excluded historically marginalized groups from tech are the same and, in some cases, adjacent to the structural inequity in public sectors: educational pipelines, hiring biases, and the need for cultural competence to name a few. I am thrilled to be able to work somewhere with such potency of groundbreaking technology like mixed reality and being able to play a role where I can pair this with transformational change, access, and equitable policies for Black, Latinx, women, and many more communities historically underrepresented in tech. There’s work to do and we are lucky to be in a company and team with executive leadership all in for D&I. The alignment from the top down and bottom up is incredible.
As we cross into 2021, I know we still have a long road of navigating the pandemic. That said, we're also going into this new year with a stronger sense of confidence and resilience in working remotely, parenting, home-schooling. With the incredible technology which enables us to do this work and be a team, to be flexible, adaptable…. I’m amazed at what we have been able to do. From my family to yours, wishing you a happy new year, wellness, and patience as we forge ahead into the unknown.
My number one priority in my first year has been to meet as many people on our team as possible and learn about your D&I journey. How do you use your tech superpowers in mixed reality to drive positive impact in your local company? Remember that D&I work is about relationships and community - we all have a story, and we all have a part in D&I work. Better yet, we have the tech tools to truly create change.
If you have ideas on how we can use mixed reality to promote inclusion and accessibility for all, please reach out. I look forward to building up this Mixed Reality Community as a safe space for all to learn, grow and become better humans.
Pictured above: Dalya, husband Brian, and kids Amiel (2) & Carlos (10)
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