Speakers

Erica Baker

Slack Technologies

Erica Baker is a Senior Engineer at Slack Technologies  and advocate for  diversity  and  inclusion in tech, and expanding access to tech education.

Erica's career in tech began fifteen years ago doing domain administration for the University of Alaska Statewide System, before becoming a Googler in 2006. Erica's role grew and shifted within  Google, growing from Support Technician to Site Reliability Engineer. She joined Slack in 2015, where she focuses on Build and Release Engineering. Erica is on the Advisory Boards for Atipica and Hack the Hood, and is a Tech Mentor -- for Black Girls Code.

Erica is a founding member of Project Include, was the 2015 Level Playing Field Institute Lux Award winner, a nominee for the 2016 Crunchies Include Diversity Award, and was included in WIRED Magazine's  2016 NextList. Erica is currently based in Oakland, California.

Laura Gómez

Atipica

Laura I. Gómez, is the Founder and CEO at  Atipica, a venture-backed startup and founding member of  Project Include.

As a young immigrant to Silicon Valley, Laura grew up in Redwood City, the daughter of a single mother and nanny to several local tech leaders. At the age of 17, Laura I. Gómez had her first internship with Hewlett-Packard, which started her career in tech.

Laura has worked at Google, YouTube, Jawbone, and Twitter, where she was a founding team member of the International team, which led Twitter's product expansion into 50 languages and dozens of countries.

Her passion for diversity in tech extends into her startup, Atipica, as well as her involvement with several nonprofit organisations. Her passion is to lead data-driven initiatives that allow top level leaders to understand the business benefits of machine learning in recruiting and diversity. She has been recognised by the Department of State and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for involvement in the TechWomen Program - she was the only female leader at Twitter to participate in 2012. She also serves  on the board of the Institute for Technology and Public Policy alongside Lt Governor Gavin Newsom and former Secretary of State George P Schultz.

 
Special Guest

Tony Vargus

Tony Vargas

Senator from District 7

Tony Vargas has devoted his career to public service and advocacy and is currently serving in the Nebraska Legislature as the Senator from District 7, representing South and Downtown Omaha. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, State-Tribal Relations Committee, and Vice Chair of the Legislature's Planning Committee, Tony has worked to balance the state's budget while also protecting vital state services and acting as a voice for the underprivileged. In his first legislative session, Tony introduced LB 427, which sought to remove barriers to education faced by pregnant and parenting students. In his brief time in the Unicameral, Tony has emerged as a thoughtful and compassionate leader, capable of working across party lines to improve the lives of all Nebraskans.

Tony is the son of Peruvian immigrants who worked in manufacturing --  his father, Antonio, a machinist, and his mother, Lidia, an assembly line worker in a factory. Living paycheck-to-paycheck as a young Latino family in New York City shaped his perspectives on jobs, education, and opportunity. Because of these experiences, Tony has always stood up for working families and fought to protect the American Dream.

Tony learned the values of community, hard work, and perseverance from his parents, who, despite their humble beginnings, sacrificed everything to provide their children with an opportunity for a brighter future. His two older brothers also played a key role in his life, paving the way for what was possible. His oldest brother, Gene, proudly served our country in the United States Navy, and his middle brother, Charles, works in a public school as a bilingual math teacher. As strong community leaders, both brothers mentor, coach, and advocate for underserved youth and their families.

Tony began his career as a public school teacher in New York City with Teach for America. He received the award of "Most Outstanding Teacher" in 2008 from the New York City Council and also received the "Teacher of the Year" award from the local Lions Club. His next role was as an instructional and leadership development coach, where he worked with teachers and school leaders across the highest-need public schools in the New York City Department of Education. As a result of his work, he was appointed to serve on the New York State Board of Education Professional Teacher Standards and Practices Board, where he advised state leaders on education policy impacting teacher support and development. Since then, he has worked in the non-profit and education sectors, striving to improve the quality of education of thousands of children across the United States.

Tony is currently the Director of Policy and Advocacy for a national education non-profit and is also proud to serve as a founding board member for the New Leaders Council-Omaha. A first generation college student, Tony earned his Bachelors of Arts degree at University of Rochester and a Master's in Education at Pace University. He and his wife, Lauren Micek Vargas, live in the Little Italy neighborhood of South Omaha and are proud Catholic parishioners of St. Frances Cabrini Church.