Few people who know me realize that English is not my first language. I’m fluent, and I’m even most comfortable expressing myself in English, but that was not always the case. I was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, the Island of Enchantment. Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean and is a Commonwealth of the United States. 

My amazing parents.

My parents were a young couple who wanted to set me up for success, so they decided to move to the United States in pursuit of the same vision of the American Dream that so many people have when arriving in this country.

Not knowing English, I was placed in the school’s ESOL program (English for Speakers of Other Languages). This program comes with challenges. Most students who enter the program struggle due to social stigmas attached to the program, and the specialized attention and budgetary demands required to keep the program running. Students get frustrated with the system and many leave high school without a diploma. I’ve never been one to let social stigmas define me, and six months after entering the program I was fully bi-lingual. 

My last day in the ESOL program, on my way to an all-English school.

As an added bonus, I was able to share my lessons with my non-English speaking dad along the way! With the love and support of my parents, I became a first-generation college graduate, earning full paid scholarships along the way.

My graduation day, standing with my two younger sisters.

Being a Hispanic woman has allowed me to learn from experiences that are both blessings and challenges. While we have made great strides in this country to be inclusive of diversity, some of us face many challenges in the journey to our destination. 

I’m the first person in my family to work at a technology company. Working on the Customer Success team at Invoca brought me into the digital age and taught me skills I never would have learned otherwise. I strive to make sure that my clients feel like they are part of my family. Some days I get asked about advanced routing features and some days I get asked for recipes — and both are always readily available. Great Hispanic influencer, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said it best, “There are uses to adversity, and they don’t reveal themselves until tested. Whether it’s serious illness, financial hardship, or the simple constraint of parents who speak limited English, difficulty can tap unexpected strengths.” 

While Puerto Ricans are born U.S. citizens, we hold on tightly to our culture and traditions. A culture rich in music, food, faith, and family. Puerto Ricans are very passionate people — we throw our whole selves into everything we do. One passion that I love to share is cooking! Whether I am creating simple bite-size avocado egg rolls or putting on a full production with traditional Puerto Rican meals like roast pork, yellow rice, red beans, and sweet plantains, I guarantee that you will feel my love of cooking. After you have been fed a main course it would be nearly impossible to send you off without dessert. Traditional flans and cakes go great with a cup of cafe con leche! Don’t worry about those calories, you can burn them off dancing Salsa around the house. Puerto Rican homes wouldn’t be complete without the rhythms of the island playing in the background, especially during Christmas!

What started out as a potential language barrier propelled me to be the best I could be.  Your struggle may be more subtle than language, but whatever it is, know that you can do anything you set your mind and heart to. If, like me, you love your heritage and bringing a colorful and diverse perspective to a company that celebrates your uniqueness — take a look at our career opportunities, and let’s share some recipes! 

Featured image photo credit: Marymount California University

Chaly Barkarr

Posted by Chaly Barkarr

Chaly Barkarr is a customer success manager at Invoca. She has nearly a decade of experience in digital marketing and has a particular affinity for the performance marketing industry. When she's not working hard for her clients, she enjoys cooking creative meals for her husband and two young daughters.