First generation celebration helps students break into the tech industry

By Janae Mosby, Staff Reporter

This past week, SIU celebrated first generation college students and employees. On Nov. 9 and 10, a virtual Breaking Barriers: First-Gens in Tech event was held on Hubspot.

This event was to help connect first generation students with the resources they need to break into the tech industry.

On Nov. 9, the event started with a welcome speech from Faylis Matos, manager on the onboarding team at Hubspot, at 3 p.m. followed by a Slack meetup at 4 p.m. where first generation students could meet other students.


During the welcome, there were seven sessions to help first-gen students navigate job searching and feel confident when applying for jobs.

Each session was taught by different employees from Hubspot. The first session was about how to define career values and non-negotiables for a job search; this was led by diversity, inclusion and belonging manager Ben Pieira.

This session gave first-gen students the tools they need to find the values and components they are looking for in a job.

The next session was about how to feel confident in a career and this was led by Hubspot’s senior community manager, Tori Goyette.

The next five sessions aimed to help first-gen students on discerning company culture, finding jobs, writing a cover letter, improving presentation skills and using storytelling interviews.

These were led by diversity, inclusion and belonging intern Troy Cassity, senior manager at Hubspot Hannah Fleishman, diversity, inclusion and belonging program manager Deneisha Franklin and manager at Hubspot education partner program Juila Gueron.

The next event was a panel of Hubspot and Black Tech Columbus first-gen employees and they discussed their experience of finding a career in tech.


The panel consisted of David Torres, Meghna Ananta, Matthew Quinn, Lou Orfanos and Sam Abrams.

The last event held on Nov. 9 was a talk about uncovering the barriers first-gen students are going to face in job searching and learning tips to help apply for jobs. This talk was led by therapist Kiaundra Jackson.

“For me personally, it has been a huge honor because I get to show my parents that all their efforts they have put into me and my brother [paid off],” freshman Fernando Vega said.

Vega is currently undecided, but his focus is on aviation flight.

“[SIU] celebrates different people like Hispanics, African Americans and to celebrate first-gens, I think it is amazing because it shows that they are truly appreciated,” Vega said.

Vega said he plans on attending the virtual lunch the First Saluki Center holds and that this lunch is a good way to meet other people.

“Doing the peer mentors that the [First Saluki center] gives us is amazing. Having someone to talk to is really nice because if I have any issues at school they give me the resources,” Vega said.

Freshman John Ngo said the first generation student celebration is a good opportunity to meet other first generation college students.

Ngo is majoring in hospitality, tourism and management.

“I am experiencing college for the first time and it is very different from high school. There is a lot more variety in classes I can take, as well as people you get to meet,”  Ngo said. 

Staff reporter Janae Mosby can be reached at or on Twitter at @mosbyj.

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