March 27, 2023Stories
The (Tech) Road Less Taken
Marlin Martes Shares How to Make the Impossible Possible
by Elizabeth Drolet
"You're talking to the right person for non-traditional paths into tech because I shouldn't be in this industry," Marlin Martes said as I explained NANOG's new Road Less Traveled series.
The article series has given voice to the round pegs in the square holes in our NANOG community that unexpectedly found success in a tech career.
Marlin has been involved with NANOG for a couple of years and is a member of the Programming Committee.
Marlin is a technical business developer for Amazon Web Services and has a Bachelors of Arts in environmental studies and a Masters of Science in strategic marketing communications from Fordham University.
Before tech, she worked with the U.S. Department of Energy's Office (DOE) as a Program Analyst.
"Quite a mouthful," I said.
"It sounds fancy, but it isn't. Basically, we helped the national labs find ways to commercialize their energy technologies," Marlin said.
"Still sounds like a mouthful," I said.
Marlin is easy to talk to. She is as direct and authentic as the culture she grew up in. She was raised by her single mom in the Bronx of New York City. Her mom, Orquidea Rivas personified the American Dream as she immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, with, essentially, only the clothes on her back.
Rivas worked as a waitress (among other jobs) to provide for her family while saving every penny to accomplish a bigger dream of opening a restaurant.
A dream that came true and is still in business today. Marlin's mom saw her first-generation children graduate from college before she passed away. Rivas continues to be the most influential person in Marlin's life.
"She was a hard worker who valued education and pushed my brother and I to be the best in everything we did. She wanted us to be able to stand on our own," Marlin said.
Marlin was creative and curious as a child, equally interested in the arts and science. It was in college that environmental policy caught her attention. She wanted to change the world.
"I liked the idea of a sustainable economy and business," she said.
After college, she explored various talents. Dabbling in art, design, and marketing, while learning a significant amount about project management at a website design agency. Eventually leading her to the job at the DOE.
Working at the DOE was limited to project management, and after three years Marlin was ready for a new challenge.
And that is when a tech road found her.
"At the time, I was applying to everything under the sun," she said.
She knew little about the position at Amazon Web Services (AWS) but applied anyway. A month later, Marlin received a call from AWS, wanting to set up an interview.
Marlin confessed she had to Google some of the industry jargon before her interview but took the opportunity to jump into the unknown. It was a leap of faith that became a very comfortable destiny. She 'found her tribe' working in tech and has been welcomed with open arms.
"What I've found most surprising is that most people don't have a straightforward path to tech either. Everybody has different backgrounds. If you can get over the shame or guilt of feeling like 'I'm the only one that got here this way,' people will start to respect and mentor you," Marlin said.
She has struggled with Imposter Syndrome in the past. A fact that surprises her contemporaries, as most people find her to be very confident. Confidence, however, has been a learned skill. The best advice she has ever received is "to not sell yourself short."
"If you don't value yourself, then others won't either," Marlin said.
"Imposter syndrome isn't 'oh, I'm terrible, and I'm constantly beating myself down. It's more the feeling of walking into a room full of professional strangers and feeling like you don't belong. It took a long time to get over those thoughts, but they were worth overcoming."
According to Marlin, you must be willing to be your biggest advocate to “level up.” She encourages everyone to find mentorship and to not be afraid to ask for help.
Find out more about Imposter Syndrome in Networking, in a talk from NANOG 87 by Matt Vitale.
Elizabeth Drolet is NANOG's Multimedia Story Producer
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