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Bridging the Gap: Empowering Immigrants through Innovative Collaboration

The City of Boston is home to diverse immigrant populations. For many immigrants living in Boston, equity is still out of reach due to factors like economic opportunities, and language barriers. Under Mayor Wu’s leadership, City agencies have implemented strategies to increase access to services for housing, education, an internet connection, legal support, and more in the City of Boston. One way to achieve these goals is through collaboration between municipal departments.

Collaboration can lead to innovation. Bringing together different perspectives and expertise allows departments to create new solutions and approaches to systemic inequities facing immigrant communities. So, when the Mayor's Office for Immigrant Advancement (MOIA), the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), and Catholic Charities’ El Centro program came together to do their part in addressing these challenges; it became a model for what collaboration looks like. 

Now, meet Lucia Mendoza and Wanses Boursiquot.

Upon completion of El Catholic Charities’ El Centro ESOL and IT programs, Lucia and Wanses joined DoIT as Cybersecurity Fellows through a pilot program. The program is a collaboration between El Centro, MOIA, and DoIT. The fellowship aims to provide career opportunities for immigrants while addressing the growing demand for cybersecurity professionals in the City.

The program is part of the City's broader effort to bridge the gaps in pay equity and job opportunities for immigrant communities while filling hiring needs. Many immigrants face unique challenges to entering the technology industry, including language barriers, lack of access to training and education, and discrimination. This program helps provide immigrants with the experience and mentorship needed to pursue a career in cybersecurity and helps build a stronger workforce in our city. 

This collaboration is a great example of how we can build critical infrastructure for Boston, said Monique Tú Nguyen, Executive Director of the Mayor's Office for Immigrant Advancement. Employers and City departments need skilled workers, and immigrants are bringing their skills, talents, and experiences to meet these crucial needs and be key contributors to our economy.

And Greg McCarthy, Chief Information Security Officer, adds, The partnership between DoIT, MOIA and El Centro has been amazing. It is extremely challenging to recruit cybersecurity talent in the government sector and through the cybersecurity fellowship pilot with El Centro we've had the pleasure of Lucia and Wanses joining our team. They've gained valuable hands-on cybersecurity experience and have contributed extensively to the City's cybersecurity program. I hope this is the beginning of their long and successful cybersecurity career.” 

While MOIA and DoIT can highlight all of the impactful work we do at City to support all residents in the City of Boston, Lucia and Wanses can better illustrate how their lives have transformed in their time with us. 

"I used to live and work in Monterrey, Mexico, with my mom, dad, and two dogs.” Lucia says, “I decided to move from Monterrey in 2018 and make a few changes in my life. I’ve always enjoyed working in helping people be more secure. A job that makes an impact! Even if it’s in the office, we’re contributing to a common cause. In 2021, I joined El Centro’s ESOL and Cybersecurity Bootcamp, where I admired the hard work of Marianna and the staff. We went through training for certifications and learned about Network, IT Security, Ethical Hacking, and Network Defender.”

“I learned that it doesn’t matter from where you come,” Lucia continues. “All that matters is how to persevere. There’s no age limit to learning. I learned that it doesn’t matter where you are or where you come from; you can always teach others something. Teamwork makes the dream work!” 

Wanses sitting at his computer in the Department of Innovation and Technology

And this couldn't be more true than when Wanses joined her team as a Cybersecurity Fellow. “At El Centro, I learned that there is so much more to computers than just sending emails and reading news articles,” Wanses adds. “I learned how to fix my own technical issues, troubleshoot, and work with different programs and vulnerabilities around using the internet. I thoroughly enjoy running different commands and learning the technical language of cybersecurity.”

Wanses continues, “Here at DoIT, I enjoy the morning briefings where everyone shares their plan for the day and we celebrate team wins. The Cybersecurity team group chat is especially helpful. In the beginning, I was nervous to ask questions, but the team is so supportive and humorous. The little jokes and support truly helped ease the tension.”

Wanses and Lucia presenting to their team in the conference room

One of the main goals of this fellowship is to address the underrepresentation of immigrants in the cybersecurity industry. Diverse perspectives and experiences can lead to new ideas and approaches to cybersecurity challenges, ultimately benefiting the City and its residents.

“When I first accepted the fellowship, I assumed I would be an assistant or an intern. Within the first week of the fellowship, that assumption went away,” Lucia says. “Everyone has been very welcoming and friendly. I love the diversity and the opportunities afforded to us. Everyone is equal here. On the day of my fellowship interview, I unknowingly spoke to the CIO, Santiago Garces. He spoke to me briefly and helped me find the conference room. I don’t think he understands how much of an impact that had on me. Working alongside people with a lot of experience who are willing to share their knowledge, all while being compensated, is amazing. Also, this fellowship is very responsive to the workforce because I do not have to compromise my familial responsibilities.”

Wanses, Greg, and Lucia standing together in the conference room smiling.

The collaboration between MOIA and DoIT exemplifies how government agencies can work together to address pressing social and economic issues. By leveraging our expertise and resources, we have created a program that addresses the needs of immigrants and the City's growing technology industry. As the program grows and expands, we hope it will serve as a model for other cities looking to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the technology industry. The fellowship has provided them with the support, guidance, and skills they need to pursue a career in the field, while also connecting them with a community of talented individuals.

Lucia couldn’t help but express her gratitude, “This fellowship is advancing equity at a level that I didn’t imagine I could be part of. As a professional immigrant, leaving your company and professional environment in your home country is hard. Before we come here, we know that we are leaving all the efforts and the resume we've built throughout the years. And when we come to the US,  we are coming to an uncertain place where we probably need to start from zero. This is why this fellowship is so important. For immigrants who are living with the frustration of having to start from zero. This is why it is so important for immigrants in the community to know that places like El Centro exist and that the City of Boston is supporting us.”

To learn more about how the City of Boston supports our immigrant communities, head to MOIA’s web page.




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