Staff Spotlight: Daniella Espinoza

Why did you apply for your first job at Berkeley and what kept you at Student Affairs IT (SAIT)?

Why did you apply for your first job at Berkeley and what kept you at Student Affairs IT (SAIT)? 

I started at Cal during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic from my childhood home. In an attempt to find something to do with the extra time that I no longer had to use for commuting or in person activities, I decided to apply for a job in SAIT which I had heard of in a class specifically for transfer students.

While I applied as an Student Technology Consultant (STC) because the skill set desired was similar to my previous job, I ended up staying because of what I saw it could do for me. I learned so much more about computers and technology than I ever expected I would (I am not a computer or any sort of STEM major) and more importantly, I created a community within the department. I stayed because the job became more than a job but a place that I could see myself happily fit in.

Student Leadership Training Coordinator

Daniella has worked at Student Affairs IT since November 2020 in various roles, including Student Technology Consultant, Student Helpdesk Supervisor and Student Leadership Training Coordinator

How would you describe your growth throughout your time at SAIT?

I came into the job with minimal work experience in the tech field. Like many folks that have grown up with the emergence of technology, I knew how to fix basic level issues and if I was unfamiliar with something, I knew how to Google. Over time with SAIT however, I started to actually take computers apart and also learn about the large variety of Berkeley technological systems that are heavily relied on.

Throughout my time here, I have also had a variety of roles both on the frontline and behind the scenes. I am most proud of my growth in adapting and learning how to work with people in an online environment that was new to everyone and not as optimal as being in person. On top of this, I became good at making such uncomfortable situations feel better even if it was in little ways.

How has being a Latina technologist informed your work/ideas/experiences? How do you challenge the expectations of ‘who does IT’ traditionally?

Being a Latina, I generally notice pretty quickly when I am one of few or the only Latina in the room and this observation was no different in my role as a technologist before Berkeley and even during Berkeley. Because of this, I already know that my cultural background gives me a unique perspective even if it doesn’t explicitly tie to my work. For example, as a Mexican-American from a huge family, I find so much value in community. As I became more integrated into my role as an STC and eventually a Student Helpdesk Supervisor, I was able to use this value to inform my decisions and actions. This value of community that I felt came from my culture and upbringing became one of my main tools in how I did my work and while it seemingly has nothing to do with technology itself, I think it created a better environment for myself and my team to then be able to do our jobs and better serve our Berkeley community as a whole. 

I think my experiences directly challenge the idea of ‘who does IT’ and even ‘what does IT entail’ because there was more focus on humanity rather than machines. Yes, in this job, there is always the main priority of ensuring that devices function normally but my informed experiences helped me understand that even this field needs an emphasis on the very people that do this work. It helped me ground myself in that and focus on uplifting my team so that we better serve the students that need us.

How do you make a difference for other students through your work?

As an STC, I have the chance to encounter a plethora of technological issues on a daily basis. Because of this, I have seen issues ranging from simple Wi-Fi sign in mistakes to intricate computer parts needing replacement. No matter the issue however, I have learned that when students come to us for help, they do so with confidence that we are able to assist even if they are dealing with dire circumstances. 

Overall, I think that the reason that students utilize our service is because we create a space in which it is okay to continuously ask questions even if they feel like simple ones to have. Because I have seen technology glitches for random reasons, I try my hardest while on the job to reassure students that I believe them when they describe their issues and will work with them until a solution is found. Within SAIT however, this habit is not rare; it is constantly reiterated and practiced so that students do not feel negatively when having to come see us. We know school is tough and as a team, we all try to alleviate technological stressors that are oftentimes difficult to understand.

What are the best lessons that you have learned on the job?

The best lessons that I have learned are that creativity and adaptability are essential. In many cases, in my role as a STC, supervisor, and lead coordinator, there is not a direct answer for many problems that arise. Because of this, creativity is not only essential, but encouraged as a way to get to a solution. Within SAIT, a variety of ideas is not simply expected, but it is welcomed and supported. Adaptability comes in because you never know when some piece of tech (at any level) will act up so being ready to handle rapid changes, updates, or issues will help you succeed here. It sounds scary but for the most part, these experiences are the best for learning.

In what ways have your roles with SAIT shaped you? How will your experiences influence what you do post-graduation?

I think by being part of SAIT for so long, I have learned how to have confidence in myself and my opinions. As I have alluded to before, my time here has not been perfect but because I have found my support system within the department, I have been able to speak up when I disagreed with things. On the other hand, while having a voice is beneficial to making the workplace better, I have also learned how to compromise in ways that benefit the most people. Because there are not always clear cut answers to issues, I have had to rack my brain and lean on my teams to figure out productive ways forward and because of this, I think I have gained the valuable skills of crafting compromise that builds on a variety of ideas and brings people together for the purpose of improvement in whatever capacity that's needed.

 I think this courage and confidence to craft a good work experience has helped me realize that I aspire to work in an environment that allows me to create change on issues I am passionate about, while supporting my needs. I also think my ability to now find compromises in situations where it may seem unlikely will help me in the long run as it will keep me invested and fighting for whatever I am working toward while doing so in a realistic manner that is beneficial to the people involved.

Daniella (front, left) and other student leads/supervisors in Student Affairs IT after a two-day leadership training retreat

What advice do you have for other women and BIPOC students who are considering IT as a student job and/or career path? 

I think by going to an institution that was not always made for people like me but is attempting to curate the image that it was, the message that “diversity matters” can get diluted in the mass messaging that we see everyday. This often happens because such messages don’t feel like they have the necessary weight or consideration but continue to be used frivolously and as often as possible. 

In this instance however, I want to stress that diversity in this field is so much more than having a variety of people just for the sake of performatism and quotas. As I have said, my very unique experiences as a Latina who is not a STEM major have informed the very work that I do and has even helped inspire change. Because of this, I urge my fellow BIPOC peers to take the jump and apply to whichever career path that you desire because your unique perspectives matter. Without them, we will continue to have jobs, structures, and systems that function in the same ways that they always have (and continue to only serve certain groups) without any pushback or change. Lastly, even if such change happens in small or gradual ways, your presence and contribution to it is valued and it matters.