Get to know Pinwheel's LGBTQIA+ community in this month's spotlight, where LaRena Iocco, Software Engineer, shares why working at Pinwheel provides an avenue to improving the lives and finances of queer people.
Share a bit about yourself and your background.
I’m LaRena! I’m a software engineer, a queer California native, a dog mom, a podcaster, an avid reader, a huge theatre nerd, and a former circus clown. I grew up on the Best Coast in Northern California, but I’m a New Yorker at heart where I currently live with my partner. Prior to going back to school to become an engineer, I worked in hospital administration, as an actor, on LGBTQ marriage equality campaigns, and on various circuses in the US and Japan.
What have you enjoyed most about working at Pinwheel?
I honestly love the work that I do everyday at Pinwheel. The work is exciting and ever changing, and as a newer engineer I’m learning so much from other members of the engineering team. I can feel good about the work I’m doing to build a more inclusive financial system and ultimately help serve people who have been left behind by the traditional system, many of whom are LGBTQIA+, and especially people of color in our community.
But my favorite part of Pinwheel is our incredibly open and inclusive team that’s committed to inclusion and diversity in everything we do. I’ve worked for companies in the past that didn’t even try to be more inclusive, and companies where it just seems like talk and nothing gets done. Everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working and interacting with at Pinwheel doesn’t just talk the talk — they walk the walk. From our CEO to the recruitment team to my daily co-workers, we all recognize that the best ideas happen when you have diversity in the room.
How have your experiences shaped the work you do in the world of inclusive finance?
Everything I’ve done in my life has led me to Pinwheel. But I think that my time working on LGBTQ equality campaigns cemented for me that I wanted to work for a company making a positive impact on underserved communities. I’m lucky to have lived in more progressive and liberal parts of the country, but I’ve worked with so many queer people who came from less accepting environments. Working on a system that can open up access to money in new ways is important for improving the lives of my queer community and lifting us all.
As an engineer, what advice do you have for other LGBTQIA+ folks who are interested in joining the space?
Do it! I’m a college dropout and former circus clown. If I can do it, you can do it. That is not to make light of those who went to college and earned a computer science degree, but there are other avenues to success in addition to the traditional college system. (Just like there are other avenues to financial security in addition to traditional banks and credit scores). There are so many free resources online to learn coding and free mentorship programs that can connect you to someone in the industry. There are coding bootcamps, many of which have moved entirely online since the pandemic, and some of which offer scholarships and tuition assistance or deferment. If you think you might find software engineering interesting, give it a try!
These spaces that historically have been dominated by majority groups are getting more diverse every day, and will continue to as more queer people follow their passion for engineering.