Meet Georgia Sandoval, Engineer at Intel
Georgia Sandoval is often the only person in the room that looks like her. She is Diné from Tuba City, Arizona, and works as a Cloud and Enterprise Solutions Engineer at Intel. Though she’s had a few mentors in tech who are Native American, she’s in a predominantly male and white dominated field.
This has made her role in tech at times challenging. “It felt like I was hiding my identity a lot to fit in,” she reflected. “People use terms like “off the reservation” or “let’s have a pow wow.” And I would hear inappropriate comments when I was an intern from male colleagues.” She’s not alone in feeling excluded: 42.6% of POC survey participants in the 2020 People of Color in Tech report said they experienced discrimination at work due to their race or ethnicity.
Though she has faced challenges, she has also benefited from great mentors, particularly fellow women and Native Americans in tech. “I don’t think I would be where I am now without those people advocating for me,” she reflected.
Sandoval has always had an interest in math, though she didn’t know she would end up in tech. “I always loved math when I was growing up, and when I was young I had a talent in it.” she said. “For me, it was a subject I could quietly do on my own.”
After high school, she started at Diné College and finished her Associate’s in General Science at Coconino County Community College. When she became a mother, she realized she had to focus on her career. She enjoyed her math courses and decided to pursue pure mathematics at Arizona State University. At the time, she wasn’t sure what she would do after graduating, thinking perhaps she would pursue a master’s degree or become a teacher.
As a single mother, college was often a struggle: she used internship money to pay for childcare, gas, and housing. While a student, she became actively involved with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), eventually serving as her chapter’s president. When she attended an AISES career fair in Orlando, Florida, she landed an internship with Raytheon Technologies, an aviation, space, and defense company. This was her first experience working in software engineering. Later, she got a software engineering internship at Boeing because of a Native American she knew working there.
Her connection to Intel was serendipitous: she was meeting her friend at an AISES job fair on campus as an undergrad, and they were at the Intel booth. Though she initially wasn’t sure if she was interested, she gave the recruiters her resume and was offered an internship. After graduating from ASU with a degree in computational mathematics, she joined Intel full time, where she’s now been for five years.
Recently, much of the focus of her team has been Covid reopenings. For example, companies have needed support handling video analytics with temperature gauging, keeping track of social distancing, and more. She also works on the Network Business Incubator Division, which supports companies and nonprofits connect to 5G and edge computing.
Another important aspect of her job is serving on the Diversity and Inclusion committee at work. Though Sandoval has had several Native American mentors, there is a dearth of Native Americans in tech. According to the 2018 Rebooting Representation report, combined, Black, Hispanic, and Native American women make up just 4% of computing jobs — though they represent 16% of the American population. “There’s a major underrepresentation of us out there. I’m one of two people in my group, the network platforms group, who I know of is Native American,” she said. “That’s why I’m on the D&I committee. I want to hire more people.” Native American mentors supported Sandoval throughout her career, and she hopes to do the same for others.
She is also motivated by her daughter. In her spare time, Sandoval loves self care activities with her daughter like getting their nails done, going to the beach, and drinking root beer floats.
Meet more Indigenous Mathematicians here.
Author Bio: Abaki Beck (Blackfeet and Red River Métis) is a freelance writer and public health researcher passionate about health equity in Native communities, particularly for justice-involved community members. She earned her Master’s in Public Health in 2020 and grew up in Montana.
This article is supported by the generous support of the Tensor SUMMA Grant! Thank you!