Quintanilla grew up in Santa Ana, Calif., and attended UCLA where she earned a bachelor of arts in International Development with a focus on Latin America and the Middle East. She then worked as a community health educator for a nonprofit focusing on youth development and sexual reproductive health. At the time, she also volunteered with an organization that ran a youth ambassadors program between the Bay Area and Paraguay and Uruguay.
The work she was doing prompted her to move to the Dominican Republic for six months where she worked with a youth exchange program with kids from California and New York. When she was asked to relocate again after her contract ended, she chose the nation’s capital.
“That was probably the smartest decision because I love D.C., and I’ll celebrate my fifth year in town in October,” she said.
In 2015, Quintanilla suffered a traumatic brain injury while on a job in Oaxaca, Mexico. She said her employer at the time didn’t offer her any medical care and six months into her two-year recovery, they fired her.
“I had always been considered an overachiever and ‘doer’ and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t write, read, or even walk without falling because of the bruising in my brain,” Quintanilla told Technical.ly in an interview.
Luckily, Quintanilla was connected to a network of support and had a rehabilitation counselor who helped her recover. She also began using technology in her day-to-day life to offset the issues that would arise from her disability.
“At the second-year anniversary of my injury, I was given a final diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome and labeled as someone with cognitive disabilities,” she said.
During her time working with nonprofits, Quintanilla met Kaitlyn Borysiewicz, her friend and ultimately cofounder of The Melanin Collective. Borysiewicz also stopped working in this realm of nonprofits after feeling like women of color were being treated like “second-class citizens,” according to Quintanilla.
Both of their experiences being women of color and working with nonprofits sparked the idea of The Melanin Collective, an organization created to support the professional growth and development of women of color through webinars, workshops and curated social media talks. The Melanin Collective operates in D.C. and Los Angeles.
“Our mission is to create a transformative space for all WoC to see their true self and value, to work as a collective for the common good, and to develop supportive, professional and lasting relationships. Our vision is a world where WoC can thrive, not just survive,” Quintanilla said.
The organization has a focus on supporting women of color, especially in the tech and entrepreneurial fields. Quintanilla is a part of Salesforce’s Women In Tech DC group, with which The Melanin Collective has partnered with to gather information about the racial and gender gaps for women in tech in the DMV area.
The Melanin Collective hosts monthly Twitter chats under the hashtag #WorkingWOC that address different aspects that affect the lives of women of color. In September, the Twitter chat topic is women of color working in tech.
Earlier this month, Quintanilla teamed up with Gamal J. Palmer, founder of Los Angeles–based Global Eye Entrepreneurs, to host the first POC Entrepreneural Bootcamp.
Quintanilla said she intends for the collective to host more tech-savvy events in the future for D.C. women of color. She said The Melanin Collective will “have a place in the tech community.”-30-