Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Meet Paola Maldonado, the new BuzzFeed dev pushing for more Latinas in tech

The former administrative assistant learned coding and landed a job on BuzzFeed's mobile team. Now she's paying it forward with NYC Tech Latinas, a Meetup group she helped start.

Paola Maldonado, right, with her NYC Tech Latinas co-organizer, Yvonne De La Peña, at the group's recent hackathon against cyberstalking.

(Photo courtesy of the NYC Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence)

Paola Maldonado has gotten a lot of attention for her successful life pivot: She went from administrative assistant to developer at BuzzFeed, already picking up shoutouts in Crain’s and the New York Times.
Others are now reaching out to her, asking the 34-year-old for advice on how they too can reinvent their lives. The former English major at Hunter College told Technical.ly Brooklyn that she had worked as support staff for a number of people she saw doing interesting work. “I felt like doing something on my own,” she said during a phone call last week. “I wanted to create.”
Madonado is now working on the mobile team at BuzzFeed. She couldn’t tell us a lot about what she was working on, other than to say its for an all-new app from the company, focused on news. She said she’s been learning since day one, because the new app is being built entirely in Apple’s new language, Swift.
“Not many developers get to work in Swift because their companies haven’t ported over,” she told us. Maldonado is enjoying feeling like she’s on the cutting edge.

"I felt like doing something on my own. I wanted to create."
Paola Maldonado

How this English major realized she would like coding is an interesting story.
Maldonado knew she wanted a change and even sat down with a career coach to talk about options. One idea she had: start a blog. She knew she liked to write, so why not start putting her thoughts out there? She found that she liked the way that she could play with the layout of her site. The more she learned how to do, the more she wanted to learn more.
So, she took a class on it on Skillcrush. She really enjoyed it, and she was on her way.
Maldonado is quick to point out that she’s always been comfortable with computers. A lot of her past work required using a lot of different kinds of programs, and they always came easily to her. Using programs and building them, however, are two different skills.
As it became clear for her that she wanted to go deeper into development work, she started looking for opportunities that she could afford. When some of the contacts she’d made in the tech community pointed out the opportunity to join the first class of the Coalition for Queen’s Access Code program, which aimed to get more minorities creating technology, she applied. It wasn’t the only program Maldonado applied for, but when she got in she found it worked well for her schedule (despite the fact that it was a slog to get from Bay Ridge, where she was then living, up to Long Island City once a week).
On the last weekend in January, the Meetup group she helped start, NYC Tech Latinas, partnered with NY Latino Tech Meetup and the mayor’s office to run a hackathon against cyberstalking, at the Manhattan Family Justice Center.
“Hackathons can be fast-paced fun events but they also provide the space to come up with innovative solutions to important issues,” said Yvonne De La Peña, Maldonado’s co-organizer for NYC Tech Latinas, and the person Maldonado credits with recruiting her to help get the group going. “In organizing this event we are hoping this will be the case regarding such a critical social issue currently affecting our city.”
The group, Maldonado said, is trying to do an event every month. There’s an event on personal branding coming up in April.
Prior to working at BuzzFeed, Maldonado worked as an intern at Viggle. Her first paying job was helping to build the second version of a mobile app we covered earlier this year, Filmbot. Her work hasn’t been released yet, however. Working with Max Friend, the founder, was her first time collaborating with a designer and seeing that attention to detail, she told us. Plus, “It was nice that I was getting paid,” she said. “I hadn’t been getting paid for a while.”
Maldonado currently lives in Bushwick. She’s looking forward to learning more at BuzzFeed for a while. She feels like it’s a company that’s always on the cutting edge of whatever is new, she told us.


Companies: BuzzFeed
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