A year after graduating from Pomona College with a major in sociology and a minor in Chicana/o-Latina/o studies, Kim Rojas Hernandez ’17 didn’t think there was a place for her in the tech industry without a technical background. But less than four years later, she has had three promotions and currently works as a recruiting operations manager at a tech company that helps college students across the country find jobs.
What she discovered is that “to be in tech I don't have to be a software engineer. I can find these pockets in tech that I find really enjoyable,” Rojas Hernandez says.
Rojas Hernandez arrived at Pomona from Park City, Illinois, via the Schuler Scholar Program, which helps first-generation students, students of color and low-income students apply to highly selective colleges. At Pomona, she was heavily involved in research and planned on getting a Ph.D. and becoming a professor. But after graduating, she was hesitant to commit to that path, especially since academia was all that she had really known. She returned to Illinois and worked with the Schuler Scholar Program for a year to give back to a program that had helped her so much.
When her partner received a job offer in San Francisco, Rojas Hernandez decided to take a leap of faith and move there with him. And thus began her foray into the tech industry.
Jordan Pedraza ’09 was someone Rojas Hernandez had met when Pedraza visited one of her sociology classes as an alumna. After moving to San Francisco, Rojas Hernandez remembered that Pedraza was a sociology major working in tech, at a company called Handshake, a college career network and recruiting platform. She reached out to Pedraza to ask about her career path. They met at Pedraza’s office, and while there she learned that there was an opening for a recruiting coordinator.
What resonated with her as a first-generation student was the company’s mission, which “has to do with democratizing access to opportunity,” she says.
As the company grew and Rojas Hernandez was able to try different aspects of recruiting, she found herself drawn to recruiting operations. In her current role as a recruiting operations manager, Rojas Hernandez helps ensure that all hiring managers, interviewers and others involved in recruiting understand how to prepare for and conduct interviews. Additionally, she trains them in becoming aware of unconscious bias and what can be done to mitigate bias. She also works with data and reporting.
Rojas Hernandez believes that skills in research, presentation and communication that she gained at Pomona have prepared her for her work. “I know how to structure my thoughts, how to convey information, how to visualize big concepts or ideas,” she says. “I find the skills being super relevant that I thought were only relevant if I became a professor.”
In particular, she cites her Qualitative Research Methods class, taught by Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies Hung Thai, in which she learned how to structure an interview, gather themes using qualitative information and draw conclusions. Those skills have lent themselves well to tasks like soliciting feedback from recruiters and creating and analyzing surveys.
When asked for advice for current students, Rojas Hernandez recommends exploring internships at different types of companies and in different industries, connecting with alumni, and tailoring one’s resume.
“And lastly, use Handshake. Fill out your profile,” she says.