Diana Im, Product Marketing Manager, Microsoft | 2018 Vital Voices HerLEAD Ambassador

What sparked your interest in your work with impoverished communities?

I really wanted to understand the conditions of inequality in urban America. I had a lot of experience working at different NGOs and in more impoverished communities in high school. I had volunteered in Cambodia and in Guatemala and it had really driven this passion for understanding academically the conditions of inequality in urban cities within America.

copyright Vital Voices

copyright Vital Voices

I had the opportunity to work as a English teacher in a school in Cambodia in a rural part of Pnom Penh and that was that was just an incredible experience. I learned what they had to struggle through in order to access education. As an immigrant, the first-generation immigrant, my parents really instilled in me a passion for education. 

What I saw in my teaching experience in Cambodia and then in the subsequent summers working and teaching English in a rural village called El Triunfo in Guatemala there was this need and this want and this hunger for education and for learning that wasn't being met because their resources weren't there the tools weren't there the access just wasn't there.

What did you do with the Vital Voices HERlead grant you received?

Thanks to the grant from the HERlead fellowship, I was able to fund the creation of a library in a in a computer lab within the community of El Triunfo. 

In this initiative in El Triunfo I worked specifically with an incredible NGO called the Guatemalan project. They do a series of social programs that empower the individuals in the village, and the education component and bringing educational resources into the community has been one aspect of it. There are other programs such as a microloans that empower mothers and women in the community to pursue the economic empowerment avenues that they've always dreamed of achieving but haven't had the resources to do so. There is also a education scholarship fund that is a part of what the Guatemalan project does and we've seen just so many young people achieve their dreams.

There are situations where students need access to computer and technology. So my goal with that was to provide some of the actual tools that were honestly the biggest barriers to students achieving in school - the computers and the books that that were really necessary for students to be able to perform at school.

Now you work at Microsoft. What is it like to work at a large corporation?

For me right now working in my first job at a large corporation I'm realizing that young women are not seeing the seeing people like them in executive leadership. I'm talking about women of color seeing women doing really amazing things in positions of leadership and positions all across industries. So right now I'm working to figure out what my role is in pushing more women of color into positions of leadership, empowering my community of young women to participate more civic participation and in politics but also in the private sector. 

What should young women in the workforce be doing to be rising in leadership positions?

Young women really need to question the status quo. When we see people who are not like us - whether it's gender, whether it is ability, whether it is education level or any kind of differences - if we don't see people like us we need to challenge the status quo. We need to continue to ask really hard questions to those people who are in leadership and who are telling us that our voices don't matter, or our voices are too quiet, or our voices just are not as significant. Because young women are strong. We're empowered, we are beautiful, we're smart and we have everything in our power to influence positive change and balance that imbalance that currently exists in our world. 

Ms. Media