Transcript of Life Lnxx Episode 49 with special guest, Jackie DeJesse, Google Product Manager & Founder of Quorum ~ a company focused on raising women’s voices, who was raised alongside her Peruvian grandmother in California. Learn how cultural personality traits gave Jackie the power she needed to make the big moves!
Happy first week of July. Happy short week. Although we are having a short week, probably less about celebration and more about just giving ourselves some space to heal and to embrace each other and to consider where we’re going from next. But as of right here, we want you to feel welcomed and part of a bigger picture.
And we are recording beachside for you. This is a pretty amazing first just looking at it over the ocean. We are at the second to last episode of Season Two which has been solo. And as you got a little sneak peek on last week’s episode, Season Three is going to be interview style every other week. You’re still gonna hear me solo.
And yet, today we have a special guest with us. A woman who is here to describe her personal journey of making bold moves based on her cultural personality traits and yet still learning how to define her cultural identity.
With us today is Jacqueline DeJesse, a product manager with Google, who was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area and yet, picked up, left everything and went to New York.
I think you’re really going to enjoy the story and how it resonates with a lot of women out there who are questioning their cultural identity at the same time of making these bold lifestyle moves.
Thank you so much. I’ve been waiting for so long.
Oh, I, it has been a split second to try and book you, you are a very, busy woman,
And yet, so much to learn from your story is very on point for what we talk about a lot on this podcast and that’s why I’ve always wanted to have you on. So welcome. Glad to have you.
So, a little background for our audience. You were born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, with your proven grandmother. Went to USC in California to study Biology and Pre-Med. Yet, after graduating, you head towards tech, which ultimately has you uproot yourself and move to New York. Tell us a little bit about that.
I think growing up in the west coast, there’s a lot of preconceived notions of how people are on the East Coast, especially New York city, there’s like this idea of “oh, New Yorkers are rude or, people are so busy”, but I was pretty tired of the Bay Area, if I’m being honest.
At that point in time, I was working for a startup as I’m a product manager. I was going to a lot of meetups and trying to learn more about what it meant to be a product manager. And those meetups were awful. I think I never really felt well received by the guests. The leaders of the meetups were always great, always wonderful.But the guests generally didn’t really feel like a very supportive and welcoming environment. It was kind of hostile.
Did New York end up being any different?
Moving to New York I found the opposite. I moved out there without a job and so went to a ton of networking events people who live in New York city or people who move there have a much different mentality of, how to approach business or at least their professional lives.
Were you surprised by New York then?
It is truly like a very competitive place. But it’s competitive, in a way that you also find your allies and so I didn’t find it very hostile, so much as an opportunity to connect with the right people who can then help you and you help them. And I personally really relished going to New York because I think it gave me a better stage to experiment in.
That’s a good word, because I think that a lot of us, including myself, have always wanted to have that New York experience for a broad range of reasons, just living and the night life and the opportunity. And it is scary.
Would you say it was a leap of faith where you are really just putting your mindset to it?
Yeah, I definitely had a plan, right? I had, I think $6,000 saved up, which is not that much money moving to New York.
I knew two people out there, one my now husband, who was in Connecticut, and one of my best friends, who’s living in Manhattan at the time. So, I knew I could crash there at their places for a couple weeks. And then I had a month’s sublet figured out from someone that I had previously gone to school with.
But after that, I didn’t have anywhere to stay formally and I didn’t have a job. I had two suitcases and a box of crap really. Uh, I don’t know why I brought the box, had some books and hangers and basic necessities. Stuff that I would rifle through until I actually had a permanent place to live.
You say you had a plan? Describe that plan for us.
My plan was plan A, you know, get the job I wanted as a product manager at a startup, most likely. Plan B was get a general job, I think in tech. And plan C was, get a job period and just be a barista or be a bartender.
So there was never a plan D to go back to the Bay Area because that’s not what I wanted. For me it was like, yeah, I’m just gonna do this.
Didn’t have any regrets and obviously made things work, lived out there for five years. And actually I think I found a lot of personal and professional success out of that.
Wow. So glad to hear that. That was a powerful story because that leap of faith can be really frightening, especially if you’re coming out of a family mindset or a peer group mindset that is not supportive.And so that’s even a great leap of faith at that point.
What would you tell women as far as this was the scariest point in making that leap and this is how I resolved that. This is what I held onto to face that fear .
Well, I think for me, I’m someone who generally likes to have a plan. I don’t like having too much ambiguity. And the scariest thing for me is having total instability in moving out.
Like that would be reckless, like from my perspective for myself. And I would fail, like I know I would fail or I would at least have a significant amount of struggle.
And that’s where I, as a very, pragmatic person, structured it in such a way that like, what are all of these risks, right?
Oh, I don’t have somewhere to live. How realistic is it that my best friend will let me crash at her tiny apartment in Murray Hill, for a few weeks. But I think those are some of the scariest things.
Uncertainty of having a place to live.
I think uncertainty in general, like whether it’s housing or a job, or, but, at a certain point you just have to do it. You can’t just sit around and try and figure everything out before you get there. You just have to figure out enough that what will make you feel comfortable?
So how can I reduce the amount of unknowns or at least limit them to a certain part of the spectrum of unknown, which I can then figure out how to deal with once I get there.
Awesome. That’s really powerful to state that I faced my insecurities and once I had that, then the leap of faith occurs because you maybe quiet down any of the other noise of what ifs.
So you speak of community, and the difference between San Francisco bay area communities and what you found in Manhattan, in Brooklyn, with the difference in reception and openness.
What do you think that was attributed to what is the difference in the New York area that allows for openness,
New York has plenty of problems, right? Like it has inequities that are outrageous, when it comes to income disparities, educational, the quality of life in certain neighborhoods.
But I think at the same time, there’s an extraordinary amount of diversity. And because it’s a very transient city in that people are constantly moving in, constantly moving out, people come with a lot of big dreams, big ideas, right? There’s still this legend of New York City: if you make it there, you can make it anywhere.
And so I think the City in and of itself, just has that energy. That people are attracted to because they want to change something or they want to make something happen
I hear a lot of young women going there because of that atmosphere that you speak of, because this influx of newness is constantly occurring there.
It sounds like you have a very diverse population coming up against a very established generational presence.
In that community of diversity, how did you feel, where did you migrate towards in that?
I think that changed over time because I was very young when I moved there and, more, just looking for fun, and people that were generally upbeat.
But, honestly a lot of friends came out of the first startup that I joined, but in a very different environment from the Bay Area.
The Trump presidency started later that year when I moved there and I think that those four years changed me significantly.
Ultimately finding more people, who are kind of comfortable talking about what was going on politically and socially, people who were interested in being more civically engaged. Social media has become activated as a channel for finding that community. And so that is how I found a lot more community to learn from, to engage with and to support.
Part of the background, your grandmother comes from South America. So you have been raised in a culture that is very heavily South American. You’re second generation here.
And yet, do you feel as though up til this point, feel as though you were a Latina culture?
For most of my childhood, I didn’t think of myself as anything. I think, “Oh, my family’s from Peru”, but I didn’t think of myself as race and culture equals identity. I think in a lot of ways, of course, privileged to have that buffer, and not feeling negative energy because of that, because of, how I might identify,
I remember a high school entrance exam. It was like, I think the first time I had seen the race question ever like, who are you? Are you white?
I think at that time it was one choice only. It was not multi-choice and this wasn’t that long ago. I remember distinctly being like, who am I? who am I? That is a really good question.
And because I was like, I’m not just Latina and I’m not just white. And so I put “Other”. And kind of just left it at that.
To me, we had our family that, of course, had plenty of Peruvian traditions , food and mannerisms, that just manifest and pass themselves down. But you don’t really think about them as being from a particular culture until other people step in and comment on it.
I wasn’t speaking Spanish, at least around the household. I didn’t have a lot of other Latino friends. I think I grew up in a pretty like white-centric environment just by the nature of where I went to school and the neighborhood I grew up in.
So you don’t think you’re influenced by it and yet, when you speak about other people commenting and saying, “oh this is different about you” was there a feeling of, “oh, I’m different and that’s difficult and I don’t want to be different” or is it, “oh, I’m different and ooh, I want to embrace that difference”?
I think as a teenager, I was already pretty anti mainstream. Growing up in Catholic school was very anti-authority.
And so as a result, you know, I listened to Nirvana and did all that kind of punk rock gr stuff. It was like the late nineties until it faded out, sadly, in the two thousands. But, I think as a result, that music in a lot of ways is about not caring what other people think and doing your own thing and walking your own path.
So it wasn’t until later that you felt the difference?
I never really thought anything of it, honestly. I was never bullied because of my culture. And part of that is because I wasn’t a walking representation of it, either. I was just this ambiguous,
little brown kid no one really knew how to categorize.
And so, I think in a lot of ways, that ends up being a protective bubble, where it’s “oh, she’s not obviously this, she’s not obviously that”. I wasn’t like an easy target for bullying.
I think it wasn’t until getting out of college, where you developed the self-awareness to understand, “oh, like maybe I was treated a little differently because of that reason”.
You start to be more aware of microaggressions, but also you start to become surrounded by people who are more likely to exhibit microaggressions. I don’t think kids have that nuance in how they treat people. And those kinds of actions are very harmful because they’re not so explicit, because explicit stuff you can dismiss. You can do whatever with. But, microaggressions are something that are very subtle and, uh, really exhausting.
In this ambiguity, as you’ve come into this self awareness, what would you put now when they say identify yourself?
Now you can do multi-choice right. And that’s also a thing on the US Census. We now are in a world that is much more aware of the increasing diversity of the US population. So, for my own boxes, I would put white and Latino. Even though there’s the complexity of being from Latin America and much more complicated. A lot of parts of central and South America because of its history. Its colonial history.
Yes. And we’ve had women speak to that. Which causes some more self-awareness upheaval of, “ okay, culturally, this is where I come from and not all of it is good historically”. But, I think, at the same time, when we talk about solidarity, being under a greater umbrella of this culture, rather than the actual nuances of how it happened, we identify with the positive aspect, that’s in the DNA. It runs very similarly.
Have you ever thought about what aspects of your personality really are a cultural thing?
I think it’s the energy, right? I think it’s the steadfastness and the stubbornness and being able to stand your ground and fight for what you believe in. Again, it’s a lot of the things that I think ultimately have shaped who I am as a person. These are things that I cherish, both in myself but also in others. I try to surround myself with people who are similar.
It’s something that comes out of a lineage that has had to fight for something and that gets passed down. Even if you didn’t see or experience the fight that person had.
Yeah. It becomes just part of your DNA. It’s those threads that may not even come from your immediate parent necessarily. We might think it’s just part of our personality, but that personality comes from somewhere.
In that self-awareness of what’s in your personality, from the culture from the ancestral background versus what you experienced firsthand in being raised in the culture, what’s the either parts of your personality or parts of your upbringing that you want to carry forward?
I think the things that I would carry down are much more value related. And of course, always carry down the recipes and things like that. And then you pass down the stories. Those are the things that I would pass forward.
Let’s make it more personal then, what experience did you have from your grandmother that you would like to pass on to your own child?
There’s so many, my grandma was a huge presence in my childhood. Much more so than most people I know. As a result, the things that stand out to me are like, she would always engage us as people. She would never kind of talk down to us or think a certain way about us because we’re kids. She would always be teaching us something or always be thinking of creative, crafts and stuff to do together. And it was always the best time to go over there.
So I think about passing down “how do you engage with children and how do you show them of course, that you love them in a way that is not, just saying that out loud?”
I think you could really feel her love in a lot of ways because of the time and dedication that she took to be with us and to be very present.
Give us an example of how she was present for you.
We spent time with her in her office and she would let us have the run of the house with their office supplies and pretend to be her. And, it’s not like dismissing us, but enabling us to be like her. Maybe, we’d go to Costco afterwards and get some toys or something. Definitely lots of..
That was your perk.That was your bonus for a work day.
Yeah. That was how we were compensated for our scribble scrabbles and terrible bindings.
So you shared her workspace with her. It was her own company.
Do you think that influenced you?
You know, you don’t consciously think of this as a kid, but, when you see anyone working right, and getting the sense of like, “oh, this is what you do” as an adult; all kind of the women on this side of my family, matriarch side, worked.
So that wasn’t something that I ever thought anything of. I think it was just like, “no, this is just what you do”. And my grandmother didn’t retire for a very long time, like too long.
And so, I think that definitely shapes, like how you think about, what you want from your own life. And, of course, like finding something that not only will provide for you and your family, but ideally, and I think this is the luxury that I have now is I don’t wanna just work, but I want to do something that I enjoy, do something that I find purpose in.
And therefore, because it aligns with my own values, ideally doing something that helps others, and does bring more positivity, into the world.
Would you bring your children in and have them experience your own world rather than separate a child’s world from an adult world?
Or, would you say, “oh, that was really hard. I didn’t want to be at a workplace growing up. I’m not going to let my kids feel that. I’m going to make sure that they don’t know that”.
I think it’s important for children to understand what work is, something that I think about a lot is, how do you teach children the value of hard work and what it takes to earn an income, and to have certain opportunities.
When you see other people work and you also see, like it’s not fun, right, all the time. There were definitely days I remember being very bored and just like trying to fall asleep in the break room. Even though I wasn’t the one working.
Was that so you could go home?
Yeah. Yeah. Probably just like lying on the chairs, sometimes taking a nap.
It’s important for children to understand that yes, of course, you are going to dedicate as much time as possible to them, but that you also have to do your job. And that is the reason why there’s a roof over their heads. That is why there’s dinner on the table.
Like these things aren’t just magically appearing and we don’t have just this unlimited source of funds. Right? These are things that we have worked hard for and, that work ethic, I think, is something that’s really important to instill at a young age. And again, understand the value of money and not have it be something that you take for granted.
I personally identify that as part of the culture. That, as part of the Hispanic or Latina culture, where one, and we spoke about this on another episode, the children are never separated from the parents. It’s a very familial culture.
So when you go to a workplace, you could have readily been left at home with a babysitter while your grandmother went to work.
But her ideal was “no, you share my space with me. You are part of me. You’re aligned with me in my life”.
That is actually part of the culture and can be difficult to reckon with when you see your peer group, not having that experience. And, I think, that, personally, can cause friction in the culture. My friends don’t have to do that. Why do I have to do it?
Yeah. I mean, I think I was lucky too, in terms of the time that I was growing up we didn’t have social media. So, I don’t remember thinking, “Oh, my friend is doing this or this person’s doing that.
Maybe, I thought I’m bored now. I would rather be at the pool. It’s hot.
I think that wasn’t so much a comparison of, “oh, like, why can’t I be like them?” But again, I didn’t see that happening in real time as I was sitting there. I wasn’t like, “oh, I have no content to post because I’m sitting in this office”. And meanwhile, like my other friends are like, here we’re on a summer vacation. And so, I think there was a lot less pressure than, there may be now.
That is a really strong point though. So even more difficulty embracing what you’re experiencing, when you have an earlier awareness, maybe because of social media, that things are done differently because of your culture, because you’re aligned with your family versus what you literally see at the same time occurring in other families.
Interesting. That’s tough.
You said “other”, but you didn’t say you didn’t fit in because you fit into this ambiguous bubble.
Did you ever have an experience where you felt like you didn’t fit in?
Sure. I think unless again, less tangible ways, but I think you start to notice whether it’s based on appearance or, things like that, where it’s “oh I’m a little bit different or as a result don’t have these kinds of friends”, or, whatever it may be. But, it hasn’t had such a profound impact on my life.
Again, because I think most people treat me as ambiguous.
Do you like being ambiguous?
I’ve never really thought about it like that. I think being mixed brings up a lot of other questions, I think I connect with other people who are also mixed and sit in a limbo.
And so it would be nicer to have, I think, a much stronger throw line to my Peruvian heritage, right?
But that doesn’t really exist. But it does come up often enough, like maybe there are employee kind of resource groups, like ERGs where they can be very like Latino or, it’s very kind of singular. And, I’m part of those groups, but I don’t really think about myself as like, yes, this is an ERG for me.
This ambiguity, this limbo of not feeling maybe that you fit in a specific cultural space or community, even for the events that is really what’s coming to the surface right now for a lot of people.
Ariana Debose spoke specifically to that powerfully to that, how she felt that same ambiguity because of not being raised immediately in the culture, not speaking the language, not representing as such, but felt, almost an imposter in her own identity because she wasn’t living it out loud
And yet, just to have someone give you permission to be that, to clear the ambiguity, to say, “oh no, most definitely you are culturally representative”,really lit her identity up.
She stepped out of the ambiguity, stepped out of the limbo and took that on without realizing it was like, so pulsing under her skin to begin with!
I think I saw the same thing happen to Olivia Rodrigo,right? Who’s Filipino.
Yeah. And a badass Chica.
People just being nitpicky of “oh, you’re only like you’re X percent”. And that is stirring up a lot of people who are like “well, I’m mixed. I still identify as that. Right? And, pushing back against this idea of blood quantum.
What percent comes from what part of your heritage or your race. Which is a very racist theory. But, I think it’s still very much ingrained in our broader society. “Well, if you’re less than X percent in your DNA, or if you just cut this down based on your family tree this is how much of it you really are.
Even if culturally or, again, like the values are things that you perceive are much more prominent than that. And, that is something that’s really hard to reckon with because it feels like “I do see myself as this, but do other people see myself as that?”
And so I think that’s where you get into these identity crises.
I really like how you bring that up in regard to blood quantum. I had never heard that before, but I have to say in living here and how the bureaucracy views you, or how it tries to categorize you is after a while, after two generations, regardless, you’re washed down too white.
Regardless of where you come from, or regardless of your ancestral heritage, regardless of what is pulsing in you.
Like your kids, in this lead quantum quantum idea, would just be considered white, regardless. Because it has literally washed out, filtered out under this evenly distributed 50% from here, 50% from there mentality. Once you’re hit 12 and a half percent, “Oh, you’re white”.
You don’t know how much of your personality is just pulsing 98% Peruvian and 2% over here. It’s just that DNA thread and how that’s nurtured in your life, like how it comes forward. That’s woof.
I like promoting that on here. That, “Yes! Bring your culture forward. Bring your identity forward because it doesn’t work that way. That’s not how you’re seen. That’s not how you act. And so the ambiguity of who you are, yeah is less about your parents and where you come from, but just how your personality develops as that little person you come hardwired as.
So you were at university, you went to USC and you had a very large exposure to international students. Did you see it differently of how people embrace their culture coming at that age?
In a lot of ways, at least when it comes to pop culture, we’re becoming increasingly more similar. Like, having TikTok, be a global phenomenon, right? Like people are developing similar senses of humor or, the things that are shareable and it’s more of a global phenomenon versus specifically like a cultural phenomenon based on where you’re located.
Just generationally, each generation, regardless of where they come from, is just going to be exposed to more and more things outside of their individual culture. And so, you can’t have these same exact traditions preserved in the same way.
Like they might be adapted to continue to stay relevant or make them just easier to carry forward, depending on the nature of their tradition, so that they can fit into society today and, or at least into the lives that we lead today.
It takes knowing about the culture though, in order to bring it forward in order to modernize it. Have you considered losing the knowledge of your culture as you progress? And that, once
it’s lost, it’s lost?
Again, when I think of culture from my family, my experience, it’s more about what are the stories or like those kinds of ancestral knowledge and I think a lot of that’s already lost, honestly.
My grandmother passed away several years ago and even then, I tried to interview her a little but, it’s stuff you have to get over like a lifetime and it’s inherent that eventually it dilutes a little bit over time.
And sometimes, maybe you just take on [arts of the culture that you didn’t actually learn from your family. You just go and seek it out yourself. I know people who have done that because they want to get more in touch with where their ancestors came from.
Even if it’s not something that they personally experienced, it’s a way of reclaiming culture. So I do think there is that.
That’s powerful. Yeah. As a way to stay connected. Oh yeah. So even though you may not have it inherently in your family, that maybe it was disrupted in your family link, there is still global access to cultures and to regain the culture in the way that you want to discover the knowledge.
Yes. I love that. Wow. This has been a fantastic interview. I’ve really enjoyed going to places that I would have no exposure to and no understanding were it not for you sharing your story? I really appreciate that.
Thanks for having me.
Yes. I’m glad our schedule’s finally aligned, honestly, and that you are on the precursor of Season Three. And, that there will be more generational women coming forward to speak about their experiences because there is that commonality that we love embracing because that creates solidarity. Your story really emphasizes the power of solidarity and the power of knowledge in going forward and sharing each other’s culture and our experiences and being prepared to carry that forward into the next generation is where we can put our focus.
That is the kind of story that we want to be bringing into our third season. I’m really excited to have all of you reach out and connect and yes, share your stories, share your thoughts, share your hopes.
Let’s create that community network
Any information on people who come to share their stories is available in the show notes. So you can look that up on any of your streaming platforms that you like to listen to your podcasts on.
And we thank you so much for sharing this podcast with your friends, for leaving a review on the platforms that you’re listening to and for being with us here every week as we head towards our last episode of Season Two next week. Our 50th episode that will mark our one year anniversary!
Can you believe this? Wow, that’s amazing!
Really appreciate you supporting us this far and that we will carry on with a broader storyline of all the women out there globally. We really appreciate it.
Step into your truth, ladies chow.