This interview is part of our Diversity in Tech series in partnership with All Raise, Anitab.org, Blavity, Grid 110, and Latinas in Tech, a coalition effort to champion diverse representation in the tech industry. Read more about this initiative here, and download images from the Diversity in Tech collection here.
Kayla Zapata Fory is a Partner Solutions Manager at Instagram, where she focuses on video content strategy. We spoke with Kayla about her work, how community can support inclusion, and her advice for pursuing a career in tech.
Hi Kayla! Tell us about yourself, how did you get to where you are today? What inspired you to join the team at Instagram?
It’s been quite the winding journey for me. Ultimately, what got me to this point is trusting my gut, not being afraid of taking calculated risks, and always keeping in touch with people. The best networking anyone can do is laterally with your peers, it doesn’t have to be some stiff, overly formal, blazer-only event.
I was inspired to join Instagram because I could see how digital platforms were allowing creators of color to carve out their own space and translate URL success into IRL opportunities in a way that was really inspiring.
As a Partner Solutions Manager at Instagram, what does a day on the job look like for you and what are your core areas of focus?
I focus on video content strategy — Reels, IGTV, and Live. I spend time watching content and having strong opinions about areas we can improve on, what’s working, and general trends. I also manage and structure our incubator programs and content funding. I also have to work cross-functionally with lots of internal stakeholders, so understanding how to build professional relationships and leverage other team’s priorities to support my own goals and projects is key. I’m half our content team, so quite a bit of my impact comes from leveraging other’s support and having sound operational flows that maximize efficiency.
I’ve also worked on the team that created the #ShareBlackStories campaign on Instagram and have continued to keep diversity and representation of voices at the forefront of my day-to-day. I’m in the content space and our IG community is +1 Billion strong, so I consider it part of my job to advocate for and programmatically support a wide array of creators.
What are some of the greatest opportunities you see right now to drive meaningful change when it comes to more equitable representation in tech, and what role does community play in supporting a more inclusive tech industry?
There are so many opportunities to get the word out there to communities of color that there are tech roles like mine that don’t require a technical background in coding or analytics. After college, I wouldn’t have guessed that I could work for a company like Instagram because I never took a computer science class. It’s important that more people of color see the potential in working in tech because these tools have such an incredible influence on how we communicate, express ourselves, and connect as a generation.
I believe diverse teams are the key to success. How we showed up for LHHM this year at Instagram with stickers in Stories, editorial features of community leaders, moderated panels of Latinx community advocates and Latinx digital creators workshop on Facebook/ Instagram best practices — all that programming requires a diverse team internally to pitch, advocate and execute what matters to their community. I was so happy to be a part of a small piece of it and bring visibility to the diversity within Latinidad, encouraging our teams to broaden programming to include Caribbean, South American, and Afro-Latinx peoples across the board.
If tech companies want to continue to be relevant with young people in this country paying attention to changing demographics and hiring teams that reflect our growing influence is a requirement. Our tools impact the world so it’s important that we reflect internally a microcosm of that diversity in opinion and background.
What are your thoughts on why diverse visual representation in tech is so important to helping change the status quo in the industry?
Diverse candidates and hires have a unique array of experiences and perspectives than those in the majority, so they can provide new, creative solutions to tough problems. Many folks of color are skilled code-switchers or even bilingual, which plays to many advantages when you’re in a corporate setting on small, rapidly growing teams. You’re able to relate to and communicate with broader groups of people, and you might be the only person with language skills to do a presentation in a particular region. There are lots of skills that we as a community have.
Looking to the future, what inspires you and what initiatives are you most excited about right now?
I’m excited to see how these video products expand and grow. This is Instagram’s 10th anniversary this week and not that long ago it was a platform of only square images. Now the product has expanded in so many ways in the last few ways that’ll be super interesting to see how video evolves and the type of content and forms of expression come out of those new tools.
What advice would you give to people currently navigating the path to a future career in tech?
It’s important to know your strengths and listen to your gut. Many of the greatest tech companies were founded by young, smart individuals that were incredibly bold and took risks.
About Latinas in Tech
Latinas in Tech is a non-profit organization working to rebuild the tech industry so that Latinas are well-represented throughout all levels of the ecosystem. The group is comprised of more than 10,000 women, representing more than 23 countries, working at more than 200 of the top technology companies. The group began in Silicon Valley in 2014 and has since then expanded to 13 cities and states: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, New York City, Sacramento, Seattle, Utah, and Washington DC. Latinas in Tech focuses on 3 key pillars: professional development, recruiting, and mentorship. For more information, visit https://www.latinasintech.org.