In honor of Native American Heritage Month in November, we recognize the contributions and accomplishments of Native Americans. Meet Intel engineer and Diné woman Georgia Sandoval as she shares her background, journey to a technology career, and the impact of the Intel Native American Network Employee Resource Group. She also shares how mentors and internships helped inspire her as she achieved her goals.
Tell us about your background, your family, and where and how you grew up.
I am a Diné woman from the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona. My maternal clan is Coyote Pass from Wheatfields, Arizona, and my paternal clan is Bitter Water. I grew up on the reservation with my three sisters and two brothers and graduated from Tuba City High School. My parents raised me with our cultural beliefs, where we spent our weekends in a sweat lodge giving thanks and attending family ceremonies. I grew up with a sweeping view of desert vistas, a gratefulness for running water and electricity, and a love for the local stray animals. I remember my dad installed a cat door at one point to allow any needy cats to get checked out by the local vet. I look back at my experiences on the reservation with rose-colored glasses because I miss the comfort of my people. Leaving the reservation to attend school hurt my soul in many ways, especially with the culture shock of no longer being in my homeland.
When did you join Intel, and what is your role at the company?
I started at Intel in 2016 as a software engineering intern in the High Performance Computing Group, where I worked on performance workloads validation. I transitioned to full-time in 2017 with the same group and stayed there until 2020. I’m currently an applications development engineer in the Network Platforms Group, where I enable new 5G solutions on the edge.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the tech industry?
I always enjoyed mathematics as a child and received encouragement from my parents and teachers. My mentors throughout my life helped me enjoy learning new subjects as well as exploring unique career paths. I joined the American Indian Science and Engineering Society in college and received my first engineering internship at their national conference. I met software engineers at these conferences and was able to ask about their job roles, which inspired me to pursue software engineering.
Are there challenges/barriers/adversities you have overcome that you would like to share?
Growing up on the rural Navajo Nation meant little exposure to potential careers in technology. From the start, it felt like a challenge to create a path in life: overcoming generational trauma, completing school as a single mom, understanding and addressing harassment. It took me at least a decade of self-reflection and therapy to understand that my experiences as an Indigenous woman were not normal. The greatest barrier for me was raising my daughter while attending college, looking for internships, and pursuing a career perfect for the two of us. I definitely do not look back and regret my experiences with my daughter. The adversity I shared with her shaped me into a better person and produced a beautiful young Indigenous girl.
How has being part of the Intel Native American Network Employee Resource Group (INAN ERG) influenced your Intel experience?
INAN is the reason I accepted Intel’s internship offer over other offers. During my decision period, INAN members reached out to me to answer all my questions about leaving the reservation. I credit those active members with allowing me to find a community within the company.
What do you treasure most about Native American culture?
The food, the community of tribes that see each other as family, the importance of spiritual health, knowing where my heart lies on the Navajo Nation. I grew up with the notion that I will always have a home with my clan and can return when I’m ready. I’m looking forward to that day.