inspiration · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Gloria Kimbwala

“I have stood on a mountain of nos for one yes.” – B. Smith

Happy Wednesday Reigners! I’m ecstatic to introduce you to Gloria Kimbwala, one of the most caring and genuine women I know! In addition to her magnetic, larger than life personality Gloria is a HUGE advocate for diversity. The students that she works with and mentors affectionately call her “Momma G,” and she is raising a son who she says only knows that women are at the forefront of tech – way more than men! Gloria recently had a TechCrunch article published about her that’s given her an even bigger fanbase. Read on to understand her roots, her fun playlist and personal motto, and her advice on how you should never let others’ opinions never hold you back from what you’d like to accomplish in life.

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
My family comes from the jungles of the Democratic Republic  of Congo and I am the first person in my family to be born in the United States. I grew up in Orange County, less than 5 miles away from Disneyland. I know 5 languages, English, Spanish and French somewhat proficiently and I can struggle my way through Dutch and German. I did a beauty pageant at my grandmother’s request to see me in a dress and won Miss Congeniality. I once performed the lead role of Ruth in A Raisin in the Sun and was given only 5 minutes to prepare. I enjoy playing the drums, listening to music, hanging at the beach, and going to the symphony.

Fun Fact: I walked down the aisle to Metallica.

What # would define your life journey?
In a picture with #nofilters the colors are their true colors and aren’t enhanced. So colors that are odd tend to stand out. This is true for my life. I grew up as an odd kid in Southern California in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood. I had a great private school education but grew up in a home of a single immigrant parent. I love the beach, the mountains, and rock and roll music. I am freakishly athletic and enjoy playing Golf, soccer, and football. I play the drums, like to surf, and enjoy hot yoga!

I do what interests me so going into tech as a African American didn’t seem like a big deal to me because I was just doing what I have always done, following my interest. I was used to being the only person in my community that was doing something “strange” but I later found out how strange it was in the larger tech community. I am glad that I have always had no filter and did what I liked because it has brought about lots of challenges and accomplishments in my life and made me stronger.

I am who I am. I like what I like. I do what I want to do. I live my life without regrets and I have #nofilter on what I want to do. I live a life that is sometimes brutally honest and direct. I don’t hide my flaws because it is what makes me who I am.

Favorite website / app:
Favorite Square app is Square Cash. I don’t carry cash on me very often. I like how quickly and convenient Cash is to give and receive funds. I also like that I can financially contribute to my friends and family’s needs even though they are not near.

Favorite app is Spotify. I love music! My spotify app is always open and I am constantly on the search for new music. I listen to music of all types of backgrounds mostly Classical, Heavy Metal, Bluegrass, Jazz, Classic Rock and EDM.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
I am very heavily influenced by David Bowie. As a teenager, I always said that he slept under my bed and was my boyfriend. His love for Iman helped me accept that black women are beautiful even if they don’t always appear that way in the media. Another way that he influenced my live was the way he was always encouraging people to be their most authentic self, even if it was labeled as different. “Time to Face the Strange” from the song Changes was very impactful about accepting who you are. I found this thought very comforting throughout my life and used it to embrace aspects of myself that people could label “strange”.  It also made me passionate to be encouraging and accepting of others that are trying to be their most authentic self and embrace the “strange” as something positive. It’s something I think about when dealing with diversity and inclusion. I also love that he started out as a musician at 17 and kept working on his craft and creating the music he wanted until his death. It proved to me that you are never too young or too old to do what you love.

I am also very inspired by the Grammy nominated Metropole Orkest, an orchestra from the Netherlands. They bring innovation and vitality to traditionally orchestral music. My favorite is when they fuse orchestral music with Jazz, Grime, and EDM in a way that is revolutionary and attacks a new audiences. I’ve been known to move meetings just so I don’t miss a livestream of their performance.

They have a very clear influence on my life. My morning alarm is set to play The Curtain by Snarky Puppy and the Metropole Orkest. I often write code to the Album Sylva and it calms my anxiety when I fly. They collaborate with such great artist, I am often trolling their Spotify playlist.

They have great use of typography, color and graphics. They had a great innovate twitter campaign called #tweetphony where they combine technology and music. Their influence on my live is beyond the audio and visual enjoyment. Jules Buckley, their chief conductor, had great advice on how to be a changemaker. His advice was:

Be Clear.
Be relaxed.
Have a Vision.
Have structure.

This has become my personal motto. I find it helpful for the times when I am personally struggling with  how to innovate and bring about change. I found that when I revisit this advice it gives me clarity and a good framework about how to move forward and tackle these challenges.

Song that makes you want to dance:
My Magical Music Playlist on Spotify!

My favorites are:
Waiting Room – Fugazi’s
Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64 act:1 Dance of the Knights by Prokofiev
Not Giving In- Rudimental
War Room- Hyponic Brass Ensemble
I’m Shipping Up to Boston- Dropkick Murphys
Let’s Dance- David Bowie
Bulls on Parade -Rage Against the Machine.
Boogie- The Brand New Heavies
Pow- Lethal Bizzle

Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
When I started as an engineer I was afraid to contribute to OpenSource projects. For a long time I thought that you had to be able to write perfect code before you could contribute to open source projects. I finally went to a CodeMontage hackathon that is geared to exposing underrepresented minorities and women to open source projects. It was there that I learned that you just have to have the insight to the problem, the time to research a solution and the dedication to give that solution back to the community. By contributing to opensource projects I became better at Git, Vim, and working in the terminal. Open Source became less frightening; it become a place of opportunity, community, and fun. I now enjoy pairing with Square engineers on open source projects because they are phenomenal at explaining technical concepts and are very patient. I am extremely blessed to work with such brilliant men and women.

Ideal Job:
My ideal job would be a Dev Evangelist of Square. I am very social and I enjoy going to hackathons and helping people become better engineers. Square is passionate about contributing to the OpenSource community and I would love to show people how to use our API’s in their projects.  It’s not much different from my role as a Campus Specialist, it just has more of an engineering focus. Dev Evangelist are very public facing roles and communicate between the company and the community.  I like that having diverse candidate in these types of roles it allows for the community to understand that women and minorities do have valuable technical knowledge while also being agents of change to the industry and being role models for the next generation.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Never let people’s opinion of you hold you back from what you want to accomplish in life. Where there’s a will there’s a way; and if there is no way, make a way. There will be obstacles but don’t let that stop you. Be a hurdler, take pleasure at leaping over obstacles and pressing on towards your goal. Be the greatest version of yourself that you can be and surround yourself with people that think positively of you and believe in your abilities. If you are passionate about something follow that passion, it’s much better than working on something you are not passionate about and the interest in that topic very rarely goes away.

Treat yourself like the Queen that you are and reign over your own destiny!


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