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Visibility for Filipinos in STEAM

In this segment of So Happening we are joined by a stealth start up entrepreneur, Erin Pangilinan who founded FASTER – a #nonprofitorganization that focuses on building a community of Filipinx Americans in STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

JSP: Please introduce FASTER to our viewers. What was the impetus to start an organization like this?

Erin: I am the founder of FASTER. I grew up in Silicon Valley and in my last campaign job working in civic engagement for Congressman Ro Khanna, who at the time, was the former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I was searching for Filipinx American tech leaders who could endorse at the federal level and donate at a maximum capacity, there were only two. So on my quest to identify more FilAm leaders, I grew a larger list, had worked with UC Berkeley graduate and undergraduate students on a panel in 2015, and in 2016 started an annual conference, FASTERCON which held 300+ person conferences every year to encourage more youth to enter tech careers.

JSP: How has it grown and/or changed since its inception in 2015? How has membership grown? Who should become members? How does one become a member?

Erin: FASTER has grown into 3 main components, education (focused on undergraduate students prior, FUNKTion – Filipinx American Undergraduate Krew, and now also including Tech-In-Color, high school outreach component for students of color, cover K-12, professional development (for working professionals, independent tech professionals and those that are members of tech company, Filipinx American Employee Resource Groups, and innovation (FASTER FRESH Entrepreneurship for high tech start-up founders and investors). Anyone can become a member who is a person that desires to become someone that works in STEAM – Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math.

JSP: How has the group mobilized this year – in the light of the pandemic? Could you share with us some of the projects your members/connections are working on? (Vaccine, testing kits, etc.)

Erin: Our tech committee co-chair is assisting with Filipinos Feed the Frontlines on tech operations supporting Filipinx American businesses.

For test kits, we’ve encouraged highlighting folks like Yobie Benjamin who has been prolific in this cause. For the vaccine, we have many requests and are the only coalition of Filipinx Americans working in tech as a whole (both biotech scientists as well as software engineers etc.) that are discussing this and it will take a longer series over time (both internal communications and external communications) before we are able to release officials plans on vaccine development here in the U.S., or the Philippines, which has been a frequently asked question.

JSP: And you’re not letting the pandemic stop you from staging your annual FASTERCON this year.

Erin: FASTERCON as I mentioned in March to our members was going to move forward virtually. FASTERCON’s keynote earlier this past week included Josephine Santiago-Bond, former head of Advanced Engineering at NASA. Our opening day also included a panel of executive leaders from Netflix, Salesforce, WorkDay, and Cisco.

Outside of the COVID19 panel featuring esteemed clinical researchers, scientists, engineers working on fighting COVID19 through innovation, we also celebrate the “A” in STEAM, which stands for the Arts and have a whole day dedicated to technology at the intersection of arts, design, entertainment, games, and social media. As you know, Filipinx Americans are talented in the arts and we have a number of art directors, heads of design and creative at significant tech companies and want to recognize their work and contributions to the field.

We will also continue to hold breakout sessions and workshops for our members across the 3 main components of FASTER: FASTER Education, FASTER PROS, and FASTER FRESH.

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