October 12, 2020
Hello my name is...

Mariah Manzano

CEO at Opal & Software Engineer @ Cisco by day ☀️
Self-proclaimed artist & chef by night 🌙

Favorite Emoji:
💁🏽♀️
Current Color:
Burnt Orange
On the Playlist:
20 Something - SZA
Go-to Food:
Anything that brings together good company (or burritos 🌯)

Hey Mariah, care to share a little bit about yourself?

Hello! I'm a recent graduate from Santa Clara University. I studied Web Design & Engineering and had a few minors in Computer Engineer and Entrepreneurship. During my senior year, a few good friends and I Co-Founded a company called Opal (opal-app.org) and I recently started as a full-time Software Engineer at Cisco. I'm passionate about empowering folks (especially those underrepresented in their fields) to pursue their dream career paths. I'm a big advocate for dream-chasers. I love to be around family & friends, do or explore any and all art, take a good nap, and play tennis whenever I have free time.

Can you tell us what you do for your career for those who are unfamiliar?

I am a Software Engineer at Cisco working in IT. I help to design and develop applications that assist Cisco employees by making their job more efficient and their user experiences more delightful.

I am the CEO & Co-Founder of Opal. I help to lead an awesome team of aspiring PMs, designers, analysts, and coders.

How did you decide to pursue your specific career? What pivotal moments pushed you to where you are now?

I decided to pursue Opal for a few reasons. I saw a need and validated an idea - now I feel a beautifully immense sense of pressure to bring Opal to life in order to benefit those who need it most. I grew up a generalist - loving and exploring many things. Entrepreneurship was my way of continuing that post-grad and my way to rebel against the expectations of me - to silo into a particular career path.

What inspired you to start your craft?

I had a very niche major and college and felt lost compared to my peers. I truly felt like I had no one to turn to. I attempted existing platforms, but was often met with silence from people I looked up to and wished that there was a place to reach out to strangers for mentorship. Once I shared this idea with others and gathered data to validate the need, I knew we needed to build something meaningful and impactful.

Any advice on how to get started for those who want to start their own craft?

For my fellow aspiring entrepreneurs, validate your idea through data. Once you have a data-backed idea, just try. The worst you can do is fail -- if you view it as a learning experience, then no one fails at all. Everyone can have an entrepreneurial mindset - you just must have the desire to make the world a better place (most efficient, more fun, more accessible, etc).

3 Character traits that would make someone excel in your field

Tenacious, adaptable, passionate

Most difficult thing about your job?

There is an immense amount of pressure on an entrepreneur to fulfill their role by creating something better than others or faster than others. There's a lot of things to get right in order for a business to succeed, but chaos and failures are the only way to one day find success.

What would you like to say to your younger self?

You can do anything when you let go of the fear of failure.

Best advice you've received/heard?

You're only as good as the people around you.

Any last thoughts, advice, or recommendations for someone who wants to learn your be their own CEO?

When you try, you'll be forced to learn. Learning by doing has taught me more than I ever thought it would. Also by speaking your idea into existence to the right people, you would be surprised who is willing to lend a helping hand or guide you in the right direction.

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