My research explores how our understandings of work are changing amidst new technology and other societal disruptions. From the deadly AIDS epidemic to professional video gaming, these unique contexts deepen our perspectives on our professional identities, careers, and work cultures. I'm also curious about new ways of approaching qualitative methods through digital data and digital contexts.
These interests and questions stem from my own lived experiences. Throughout my life, I've grappled with roles and identities at contradictory intersections or ambiguous boundaries. I was born and raised in Mexico City, but I've spent my adult life in the US. I worked at several technology startups as a software developer /slash/ UI designer /slash/ Head of Awesomeness (official title). Then someone asked me what my favorite job has been, and I answered: school. Hence my transition to research and academia. I also spent 10 years as an LGBTQ advocate, writer, educator, and consultant. In short, I'm a small package with a colorful personality.
My research is driven by one fundamental question: What does work mean to us?
I am particularly drawn to unique and emerging phenomena that exemplify the changing nature of work. Not only do these settings offer rich and fascinating data, they often highlight overlooked and invisible societal dynamics.
What happens when play becomes work?
At the intersection of sport, technology, and entertainment, esports has created a market for professional gamers— those who make a living playing video games. Esports is a rapidly growing billion-dollar industry capturing a broad global audience. Technology has been essential to its growth. But professional gaming is more than a job; it is an immersive lifestyle that demands arduous work and personal sacrifices in exchange for fun. Despite these conditions, some gamers are willing to take a chance on living out their dream.
My dissertation takes an in-depth look at the lives and careers of professional competitive video gamers. This qualitative inductive study is based on 70 interviews with esports professionals, along with digital ethnographic practices that include in-person and online observations of the gaming community.
Pro gamers, like many of us, are learning to navigate the changing nature of work. We want to find work we love doing, but at the same time our jobs are increasingly uncertain and dependent on rapidly changing technology. As organizations blur the boundary between our work lives and personal lives, it is becoming harder to untangle the meaning and value of our time, effort, skills, and selves.
We build our professional identities around our "what we do"— the specific knowledge and skills that help us solve complex problems. But how do you define your professional identity when your expertise is suddenly useless?
The HIV/AIDS epidemic challenged deeply held assumptions about medicine and society. AIDS not only affected highly stigmatized and marginalized populations, it was practically untreatable for over fifteen years. Nevertheless, a small group of physicians, later known as AIDS Doctors, saw it as their moral duty to care for these patients. They soon found themselves at a loss for how to treat and cure patients, leading AIDS Doctors to question the "meaning of medicine"— the foundations of their professional identity.
Drawing on in-depth oral histories of 80 physicians, my co-authors and I explore how AIDS Doctors reconstructed their professional identity in the absence of expertise. Little did we know when we started this project that these questions would become painfully relevant as the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the world.
As qualitative field researchers, we are taught to "enter" a field, observe experiences first-hand, and/or talk to people directly. But qualitative methods can no longer be premised exclusively on face-to-face interactions or observation in physical spaces. Today, digital and physical activities are not singular acts or moments; they are seamlessly embedded into our everyday life. Interactions are not only mediated by technology, they are structured by the tools themselves.
Studying digital data and digital contexts forces us to re-examine fundamental assumptions and practices about our research methods. Yet I’ve witnessed many of my colleagues struggle to collect and analyze digital data, or to document and write about their process. Specifically I explore themes around the temporal and spatial boundaries of dynamic co-constitutive digital and physical spaces; the possibilities and limits of interactivity with people and/or (automatically generated) data; the circumstances around production and consumption of digital data; and ethical concerns including accessibility and privacy.
My approach to teaching is student-centered: meeting them where they are by honoring their learning goals and making the material relatable to their own experience. Class is structured around discussions and application of concepts. I draw on my broad and varied industry experience— from startups to large corporations to consulting— to illustrate and provide valuable context of the dynamics they will face work.
I care about deep learning. I tell students they might not remember most of the concepts or theories in a year or two, but hopefully their understanding of organizations, their critical thinking skills, and their behavior at work will have fundamentally changed.
Core undergraduate course for business majors. Covers foundational OB concepts, such as motivation, teamwork, leadership, and organizational culture.
I created and co-led this interactive workshop aimed at students unfamiliar with qualitative methods. We covered basic theoretical, epistemological, and practical foundations of qualitative research.
The mission of The PhD Project is to increase diversity among business school faculty and schoalrs. I'm honored to be part of this invaluable network of under-represented scholars.
I organize and/or participate in a number of groups where junior scholars share their work and exchange feedback in a friendly environment. I believe connecting with each other is essential to building a robust academic community as well as my own professional growth.
I regularly participate in labs, working groups, and seminar series. (Occasionally I pop into other talks and presentations around the world). I try to regularly attend:
You can never know enough! I continually seek opportunities to expand and apply my knowledge. Some of my favorite workshops and seminars have been:
For the past 10 years I've been a vocal and visible advocate for transgender health. My efforts sprung out of a noticeable lack of resources during my own personal journey. I created a small blog which ended up becoming a popular and much needed resource for nonbinary identities. For now, I've stepped away from many of these efforts due to activist burnout, and a more demanding career as a researcher.
I’m the co-editor of the anthology Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity, published by Columbia University Press in 2019. A few people have told me they've read it. I've also published book chapters, medical resource articles, and opinion pieces in various outlets. My personal story has been featured in mainstream publications, local magazines, and even a documentary.
I've participated in educational panels, presented at major trans health conferences, and led workshops and trainings educating health care profesisonals. I've served as a consultant on several occasions. My biggest accomplishment was helping to build a trans health program at a major hospital. I still sporadically get invited to speaking engagements.
Since you've made it this far, I assume you clearly like me and want to know more about my advocacy, so here's my blog.