Donnaly Crull has worked in many different capacities and fields, a true renaissance woman. Most of her work has been centered around education and technology—covering everything from teaching sixth grade to working for an aerospace technology company. Now, working at Skill Struck as the Director of Customer Success, she is able to combine her love of education and passion for using technology for good.
Donnaly is inspiring; she is a hard worker, intelligent, and incredibly kind. But, what perhaps stands out most about her is her passion for making technology and computer science more equitable for people like her.
Ni de aquí, ni de allá
Donnaly's parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 1989. They were drawn to America by the promise of success and comfort, not only for themselves, but for their family.
Both of her parents are US citizens, but they don't identify as American. Donnaly, however, grew up in the United States; this is her home. At the same time, with both parents speaking Spanish at home, she also feels a pull towards her cultural heritage.
Growing up, these two sides of her pulled at each other. She never felt like she fit in completely with either group. She shared a Spanish phrase with us, "ni de aquí, ni de allá," which means neither from here nor from there, and said that she and many other bicultural people identify with this idea of not quite fitting in anywhere.
Over time, she learned not only to accept her situation, but to embrace it. Donnaly now feels empowered by her unique background, and hopes to help other Latinx Americans feel the same way.
The American dream
Donnaly's parents were passionate about giving their daughter as many opportunities as possible. They wanted her to be successful and live comfortably. Donnaly noted that for her parents, they viewed careers in medicine or law as the best way to achieve that success and they encouraged her to pursue these career paths.
While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Donnaly tried working at a law firm. She was inspired and motivated by the team she worked with, specifically by their ethics and empathy. She was particularly touched by the love that they showed non-english speakers who were coming to them for help. Although she had a positive experience at the firm, she realized she didn't want to work in law or medicine despite her parents hopes for her.
Donnaly felt drawn to a path that many other women in her family had walked before her—that of an educator.
Donnaly's passion for teaching served her well as she worked as a sixth grade teacher and special education teacher. During her time working in schools, she noticed a lack of equity, especially in tech education.
Recognizing that disparity was one of the factors that inspired her to pursue a graduate degree and shift her own career to work in tech.
A tech pioneer
After graduating and beginning her work in the tech industry, it became very clear to Donnaly that the disparity she had seen in tech education was also present in the workforce. In her first job at a technology company, she would go to meetings in conference rooms full of more than eighty people and she would be, not just the only person of color, but also the only woman.
It felt intimidating to be the only woman in a room full of men, many of whom had antiquated ideas of what a woman's role in tech should be. But Donnaly didn't let this dissuade her from the path she had chosen, instead moving on to work in other tech jobs where she started to meet people with similar backgrounds to hers.
Finding this community, no matter how small it may have been, was empowering to Donnaly and helped her to see that making the technology industry more equitable was not just a dream.
Be the first
Donnaly is honest and understanding about the fact that increasing equity can feel frightening to some. When we talk about making room at the table for more diverse perspectives, some people worry that this means they're going to have to "give their seat up." However, Donnaly invites us to think about equity through the lens of collaboration rather than competition.
She has seen this collaboration in action in various jobs, especially in her work at the United States/Mexico Office of Border Health for the city of San Diego. This was a memorable example to her of two countries and cultures working together for the good of the community. This is the energy she wants to bring to the tech space.
Donnaly's work at Skill Struck is all about empowering students from all backgrounds to find their place in the STEM world. Her work as a Utah chapter chair at Latinas in Tech is focused on helping those who are already in the workforce and especially about increasing equity in the community, not just in individual companies.
When asked what we can do as a community to remove the barriers blocking us from a more equitable future in technology, Donnaly replied, "I think representation is probably the most important thing. If our younger generations can see themselves in positions of leadership, if they can see people that are making a positive difference through technology—if those people look like them, sound like them, or have a similar upbringing—then they won't see it as something impossible. It's not a dream anymore. We're here to be the first so that everyone else can feel comfortable pursuing that path."
Remember who you are
Growing up, Lion King was Donnaly's favorite movie. Her mom, referred to by Donnaly as one of her greatest supports, used to reference Mufasa's advice to "remember who you are." Donnaly shares that every time they talked about Donnaly's hopes and dreams, her mom would say, "You can do anything. You can do everything. Your race, color, or anything else shouldn't affect that, but always remember who you are and where you come from while you chase your dreams.
Donnaly's bicultural background is what led her to where she is today—a pioneer in the tech industry who is paving the way for people just like her to feel safe and accepted exactly as they are as they pursue their dreams.