Chicago Women in STEM: A Conversation With Yesenia Sotelo & Beth Santos

This is the second post in our ‘Chicago Women in STEM’ series.

Yesenia Sotelo and Beth Santos are two self-taught developers and entrepreneurs that built companies that paired technology with their passions: connecting women who travel, and helping nonprofits be more effective.

Yesenia Sotelo | Digital Skills Trainer & Web Developer, Smart Cause Digital

Tell me about your work.

I work with nonprofit professionals to teach them how to use digital tools like Google Analytics. I also build websites for nonprofits.

How did you first get involved in STEM? What were the first few steps you took?

I first taught myself HTML when I was a freshman in college. I was supposed to be doing my biology homework, but instead, I was building my first site on Geocities. I think I made the right choice!

What is the most difficult part of being a woman in STEM?

I’ve come across many people who underestimate my skills or experience in tech because of my gender.

How have you overcome this obstacle?

I realized there are plenty of people who acknowledge and respect my skills, and I focus on finding and working with them.

In Chicago, what tools, resources, organizations, communities, etc. are helpful for those in STEM, or looking to get involved in STEM?

I love going to our Chicago-area WordPress meetups and conferences because they are full of awesome women looking to connect with others!

What does a woman need to get involved in STEM? Any advice you can share based on your own personal experience?

  1. Identify your “why”. When things get tough, you can (and will) rely on your “why” to help you pull through.

  2. Start with learning a small skill on your own. Much of your future professional development will be self-led, so use this early step to find out if you’re the kind of person who can teach herself a skill

  3. Look for “your” people. Even though we spend a lot of time on computers, we all need a community to help us grow. Keep looking until you find “your” people.

How can people connect with you, hire you, or learn more about you?

Through my website:

Beth Santos | Founder and CEO, Wanderful

Tell me about your work.

I’m the creator of a global community of women who travel. Because our goal is to create an international network, that means that much of our time is spent on the web, as that’s the easiest and most straightforward way for people in different areas of the world to share their stories and experiences with each other. In that vein, we do a lot in the space of blogging, social media and online influence.

How did you first get involved in STEM?

I never thought I would be involved in STEM at all — it just happened! As an entrepreneur, oftentimes you’re left to make up versions of your product or service yourself without much outside support. I had to pick up WordPress and its many functionalities quickly in order to build my community. Over time, I became rather savvy at it. And now I see the need for just about everyone to have knowledge like this, so that you can create your vision the way you see it.

What tools or resources have been most helpful for you up to this point?

Definitely the groups I have been a part of: Women Tech Founders in Chicago is fantastic.

At Wanderful, we run a conference for female travel bloggers and influencers called the Women in Travel Summit, and that has been a great way to expand my knowledge about online media and new developments in the travel tech space.

How else can other people help women to get involved in STEM?

Reach out! We are always looking to do big things, but sometimes even the smallest gestures make the biggest difference. Take time to sit down with other women over coffee and share your experiences. If you’re a man, don’t be afraid to reach out and offer your help to a colleague or employee. We want to know you’re looking out for us.

What does a woman need to get involved in STEM? Any advice you can share based on your own personal experience?

  • Take a class in your STEM area of interest. Try business school if you’re looking into entrepreneurship, or a coding class like DevBootcamp or CodeAcademy if you want to get into UX/UI or back-end development.

  • Keep your mind open. Go to events in the Chicago community that focus on STEM. Introduce yourself to people and make as many connections as you can.

How can people connect with you, hire you, or learn more about you?

Twitter: @maximumbeth