Ask just about anyone at Bitwise to take you to Raquel Garcia, you’ll probably get a blank stare. Ask for Rocky, though, and they’ll point you in the right direction. It’s a nickname she’s had since birth. And, given her approach to life, it’s a well-earned moniker.
This woman is a fighter through and through.
Amazingly, even with all of the struggles, she has a heart twice the size of most. Without a second thought, she’s most focused on being there for the people in her life who need her.
It’s almost too good to be true that boxing is her favorite hobby. “It’s a mix of a lot of things,” Garcia said. “It’s knowing I can throw a punch if I ever had to. Also, I need someone there to yell at me, to tell me to keep going and not to slow down.”
Garcia spent most of her childhood traveling between Fresno and Caruthers to live with either her mom or dad. Sometimes that meant living in an RV and sometimes it meant living in a truck camper.
At 17, her dad lost his job due to layoffs. Because of injuries from a car accident a few years earlier, he was unable to find more work in his field. With no income for a household that consisted of the two of them plus her brother, Garcia took a job working nights at a bar in Fresno. “I was the one that when someone threw up in the restroom, I had to go clean it,” Garcia said. “When someone dropped a beer bottle on the floor, I knew I was going to hear my name being yelled across the room.”
It was an extreme and sometimes alarming environment for a 17 year old. Not once but twice, Garcia was faced with terrifying incidents. When she was touched inappropriately one night, she took a swing and hit the guy in the back.
A year later she was living on her own and picking up as many hours as possible at her retail job to make ends meet. When a friend told her about Geekwise Academy, Bitwise’s technology training program, she applied for her first credit card, bought a laptop, and paid for the first class with absolutely no idea what coding was. She remembers hoping to get one thing through the program – skills.
I barely knew how to use my laptop,” said Garcia, whose only tech experience was playing solitaire and minesweeper growing up. “At that point, I was like – I have to make this work. I don’t know what it is or what I’m going to get out of it, but I paid this money and there’s no way I’m going to let that go to waste.
Immediately, she says, the program and the people felt different. Garcia met Terry Solis, Geekwise’s Oprah of Technology. “Terry started talking to me,” Garcia said. “She knew I was shy. I didn’t talk to anyone because I didn’t know anyone. She talked to me.” With the help of Solis, Garcia landed an internship and an invitation to join the Geekwise Cohort, a six-month program where she’d be getting paid to work on real-world technology projects.
While the invitation was important, what it stood for was the most impactful to Garcia. “Irma was giving a speech about how we were all there because someone, at one point, vouched for us and believed in us enough to put us on the list,” Garcia said. “Towards the end, I was bawling and went to hide in the back. Jake found me and asked if I was okay. I said ‘it’s been a long time since someone told me they believed in me, especially in that setting.’ He was just like … ‘wow.'”
After the cohort, Garcia went to work for a local startup company. Funding was inconsistent and Garcia left in December of 2017. She spent three long months applying for dev positions and running into hurdles. Solis served as the voice of reason again. “Terry kept telling me to be patient, to keep interviewing and keep showing up,” Garcia said. “Finally, Shift3 was hiring. When they offered me the chance to be on a team I was so happy I cried in the meeting.”
Garcia now serves as the solutions architect for Shift3 Technologies, Bitwise’s custom-software entity. She has a knack for handling client’s dreams with care, creating tangible steps for the entirety of a project. Given the life she’s lived, there’s really no one better for the job.
A lot of people have an idea for an app and if we can build it, this will be their life,” Garcia said. “They are going to open a small business loan and create something – this is going to be their whole life now.
Garcia is now able to afford a bigger place to live, allowing her to take care of her brother and father, a retired Vietnam veteran. That tendency to look after others, she said, comes from her dad. “You called him at 3am because you broke down,” Garcia said. “He would drop everything and go help you out. He’ll bring his trailer, he’ll bring his jack – whatever he’s got to do to get you home. I probably do get that from my dad.”
Roar by Katy Perry
Men In Black
I buy a lot of makeup but I don’t wear a lot of makeup
My dogs, Mushu and Rocksie