For Women’s Entrepreneurship Day I thought I should come out of the shadows of other women; bold women who have stepped into the arena of public writings and share a piece of myself.
I’m Di Ciruolo, I own Staffing Studio, a boutique technical staffing agency in Greater Boston. I started to get into technical staffing for women, people of color and LGBTQIA folks that maybe needed a little assistance kicking those doors down. That’s one of my super powers. But more on that later.
I was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in the 80s (don’t worry about which year), and my parents couldn’t take care of me. I’ll spare you the details but I landed in foster care, permanently. ‘But Di’, you might think ‘isn’t the end goal of foster care to offer services, and support and then reunify with the family’? Yeah, not in all cases. Some cases are so terrible that you don’t ever go back. You become a ward of the state. They split you from your siblings, put you in different homes, and basically it goes down hill from there. You may have read, if you’re local, an article in the newspaper about a foster home in a trailer park in Peabody, MA where the conditions and sexual abuse was so egregious, that it made the news. DCFS got in real trouble. I was there for over a year until I turned 6. Foster care, it turned out, was no better than the home I was born in to.
When I aged out of foster care, in 2005 I had no where to live and no where to go. I was allowed to take a single laundry basket with all my worldly goods, including a teddy bear that had seen me through a lot. I had a friend let me sleep on his couch in his parents’ finished basement for a couple of months; but I was very ashamed to need their help and I didn’t want to eat with his family. I survived off the dollar menu at McDonalds for two months, while I searched for an apartment. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the real estate market in Boston, but it wasn’t a winning battle. The reason I didn’t know this was coming, by the way, was because the foster home I “aged out” in basically indicated to me that they “loved” me and planned to make me a part of their family if I only worked hard enough to earn their love and be more like them. As an adult, I now know that that was never a possibility. People who ask you to “earn” their love, are usually incapable of love and have their own motivations.
At the time, in 2005, I was dating someone who was attending college in Atlanta and when I got the bright idea to move with my basket across the country to Atlanta, this person’s parents were so…let’s call them ‘not excited’, that they offered to pay for an apartment for me if I’d agreed to remain here in Boston. I was not “good enough” for their child, they’d argued and I would drag their child’s future “down with me”. I took that very much to heart at the time. Maybe I still do. It would later turn out, by the way, that person wasn’t good enough for me. But seeing as I had no other option, aside from taking charity from rich WASPs who found me repulsive, I moved to Atlanta.
Atlanta is where my story turned around. Atlanta is filled with so many wonderful, creative and diverse people that effectively adopted me and helped me grow into the person I am now. Not surprisingly at all; Atlanta is one of the most diverse cities in the US with a population that is like 52% non-white. These teachers, to whom I owe much, taught me how to get back up after the world has shown you nothing but heartache and despair. I learned from strong, fearless women of color, and a vibrant LGBTQ community how to be your own advocate. How YOU make your own family. How to be Family. I put myself through college at Georgia State University and became unstoppable. I met Jane Goodall. College showed me that an education can be The Great Equalizer. I became one of 3% of foster care “graduates” who finish college.
After college, I moved back to Boston, married my partner and now we have two beautiful children. I don’t just say that because all mothers say that. They actually are gorgeous. I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible, but I’m also not the type of person who can be a stay at home mother. I tried. If you can, I salute you, but I became increasingly depressed and isolated with motherhood. I’ll write about that later if people are interested.
In 2018 I started my own business. I started with general staffing, but the older my fiery daughter got the more I knew one day she would look at my life and my contributions with a critical eye. The more I told her “dream big dreams” the more I realized I wasn’t. I was dreaming small. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that I’d come a long way; but up to that point, my dreams were small, survivalist dreams that came from a scarcity-mindset. What would I do if, as I had told her (and my son for that matter), I could do anything??
All of my adult life I thought the coolest women were the ones who could code. The ones on the front lines of developing technology that would change the world and how we live it. The ones who always seem so confident when you see them on tv. The ones trying to knock down doors for other women and diverse individuals in tech. I wanted to knock down doors with them. I wanted to help make a place for my children that wasn’t like the world I’d grown up in. Where it didn’t matter who they became, they were enough. This was how I was going to do it. By learning to code.
Now I, a woman in her thirties (don’t worry about which thirty), am working to build my dream of helping women, people of color, LGBTQ Family and people of diverse backgrounds (like mine), in getting a seat at the table at some of the coolest technology start ups in the Boston area. And I’m a coder. Woo!
At our business, Staffing Studio, we create space and kick down doors. For candidates: We do résumé help, portfolio help and in the future we’ll offer classes for parents (especially moms) looking to get into technology after pausing to raise children. For start-up clients: We offer help with hiring better and more diverse candidates for your roles without the use of bloated staffing agencies that utilize the dreaded standardized testing for engineers: because we can code. Boo to standardized testing! It drives down diversity! More on that later too because it’s an important issue. We‘ll work with you to build your team’s first hiring with diversity programs. Because the time to think about diversity is the day you start your business not when you notice you have a problem.
To honor Women’s Entrepreneurship Day I’m sharing this deeply personal and very naked story about how maybe success isn’t about a path that goes in a straight line. Maybe it’s a passion that drives women to be entrepreneurs. For me, it was about looking around and not seeing myself reflected in the roles I wanted to be in and deciding to make a role and do it myself. And maybe help people like me up the mountain. If you aren’t there yet, I want to say: You can. You don’t have to be born on third base to get to your dreams. If you’re just surviving like I was: You matter. Every day you are here matters. You can get to where I am now, which is still only 3/4 of the way there but trust me, I’ll get there. If you’re a mother, you’re doing an amazing job. Keep fighting. There’s only one you. If you’re a woman in tech and you want to share your journey with me, I’d be delighted to hear it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my first article. I hope it was enlightening to see someone in the middle of their story.
You’ve got this.