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BY Abu Mubarik, 1:45pm November 28, 2023,

How Merline Saintil rose from humble beginnings as a 5-year-old Haitian immigrant to Silicon Valley

Merline Saintil. Photo: merlinesaintil.com

Merline Saintil is a Haitian woman breaking the glass ceiling in global tech leadership. From a relatively obscure place, she has grown to be among the most outstanding tech leaders in the world. And the sky is only her limit.

She took an interest in tech following her encounter with computer science at a career fair. This will mark a turning point in her life, eventually pivoting towards a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. She also continued to do a Master of Science in Software Engineering Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

“Actually, my first love was math. I only stumbled into computer science (CS) during a career fair in college. I credit this fortuitous event for propelling me from humble beginnings as a 5-year-old immigrant to living in the epicenter of Silicon Valley in less than a generation,” said Saintil, according to People of Color In Tech.

Saintil’s family had emigrated from Haiti when she was five and they settled in South Florida. She spoke only French and Creole when they arrived, and knowing that education was her way to a better life, she did not joke with her studies.

Her journey to Silicon Valley started as a software engineer at Sun Microsystems. Her role at this company would propel her to her current status as one of the best in the industry. She has led a series of leadership positions across some tech companies, including Intuit, Yahoo!, PayPal, Adobe, and Joyent.

Today, she is the  Lead Independent Director of Rocket Lab, a space exploration company. She also serves on the boards of TD Synnex, GitLab, Symbotic, and Evolv Technology.

Saintil couldn’t have gotten to her current stage if she had not been determined, particularly in a field dominated by men.

“My story is not impossible, but one many would consider improbable. Do not wait until you belong somewhere to go for it. If you are waiting for permission to be powerful or to achieve your dreams, you will be waiting a long time,” she noted.

Her rise in the tech world has also won her multiple recognitions from some of the world’s most renowned publications and organizations. For instance, she was named LinkedIn Top Voice in Leadership in 2022. She has also been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Forbes for her contributions to tech. Her other recognitions include 2023 Worth Magazine’s Worthy 100, 2022 NACD Directorship 100™, 2021 Most Influential Black Corporate Director by Savoy Magazine, and 2019 Most Influential Corporate Board Directors by Women’s. 

She was also named among the 22 Most Powerful Women Engineers in the World by Business Insider, and the Lifetime Achievement Award by Girls in Tech.

Santil is also an angel investor who is helping to develop over 30 startups. Her current project is focused on creating a fund focusing on enterprise technology, the future of work, and health tech, according to her website.

In 2020, she co-founded Black Women on Boards (BWOB), a global organization of more than 200 executives, to “remove the invisible obstacles Black female executives face when pursuing public company board service,” her website says.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 28, 2023


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