“When Jess Bonanno went to her office for the first time last October, at Salesforce’s 41-story high-rise in Midtown Manhattan, the experience was surreal. A year earlier, she had been a housepainter. Before that, in her early twenties, she had been in prison. Now, she’s a software engineer at Slack, the workplace messaging app that was acquired by Salesforce in 2021 in a $27.7 billion deal.
Bonanno was drawn to technology all her life. As a child, growing up in the 1980s, she used a computer to escape. “Just getting on it, I would lose myself,” she says. “I had a lot of reasons to escape then, even as a young child.” Her mother, who was addicted to heroin, died when Bonanno was eight. She didn’t know her father. She started getting into trouble, and eventually was incarcerated. When she was released, after having spent more than a year in prison in total, she took a job as a housepainter, which she kept for years, even though her boss routinely mistreated his workers. “I thought I couldn’t get a real career,” she says.”
Learn more about Aspen Digital & the Aspen Criminal Justice Reform Initiative’s work with Slack here.