As a first-generation student and Afro-Latina immigrant, hustling and hard work were always in Yamillet (Yami) Payano’s veins. In the Dominican Republic, she grew up to the sounds of “El Gallo pelón”(the bold rooster) and her mother’s constant reminders to be in the house before sunset to avoid the shootouts of rival gangs.
She saw beyond her horizon and dreamed of going to school. Without any hope of funding her college career, she sought out various scholarships and foundations.
She received many no’s, but she got a yes from the Gates Millenium Scholarship. Through many late nights of studying and playing catch-up, she not only graduated from American University (AU) with a BS in Economics and Mathematics and a minor in Mandarin but also become the Student-Body president.
While at AU, she founded the Cross Campus Organizing Network, which fought to establish support for undocumented communities within higher education. After graduation, she became a Quantitative Analyst at Fannie Mae, where she minimized racial bias within their decision-making models.
After Fannie, she co-founded a startup, Sign-Speak: a software service that uses Machine Learning to recognize Sign Language in real-time, which is used to translate between American Sign Language and English.
She leads business efforts and ensures that her technical team develops an equitable and responsible product. Through Sign-Speak, she hopes to change the lives of countless people and inspire women with similar backgrounds to live courageously.