On the heels of the very first Engineering Apprenticeship hosted this summer at Metro Achievement Center for girls, sponsored by The Tellabs Foundation, we knew Metro had an amazing alumna in the engineering field. Celia Gonzalez, now 36, reflects on her time at Metro and shares her journey becoming a career engineer.
"The EngineerGirl website is designed to bring national attention to the exciting opportunities that engineering represents for girls and women...The website is a service of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and grew out of the work of the NAE Committee on the Diversity of the Engineering Workforce."- from EngineerGirl.org
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
In my current role, I manage a team of network provisioning design engineers that provide network provisioning services for one of our major customers, ATT, and for smaller international customers to enhance their network and improve their key performance indices.
Why did you choose engineering?
Two things: (1) My dad was an immigrant who helped the rest of our family establish their careers, most of them in engineering. He always worked in engineering jobs since he was ten-twelve years old, but never went to school for that. I wanted to help realize the dream had. I became the first female engineer in my family that I'm aware of.
(2) My high school science teacher asked a very simple question, "Have you ever thought about engineering?" She believed in me and helped me enroll in a small internship that gave me hands-on, research-oriented, and interactive exposure to engineering. They made engineering something fascinating, fun, and something a high schooler could understand.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
Thanks to Metro Achievement Center for girls in Chicago, I received help applying to college, and I applied all that I learned...the extra-curricular classes, the character education. They take a genuine interest in each person and helped me gain access to scholarships in engineering and I enrolled at the Illinois Institute for Technology, completing a B.A. in Computer Engineering with a minor in Business Management. I enjoyed working with people and resolving issues. After interning at Sara Lee, I spent two summers as an intern at the company that became Alcatel-Lucent, where I have been now full-time for 14 years.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
I once co-led a consulting project that involved travel to China to lead the deployment of wireless services. It was an amazing cross-cultural experience. Then in 2005, I helped build the network for the first technology in the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, also known as UMTS, or 3G. I managed the project in Salt Lake City, Utah, and it was an intense time where we worked around the clock and it tested my patience, but looking back, I'm proud of it. I learned to work with different people, collaborate in difficult situations, and depend on a strict timeline. I'm proud because there were so many moving parts, and I love when things are complicated that have to be simplified with processes in place.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
A few years ago, I switched into business, revenue, and quote management, and I currently serve in a role that requires a background in engineering along with understanding how to bid, provide the price, and present the scope of the work. I'd like to continue climbing in this same company, pursue my MBA, and lead a larger organization, with a goal to work in France, because that's where our company is based.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
I'm thrilled that places like Metro Achievement Center are bringing an Engineering Apprenticeship to girls from inner-city communities. There are lots of young people who would like to pursue these opportunities but just don't know how. All it takes is a simple question like my teacher asked, "Have you ever thought about it?" Nobody else tells them, so they don't know.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
All of my family and friends know that I am passionate about health and fitness. If there was one book I would recommend, I suggest to read Sugar Blues by William Duffy. It will make a profound impact on your health long term and I encourage you to share it with everyone. I enjoy endurance sports such as long distance running and triathlons and occasionally compete in race . I think it's important to set goals for yourself and set a date to achieve them. There are good days and there are tough days, but they are never impossible.
I also practice yoga daily and recently completed my 200 hr certification in power Vinyasa yoga. The last class I taught was at the spur of the moment to a small group of health practitioners on the sand while facing the beautiful beachfront of Acapulco. My goal is to be a bi-lingual yoga teacher that brings health and peace to people in Chicago and to the places I travel.
Thank you for your support!
Re-posted from EngineerGirl.org. To view the article on their website and to learn more about EngineerGirl and the National Academy of Engineering, please click here.