A few weeks ago, I had the incredible honor of being notified that I had won a national award from an organization that I love.
This organization was SHPE, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. I joined SHPE seven years ago in college and you can see some of my involvement with this wonderful organization by checking out #SHPEPhx and by reading my latest post: How To Be An Enthusiastic Leader!
My friend Wendy nominated me for the SHPE Technical Achievement Recognition Professional Role Model Award which is presented to an outstanding member who has provided selfless and outstanding contributions to his or her SHPE chapter and the Hispanic community.
The honoree is someone who exemplifies honor, community service and leadership. Receiving this award and this recognition at a national level is one of the proudest moments of my life and it means so much more to me because I get to share this award with my own role models.
If you’ve known me since college, you’ll know how important this organization is to me and how much I’ve grown with them.
I was to be given the honor of accepting this award at the STAR Awards Gala during the SHPE National Conference and I was so excited (nervous too, but mostly excited) but sometimes the things we are excited to do, just don’t happen.
The day before the award show, I received a text message from my brother telling me that my mom was in the hospital. As much as it hurt to leave my colleagues and a moment I had so been looking forward to, I knew I had to be with my mom. In difficult times, it can be said that it’s hard to see the silver linings, but trust me when I say that the silver linings are ALWAYS there. When I landed in Phoenix, I turned on my phone to sweet messages of prayers and kind words from my colleagues and friends. I also received photos and videos from friends during the award show which almost made me feel like I was there. I also received multiple texts from friends telling me they would mail me the brochure from the award show.
Fortunately, my mom is doing a lot better and I think she was even more sad than I was at the fact that I had to miss the award show. But there will always be more award shows, there will always be more conferences, and I only have one mom.
Although my mentor accepted the award on my behalf and almost perfectly captured what I wanted to say, I wanted to share my own acceptance speech. I hope this encourages at least one person to go out and mentor a young person to pursue their passion whether it is engineering or in a different area.
My SHPE journey began with the University of Arizona SHPE Chapter seven years ago. At 18, I left my family and everything I had known to begin my engineering education. When I left home, I had never really heard of the word ‘diversity’. I stepped onto campus, looked around and saw very few people who looked like me. It was a minor culture shock. Disregard the fact that there were not many women in my engineering classes, there were also not many people who shared my similar upbringing or my native language (Spanish). I had never felt more alone and more like I didn’t belong than at that moment. I wasn’t the most confident person but I wasn’t the most fragile either, and if I felt alone and like I didn’t belong, can you imagine how others felt and still feel?
I was so grateful when a friend told me about SHPE, about this organization on campus where they had free food, people spoke Spanish, and every meeting felt like a family party with primos and primas (cousins). I didn’t believe it, it sounded too good to be true until I experienced it myself. I went to my first meeting, felt immediately at home, and now, here I am.
I joined SHPE because of the free food and because it was nice to be somewhere that felt like home, but I stayed because of everything that SHPE did. I loved how involved SHPE was in our community, I loved how much they mentored students. I loved all of the professional and academic development they offered to the students, to us. When I started volunteering in college, it was difficult to explain to my parents what I was doing…but they understood that I was helping others. They still don’t quite understand what SHPE’s vision and mission is but when I mention SHPE, they associate that with “helping others” and I don’t argue because that’s the very simple definition of what SHPE does.
I know that many members have different reasons for doing all that we do when it comes to SHPE. I read a quote once that said ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ and that resonates with me in regards to SHPE. It has never felt like work, it has never felt like time, because I am giving back to an organization that has given me so much. I am helping those who come after me…the same way that I have been helped by those who came before me.
There are so many people doing the same work that I am doing: mentoring, outreach, informing students and I am really just hoping to inspire others to join the efforts.
I am involved because I see the value in inspiring students to pursue a higher education. I am involved because through SHPE I’ve met my best friends, I’ve gained self-confidence, technical and soft skills, but most importantly I’ve gained a familia.
It is because of the tremendous amount of support that I’ve received from this organization both at the student and professional level that I give back. And no matter how much I do, no matter how many talks I give, or how many students I mentor, it will never be enough to repay SHPE. As my mom likes to say ‘el que siembra en abundancia, en abundancia cosechará’ which translates to ‘He who sows in abundance, in abundance he will reap’ which is the way I have always seen my involvement with SHPE.
I want to dedicate this award to all of the role models in my own life. It is an honor to be a STAR award winner in such great company but it’s an even bigger honor to know that this award is not just mine…it belongs to those who have molded me into the person I am today, specifically those who supported my nomination.
I want to give the biggest thank you to fellow SHPE member and my dear friend Wendy who worked countless hours to get this nomination package just right.
To my company Honeywell, thank you for encouraging me to do better and to be better. An enormous thank you to my Core Team; I’m so happy to be able to share this award with you all. To Hector and Barbara, thank you for your constant belief in my potential.
To the SHPE University of Arizona Chapter, thank you for introducing me to this amazing organization and for some of the best years of my life. To Fermin, thank you for letting me continue my involvement after graduation.
To the SHPE Arizona State University Chapter, thank you for welcoming me into your familia even though I went to the rival school. To Carrie and Joe, thank you for your friendship.
To the SHPE Phoenix Professional Chapter, it has been such an honor to grow alongside you, and to know that I’ve made some of my very best friends through our legendary trivia nights. A special shout out to my brunch squad Yamille, Wendy, Carrie, Hannah, Deyzi and to my executive board Kenny, Wendy, Jessi, Juana, Hannah.
To the Society of Women Engineers Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Chapter and the Society of Women Engineers Phoenix Chapter, thank you for the incredible professional development opportunities and for showing me why it’s important to build partnerships. To Johnnie and Syronna, thank you for letting me do some great work with you.
To the College of Engineering at the University of Arizona, thank you for taking a shy 18 year old and transforming me into a confident, enthusiastic engineer. Thank you Dean Baygents and Rebecca for your invaluable mentoring.
To the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona organization, thank you for letting me bring all of the passion that I have for engineering into the lives of little brothers and sisters in my community. To Jennifer, thank you for your friendship and your guidance.
Finally, I want to thank my family, who has been there for me since day one. Thank you for understanding how important SHPE is to me and for your everlasting love and support. Thank you for always celebrating the big and small wins in my life. I love you.
I would be nothing without the support of my colleagues, mentors, mentees, friends, and of course my family.
I’ll leave you all with my favorite quote…”What a gift it is to work hard at something worth doing”. Thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to give back and for this incredible honor, it means so much.
As sad as I am to not have been able to accept in person, this experience has reinforced the fact that I have amazing people surrounding me. I will never be able to thank my friends and colleagues enough for reaching out to make sure everything was okay. I really am surrounded by incredible people and I recognize how fortunate I am.
Thank you again to SHPE National for this amazing honor, it will be forever at the very top of my list of accomplishments.
Thank you all for reading, and stay enthusiastic!