Being one of the few women studying engineering at Florida International University proved to be an experience that further fueled my drive and passion for the field. It also quickly made me realize that I had to make a name for my capabilities before people made conclusions about me because of my gender. You see, I never wanted to be Maria, the Hispanic girl in engineering 101, but more like Maria, the project leader that helped her group ace the class. It is easy to spot the female student in room full of males. But sometimes, it's not so easy to see the leadership, commitment and fierceness that female STEM students embody. My time at this diverse university taught me many lessons that I will take with me. Those lessons will transfer with me to the workplace when I officially begin my professional life in just a few days. These are the big takeaways for me.
Turn every challenge into an opportunity. Participating when I can, earning top grades, maximizing my classroom experience are what I care about. As part of a minority group in engineering, it is crucial for women not to feel intimidated; on the contrary, we should embrace this opportunity to stand out, be confident, create successful projects, and promote thought leadership among us.
Surround yourself with the best. They say that you are as good as the company you keep. During my college years, I worked with some of the most talented, supportive students in my classes. Working with them also kept me on my toes because we all wanted to be the best. I look forward to working in a competitive environment where my strengths will be put to the test, and where I'll make friends with colleagues who will also count on me to keep them ahead of the game.
Make it more than a "girl" thing. I resent comments like, "She has a better relationship with that professor because she's a girl." It's not because I'm a girl, it's actually because I don't want to be seen as "she's just a girl." I am motivated and inspired to show that my success is not related to my gender but rather my intellect. At the end of the day, women can do anything men can...sometimes, even better. In turn, I make the most out of every situation and make every chance count to move forward and do better.
I'm doing my part to dispel myths about women in STEM fields. I guess it all began at home with my mom who is also a STEM woman and set the example for me. She set the stage for me to look forward to studying math and science. I hope to do the same for other women- whether as a student at FIU or as a professional. I may be one person, but as a group we, STEM women/girls, are a force to be reckoned with.