I was born and raised in Mexico and grew up loving both science and people. This love drove me to study Chemical Engineering which eventually helped me become an engineer, a line manager, and, currently, the director of the Future Leaders Program in Global Manufacturing and Supply at GSK.
Unfortunately, when I was growing up, there were many people that tried to dissuade me from engineering. They would say “Mujer que sabe Latin, ni encuentra marido ni tiene buen fin.” Loosely translated this means “A woman who knows Latin, will not find a husband and thus things will end badly.”
I'm delighted to say that I persevered! I have a rewarding professional life that has taught me few do's and one don’t for a fulfilling career. As I prepared for my presentation at AIChE's monthly meeting, I thought it might help others if I shared these lessons with a wider audience:
Do #1 – Embrace your inner geek.
You will work for a long time and need to love what you do. Scientists and engineers invent a world that is not there yet, and improve the existing one. Thus, we have the power of defining success and amazing in our own terms. Go all out, get excited about technology, that spark is what drives us to transforming the world.
Do #2 – Earn your stripes.
The only way to become the best this is to work hard at your core discipline and deliver results. There's no substitution for substance, particularly in science and engineering: "essere quam videri" or "to be, rather than to seem" (yes, that's Latin!)
Always deliver the goods and keep learning. If you are not the best in the world, there is room for improvement. Our graduates spend most of their time actively learning by doing. Overall, it is all about rolling their sleeves to learn their craft, to eventually being the best at their core.
Do #3 – Work well with others.
Being the best technically is not enough. The best designs will die without collaboration. As engineers we need to communicate complex concepts in a simple, but not simplistic way; sometimes across cultures – that takes practice. Seek teamwork and learn to adapt your style without losing your authenticity. Enhance your interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and communications are essential.
Do #4 – Stretch and flex.
I have lived in three countries, worked globally in three business units, and had many roles. Getting out of my comfort zone has taught me to learn fast and adapt – life throws many surprises, and you need to roll with the punches. Be an insatiable learner, open your horizons. There are many ways to do this: learn a language or skill, read a management book, try a new role. You will need to do what scares you and you will make mistakes. But that is fine, we growth the most when we struggle.
Don’t - travel alone.
This is my only don’t. To be successful you need a support network. I'm grateful for the love and support from my husband, family and many mentors, coaches, managers and sponsors. I've also learned from my teams, mentees, and peers.
Be mindful of how you build and nurture your network, be clear on your objectives. As you advance, support someone else. Having a positive effect in others is probably the best measure of success.
"I do not know the next stage on my journey, but these tips continue to be a great foundation - I hope they will be a great foundation for you too."