Wednesday, July 18, 2018

TEEX #WomenStepUp: Monica Cortez, Aerospace Engineer

In my career in aerospace engineering, I worked for Lockheed Martin and then I worked for Exelon, which is the largest nuclear power generator corporation in the United States. After working at those two companies, I went into academia.

I loved working as an aerospace engineer but it was very challenging. Men weren't ready for women in the workforce in a technical field. Luckily for me, I found advocates within the company that were male, and they really helped to encourage me to go from the bachelor's to the PhD.

I chose engineering for several reasons. My father was a military-trained engineer. I was very good at math--it just came naturally to me. I loved solving technical problems and I enjoyed being part of a team. When you see that aircraft go up in the air, you know you were part of something big. It's like that old saying, "To those who have much, much is expected." I was blessed with a technical mind. I'm very logical, and I always believed that working hard and playing hard would have really big rewards. And they have.

What I tell young women is that being an engineer puts you above a lot of other professions because you do stand out. Your perspective is very needed in a technical field because we do not think like our male counterparts. We think differently and we need that in the workforce. It was exciting to bring that different perspective and have it accepted in the team. So it's very rewarding.

Passion, desire, and creativity are down deep. If you're passionate anything can be made possible. If you focus on the barriers, then that's all you are going to see; if you focus on the horizon, then the barriers are just an obstacle that you need to get through. It's all about perspective, and for me, I knew what my end goal was and no one was going to stop me from getting that. No one. Not educators who didn't believe in me; family members who thought, "Oh my gosh, she's in community college, does she know how long she's going to have to go to school to get her PhD in engineering?" I didn't let that bother me. It was white noise. I allowed myself to say the end goal was me walking across the stage and being called Dr. Monica Cortez. When I achieved it, I bawled. That's what I wanted, that's what I was passionate about. For me, that is what I want every woman to embrace is this goal. Go after it, embrace it, and own it because it is yours and no one can take it from you. You only live once.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Sean Reilly: from Intercounty Baseball League’s Home-Run King to Firefighter

I wasn’t sure where to begin when I decided to pursue a career in firefighting. I asked around and contacted a few firefighters I knew and asked them where to begin. Most of them had either taken the course at TEEX or recommended it as one of the best places to get your certifications and begin the long road to becoming a firefighter. After a little research and speaking with Chief Jason Loyd, I knew it was the right place for me, and I grew excited the more I found out about the city and the training grounds, Brayton Fire Training Field and Disaster City.

Trying to balance the many hours of studying/work involved to become a firefighter with the duties and responsibilities of having a family can be tough, stressful and time-consuming. Obviously, I couldn’t afford to take 3 months away from my family and work, so the layout of the online TEEX program suited me perfectly. I knew the program wasn’t going to be easy, especially the hands-on boot camp portion down in Texas, but I’m motivated by challenges. I wanted to have TEEX on my resume to prove I graduated from the best program out there when it came to preparing you to become a firefighter. 

What I liked best about the program was the wide range of training I received while at TEEX. Training at Brayton Fire Field and Disaster City exposed me to numerous scenarios one might encounter in the field. The city of College Station was beautiful with lots to do, and I made a point of getting out and really enjoying everything it had to offer. Also, the instructors were second to none. All of them were firefighters in nearby stations and wouldn’t hesitate to stick around or spend that extra time to make sure you were confident and properly trained on whatever task we were assigned that day. The conditions surrounding this profession can be hazardous or dangerous to say the least, and upon graduation, I can honestly say I left TEEX with the confidence and knowledge that I would be a successful
firefighter one day. 

I’m working part-time for a station right now, and my goal is to ride the trucks and get as much experience in the field as possible. I love the fact that I have to be at my best when a lot of times I’m dealing with people who are at their absolute worst. The adrenaline rush you experience racing to the scene of an emergency is second to none. I can’t imagine a better career if you like working in a team environment and serving your community.  

I feel as though firefighting is a job I’ve been training for my whole life. There are obviously a lot of similarities between being a professional baseball player and a professional/volunteer firefighter. As mentioned before, I spent my whole life working as part of a team, so that’s of utmost importance to me. The bond you make with your teammates and fellow firefighters is something you keep with you your whole life. I still attend family functions and BBQs with past/current players, which is something I’ll also be doing with members of my fire hall.

Physical fitness is imperative if you want to have success in either field. Dedicating yourself to a physical training routine and living a healthy lifestyle is something I learned as a professional athlete, and it is something that I’ve carried with me and applied to my firefighting career. Playing baseball in front of thousands of people, while both succeeding and failing at times, has taught me how to work in and deal with stressful situations. When it’s all said and done, one of the most enjoyable things is going out to unwind with your teammates after a hard fought win or a rough day at the fire hall. These people become your family away from home, and you can really count on them for anything. There aren’t a lot of professions out there that allow you to really look forward to going to work each and every day. 

Again, I can’t emphasize enough how amazing the instructors and students really are at TEEX. I graduated roughly 2 years ago and still stay in contact with a lot of them. I can still count on them to answer any fire-related questions I may have or even just lend me advice when it comes to the firefighter recruitment process. Without a doubt, they continue to help me pursue my dream of being a full-time firefighter, and without them, I’m positive I wouldn’t be as close as I am now to realizing my dream. 

I’m honored to say I graduated from such a highly regarded program and never hesitate to recommend TEEX to anyone interested in pursuing a career as a firefighter.  

Sean Reilly plays First Base for the Guelph Royals in the Intercounty 
Baseball League in Southern Ontario, where he holds the all-time home 
run record, and recently set an IBL record with 900 career hits. But when 
he’s off the field, he is pursuing a career as a firefighter with the Puslinch 
Fire and Rescue Service. He is a graduate of the Texas A&M Engineering 
Extension Service’s Firefighter Academy.

Great article about Sean in the Grand Magazine and his page on the Guelph Royals Canadian Baseball Team website.