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.

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