"Late Entrant" Engineer (Re)launches Her Tech Career after 9 Year Hiatus
I graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) with a Masters in Electrical & Biomedical Engineering at the age of 22, while pregnant with my first child. Taking a 9-year hiatus after college to raise a family and live overseas, I returned to the US in 2006 and faced the challenge of entering the workforce almost a decade after graduation with virtually no previous work experience.
As a “late entry” professional, a term I learned from Carol Fishman Cohen at a career break panel in a conference at Harvard Business School, I was forced to reinvent myself. I signed up for a free online mentoring program through MentorNet and was paired with a seasoned engineering professional to guide me through the process. I also enrolled in a certificate program at my local community college. In less than 6 months, I landed my first position as a temp in a biopharmaceutical through a placement program at the college, which served as an introduction to the industry and a stepping stone for my first career move.
Shortly after, I secured a permanent position at a pharmaceutical, where I was referred by a friend of a friend. From early on, I took ownership of my professional development and sought out learning opportunities relentlessly. I self-funded my studies, pursued a professional certification, and built a strong network. I also volunteered at large industry conventions, and at STEM initiatives at my alma mater, while utilizing my writing skills to contribute to professional organizations such as Women in the Enterprise of Science and Technology (WEST).
While I was hard at work climbing the pharma ladder, I was also focused on the needs of my community. In 2009, I co-founded a non-profit organization and was instrumental at strategically building it from a grass-roots movement to an organization that, in less than 3 years, was awarded a grant from the US Department of Justice.
In 2014, I joined Thermo Fisher Scientific as a Quality Assurance Manager and was honored when I won a Moments of Excellence award in less than 3 months of starting. In my role, I have hosted over a dozen quality audits, assumed leadership of the US supplier quality program, and led my site to compliance resulting in its registration with the US FDA, all while working remotely with corporate quality and being on the board of a women’s employee resource group chapter.
This year, I was nominated by my Tech Collective Women in Technology mentor to the Providence Business News 40 under Forty Awards and as Manager of the Year for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) STAR Awards.
As time allows, I work as a consultant with Complya Consulting Group and actively volunteer for professional organizations, while preparing for another professional certification and pursuing a graduate certificate at Northeastern University.
My lessons learned are:
- Figure out what you are good at and how it can help others who can help you
- Put yourself out there and make meaningful connections
- Be passionate about and committed to lifelong learning
Remember that “if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room."