Diversity Woman Magazine

FALL 2014

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

Issue link: https://diversitywoman.epubxp.com/i/385684

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Page 27 of 71

We Mean Business > 26 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N Fa l l 2 0 1 4 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m it, they needed to get community input and buy-in. I had a whole division that did noth- ing but work with engineering frms on what was then called public participation: going into the community, engaging the leaders, fnding the solution to a particu- lar transportation or water issue. For ex- ample, we worked with the Sacramento Transportation Authority on building the south line of its light rail system and, with community input, helped fgure out where the line should be and what the service would be about. So when SHPE came along, I said, "Yeah, engineering frms—I know how they work." DW: How did SHPE change after you arrived? PM: We created a fve-year plan two years into my tenure. Te organization had done a phenomenal job of building volunteers over the years, but in order to take the organization to the next level, it needed an infrastructure to sustain growth. So that's when the board decided to transition to needing a staf to manage things, and then marry that to the vol- unteer vision, to make the organization even more powerful. DW: Which branch of engineering is the main focus for SHPE? PM: We run the gamut, but I think the biggest challenge we have had is to grow the number of Latino students that will go into technology—and not just the Googles, the Yahoo!s, the Amazons. Stu- dents think, "I'll get a computer science or IT or engineering degree, and I'll end up at Google," but every single indus- try—small, large—has a need for that technology. You can end up at Merrill Lynch or at Ralph's supermarkets. So we need to get our community excited about the fact that the sky's the limit. DW: How are you getting that message to students? PM: At SHPE we have a lot of success with Science Nights, where we increase awareness of engineering careers and col- lege options for students. We also have a parent component, which is critical. Oth- erwise, what would happen is we would get a kid excited about science and math, and she'd go home and say, "Mom, I want to be an engineer," and the mom would say, "Honey, I'd love that, but I can't af- ford college." So our goal became educat- ing the families. Parents often don't know that there are resources for college, scholarships, and support. We have to start at that baseline of awareness and talk to the parents and the grandparents. Te Latino community is a family model—that's how they make decisions. Now, when a child comes and says, "I want to be an engineer," parents can say, "I know how to help," and guide them through. DW: Who was your mentor growing up? PM: I grew up in the United States with a single mom—my father stayed in South America. But for me, the person who was most infuential in my life was my older brother. He went to Vietnam, served in the military, and ultimately ended up at UCLA. My mother was very traditional and wanted me to be a sec- retary—to take typing classes—because that was all she knew. My brother was the one who grabbed me by the hand and showed me there was college, and other options, and that really opened my eyes. What I say to young women now is look at the nontraditional role models, men- tors, and supporters, who could be male, even a male of diferent ethnicity than you. It's about fnding that person who is doing what you dream of doing and ask- ing him or her to mentor and guide you. Tat person can open the doors and show you how to overcome challenges. DW: What do you think needs to happen to get girls more engaged with STEM? PM: I saw a study about this—inspiring girls in math and engineering, and inspir- ing them in general. It was interesting: How we inspire a young girl is not nec- essarily how we would inspire a boy. Te study said that to get a girl to say that sci- ence and math are something she loves is based on the fact that she might want to help the environment or come up with the medical technology to cure a disease. Te motivator may be a human problem that you use math and science to solve. If we can communicate to her that if her grandmother has diabetes, she could be the scientist who fnds the cure for diabe- tes, that opens up her world to see math and science as exciting and something that motivates her. Of all the things I do, I am the happi- est when I have a young girl or boy in front of me and I ask what their dream is, and I can share examples of how they can achieve it. Everything else we do— the fnancial, the strategic planning, the going after grants—is all for that one moment, with that child, to get them on that path. DW: What's your favorite thing in your office? PM: My girlfriend gave it to me. It's this little cube with a candle on top, and it says, "Dance like no one is looking, Love like you've never been hurt …" —four sayings about embracing the moment, taking risks, and forgetting what others say, and just going for it. Tat's how I choose to live my life. DW Katrina Brown Hunt is a frequent con- tributor to Diversity Woman. I am happiest when I have a young girl or boy in front of me and I ask what their dream is, and I can share examples of how they can achieve it. Everthing else we do is to get them on that path.

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