Illinois had always been my dream school. I admired the engineering community and the innovations that come from Illinois, and I was honored to be accepted to Grainger Engineering for my freshman year. But, as hard as I tried to work it out, financial reasons prevented me from attending at that time. I found an alternative route. I became a part of the inaugural cohort of the Engineering Pathway program between Illinois and City Colleges of Chicago. I completed the requirements for the Engineering Pathway program and credits towards an associate degree at Wilbur Wright College and then made the transition to Urbana-Champaign.
As I explored my engineering classes, I found myself very curious about the inner workings of devices. I have an inquisitive nature. I wanted to know about the power sources that make mechanical parts move. Some are powered by batteries, others by AC currents from the outlet – but how does the electricity that is invisible to us make those devices work? Stable electricity is a mainstay of the world around us, and that is what drew me to Electrical Engineering.
The extracurricular activities that I participated in on campus helped shape my entire engineering academic experience. I was a part of the iRobotics team where I put the technical knowledge that I gained from classes into practical, real-world applications. We worked on teams to design a variety of gadgets and moving objects, carrying out projects from initial drafting, to drawing up truth tables, all the way through building and testing. We even presented designs at Engineering Open House each spring.
The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) was also a prominent experience for me, and I enjoyed every bit of it. In my first year on campus, I served as the Historian where I took photos and kept meeting notes, as well as handled the social media and announcements. It gave me a deep understanding of how the chapter worked. The following year, I served as an External Vice President, which meant providing leadership for a number of Executive Board Officers and their teams within the organization. I am particularly proud of the networking initiatives that we undertook in this year. For example, we established a NSBE Buddies program that pairs first year and incoming transfer students with juniors and seniors who can share mentorship and advice. Additionally, we brought a variety of companies to our organization meetings (such as Caterpillar, Google, Microsoft, Texas Instruments) to talk about diversity and inclusion opportunities in the workplace and to help our students bridge the academic and professional worlds.
Another opportunity grew from my involvement in NSBE, because we shared an office in Engineering Hall with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Time spent together in close proximity to SHPE members helped us form additional bonds and friendships. I valued our collaboration and resource sharing, as we supported each other academically, with our student organization work, and personally. These three activities – iRobotics, NSBE, and SHPE – enlightened me and helped me grow.
Now I am working as a Power Systems Engineer for Eaton. First, let me say that Handshake at Illinois is one of the best things that ever happened to me! It is tailored to the Illinois community and recruiters are using the system specifically to reach out to Illinois students. It is a really good tool to connect with opportunities. Also, the career fairs at Illinois are exceptional! They are huge, and they give you a personal experience with employers. I’m all about the one-on-one interaction – giving people a chance to feel my energy and the excitement in my voice.
Pairing Handshake with the career fair is pretty much how I found my job. In fact, in the fall of my senior year – many months before graduation, I landed interviews with four major employers using these resources! I ultimately chose Eaton because I was impressed by the company culture that I experienced during my onsite interview. They stressed technical knowledge, attention to safety, and professional learning and growth, as well as a value of work-life balance and bringing energy and enthusiasm to the workplace. I felt like they saw and valued who I am as a person, in addition to my Illinois technical expertise.
Working at Eaton has been a great experience. I won’t lie – I don’t really like working from home due to the pandemic. I’m really looking forward to getting into the office and connecting with the team in-person. That said, the company culture is outstanding. I’m learning how to communicate with customers when $50,000 worth of product is on the line. I’m really seeing how to bring my ideas, models, and designs to life in order to make recommendations, keep people safe, and impact the power community. I’m going to grow so much in this company.
I want to encourage aspiring engineers back on campus to never let your current situation define your destination. Life happens to people. You will experience challenges, but each one is a part of growth. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t experience some pitfalls along the way. The goal is to learn how to cope with failure and to rise from it.
(Last Updated: March 11, 2021)