The 2 Musts for Advancing Your STEM Career, From 2 Latinx Leaders was originally published on Fairygodboss.
Raquel Rivera and Raquel Tamez have more in common than just their names — they’re also successful Latinx leaders in the STEM field.
A lifelong lover of science and math, Rivera grew her career to Vice President of Product Delivery Center Operations at Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Corporation company, after initially landing an internship there during a college recruitment event. She’s since held five leadership positions at Pratt & Whitney, including Director of Operations, VP of Commercial Spare Parts, VP of Materials Management, General Manager of Product & Process Integrity and her current role.
Tamez has had a similarly colorful career track, having occupied a number of leadership roles at STEM companies like Affiliated Computer Services, SourceAmerica and now the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, where she is CEO.
To honor Hispanic Heritage Month this year, the two leaders recently spoke at the inaugural Hispanic Professional Summit held by UTC, which was recently named one of the best U.S. companies for Latinas to work for by LATINA Style Inc. The summit — which was appropriately themed “Igniting el Futuro Together” — aimed to foster a sense of community among the attendees, help Latinx professionals imagine a successful future as leaders at UTC and encourage audience members to advance their careers through continued professional development.
Though the summit has come and gone, both leaders still have a lot to say about their experiences as Hispanic women in the STEM space. We recently spoke to them about their top three recommendations for Latinx individuals looking to advance their STEM careers — and they got real specific. You can check out their advice below.
1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Tamez said that in order to thrive in the workspace, you must “commit to a growth mindset and embrace risk as essential to career success.”
Rivera added onto this point, saying that “growth and development come from new experiences, new learnings and new people. Advancement and a fulfilling career are not always linear.” Rivera’s experience of leaving operations after 10 years to join the commercial engines spare parts business is proof. Ultimately, it’s the career move she is most proud of.
“This was a growth opportunity for me outside of my comfort zone,” she said. “I was able to bring my strengths from my operations experiences, including my focus on process, customer and results. I learned how to manage a business and, in the process, also met a lot of great people. Those relationships and the network they created are essential to my role today and were crucial to my career growth.”
2. Find a mentor.
Rivera has always had a mentor throughout her career. She advises attendees to similarly seek out a mentor because, with one, you’ll learn “the business — especially early in your career, how to maneuver in a large company and sometimes how to deal with difficult situations.”
“Find the leader you admire the most and ask them to be your mentor. As you deliver results, they will become your sponsors,” she added. “A sponsor is someone who knows you best and knows your leadership approach, your ability to lead, and your accomplishments. This is the person that will speak for you in those critical leadership meetings when you are not present.”
Tamez shared a similar sentiment, advising attendees to “establish their personal board of directors” and “network, network, network — in a meaningful way. Be a broker of relationships and generous with your contacts.” After all, she added, “it takes a village to raise a leader.”
At the end of the day, both women feel their willingness to take risks, coupled with the diverse perspectives they bring to the table, have helped accelerate their STEM careers. As Rivera put it, “growth and development come from new experiences, new learnings and new people… advancement and a fulfilling career are not always linear.”