I spent 10 years of my career at Harris and I’m so fortunate for all of the opportunities I’ve had. I led an engineering department of 90 engineers and that really helped me gain management experience, have a better understanding of the company’s key objectives, and bring value to our customers. Those are things that I will take with me always, but they’re especially useful in my new role.
My biggest challenge as director of business operations is making sure that each of our departments are working together, going in the right direction, and aligning themselves with the company’s main objectives. Alignment is a continuous process requiring constant communication and effective communication is all about establishing strong working relationships. I feel like my cultural background growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, helped me in this respect. We’re very social people—developing friendships and maintaining relationships are very important to us. It starts young. I remember coming home from school each day and having so many kids to talk to and play with in our neighborhood. That is how my relationship-building skills started.
From the perspective of someone who’s interested in developing new technology for the government, I would tell a young engineer that they would be better prepared for entering this industry if they had a firm understanding of how programs are managed. In hindsight, I see how I could have brought more value to an organization if I better understood the needs of the client and how my role directly serviced those needs, and how projects are measured in terms of cost, schedule, and technical performance. Have daily talks about what’s needed to support the team, the program, and the project; know your role and how it helps support the bigger picture.
We’re seeing more Latinos enter the technology sector, but we’re not getting the numbers we could be. I think the issue is that many don’t have aspirations for the engineering field because it’s not something they’re really exposed to. A few years ago, I went with my wife to our children’s elementary school to participate in a school program for math and science where we utilized Lego robotics. It was so fun and you could tell that the kids were proud of themselves when they solved a problem. You could see their eyes opening to the possibilities. Getting more Latinos in this field requires that sort of exposure. Growing up in Puerto Rico, I wasn’t exposed to the field until I was in college. My kids are being raised in the United States and they don’t get a lot of exposure to engineering either. It’s going to require making a conscious effort to expose young people to this field and open their eyes to the possibilities of engineering.
Seven years ago I was part of a diversity initiative at Harris. I was part of a team of employees who recruited in Puerto Rico. I ran the program for two years and it’s still going today. It was an amazing opportunity to go into universities and see the next generation and bring that young talent back to Harris. Many of those students we met are now engineers at Harris and contributing to our many programs.