Maria Colon works as a senior process engineer II at Raytheon Technologies. She’s been with her employer for 14 years supporting the manufacturing floor with processes related to adhesives, coatings, and solder. Maria also works with automated equipment and helps to troubleshoot issues when they occur.
In addition to her day to day tasks, she leads projects that introduce new equipment, reduced cost and increase the quality of products. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus and a Master of Science degree in Material Science and Engineering from the University of Arizona.
Charlene interviewed Maria about her inspiring career journey within the electronics manufacturing industry. This interview is packed with career advice and tips for young engineers to grow and excel within the industry. Everyone’s professional journey is different and unique, and it was special to learn about Maria’s career aspirations. Maria participated as a panelist at the IPC APEX STEM Outreach Event this year in San Diego, CA during the Career Panel Luncheon.
Charlene: “What do you love about your profession and the industry in general?”
Maria: “I love the everyday challenges, not a single day is the same. I get to learn new technologies, new processes, and meet new people. I also love the diversity of the people I work with; you learn a lot from their backgrounds and that helps you expand your perspective.”
Charlene: “Why did you decide to become an Engineer?”
Maria: “I actually wanted to be a lawyer growing up, but then I discovered that I loved science and math more than anything. I also, enjoyed creating things and was curious on how things worked and how they were made. One day I decided to talk to my chemistry teacher and we talked about all the options available in math and science. While talking to him I decided engineering was the best career for me.”
Charlene: “What was the highlight of your career thus far?”
Maria: “Being trusted to lead projects that improved schedule and reduced cost while ensuring a safe and quality of product.”
Charlene: “What are your goals in terms of engineering today?”
Maria: “To gain more knowledge on current and future technologies and to be able to share that knowledge with my peers.”
Charlene: “What do you look forward to in the future?”
Maria: “To see more women and Latina engineers. When I was in high school, I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in STEM-related events. There was no such thing. I feel this is changing but more needs to be done to get women and Latinas expose to this fun and challenging career.”
Charlene: How would you describe the term “Engineering”?”
Maria: “Design, create, manage, and collaborate with other disciplines to solve a problem.”
Charlene: “You are one of IPC’s Emerging Engineers. Why did you decide to get involved and what are the benefits?”
Maria: “Yes, I am an IPC Emerging Engineer. I decided to get involved because I wanted to learn more about the standards and how they play an important role in the industry. Also, it is a great opportunity to network and meet new people from the industry and learn from their experiences.”
Charlene: “What aspects do you love about your job?”
Maria: “I love that it is challenging, it’s hands-on and that I get to solve problems and work with people that are passionate about the work we do.”
Charlene: “What makes the industry exciting?”
Maria: “That as an engineer you have many options to expand your career. You can choose a technical career, management or end up doing both. You can choose any path and if you don’t like what you are doing or feel you want to learn more, you can explore more options like working with a new products and/or technology. There is always something new to learn."
Charlene: “What suggestions do you have for students that are exploring their career paths?”
Maria: “That they should understand what they are passionate about and talk to their parents, teachers, and mentor to discuss career options. Participate in career events and talk to people that are doing the work and get their perspective. But at the end of the day they should go for a career that makes them happy and if they end up choosing a career and then decided that is not what they wanted or expected they can always try something new.”
Charlene: “What advice do you have for young professionals, especially students in finding a job?”
Maria: “Networking is the best way to meet people, improve your social skills and learn about the industry and its trends. Students and young professionals should participate in Student associations or company resource group activities to meet new people and build relationships that will potentially help their career. Meeting a potential mentor or colleague can lead to a new opportunity to advance their career.”
Charlene: “What can a student do to prepare for a job interview?”
Maria: “Know as much as you can about the company and the position you applied for. Research question that are most commonly asked in an interview and practice the responses. Dress the part, it only takes a couple of seconds for someone to have an impression of you. Be on time, have a set of questions prepared for the interviewer, which shows interest in the position. Bring multiple copies of your resume, sometimes you are introduced to people not on the agenda and it’s a plus to be prepared. Also, always make eye contact.”
Charlene: “What do you think are some of the emerging technologies over the next 5 years?”
Maria: “I believe that emerging technologies will be geared more to Internet of Thing (IoT), Blockchain technology, additive manufacturing and cloud-base technology to name a few.”
Charlene: “What do you currently do to change the world of engineering today?”
Maria: “I work on developing processes and optimizing systems with new technologies to efficiently improve the way we do business.”
Charlene: “Thank you, Maria – We value your time.”
Maria: “Thank you, Charlene. Always a pleasure.”
The IPC Education Foundation will host industry professionals in an informal setting to provide our network of students, educators, and other professionals information on career and technical topics related to the electronics industry.
This event will be an informal, high-engagement Q&A hosted by the team at IPCEF and IPC Emerging Engineers.
Follow-up content will be shared with registrants, and if approved, a recording will be posted to the IPCEF YouTube Channel.