Ana Nieto


Where to find her: 

Education: Bachelor Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering. University of Texas at El Paso. Graduated in May 2019. 

Current Job Title: Quality Assurance Engineer 

What experience first got you interested in science and is that field the same one you went on to pursue?

During high school I participated in various STEM competitions such as TARC (Team America Rocketry Challenge), SLI (Student Launch Initiative) robotics and some other academic competitions like TAME (Texas alliance for minorities in engineering) UIL for science and math. These clubs and competitions sparked my interest in Math and Science.

Tell me about some people who helped or inspired you along the way, in your early training and later in your career.

There are a lot of people who inspired me to become an engineer and peruse my dreams. One of those people is my high school teacher and mentor, Mrs. Shella Condino. She was my physics teacher and the person in charge of most of the clubs and competitions mentioned on the previous question. Mrs. Shella was recognized as aerospace teacher of the year in 2012 and testified in front of the senate in 2019 about her path as a science teacher and educator. She moved to northern Virginia once I graduated high school, and now I live a few miles away from her.

My family is part of my inspiration too. My siblings were part of the rocketry club before me (They are older) and I joined once I got into high school. They were the ones who pushed me to join. My parents are a huge part too as they always believed in us and supported us with every competition and decision about our career path. 

There are a few other mentors who I always go back to. Mr. Steve De Leon, a former Lockheed Martin Engineer who I met during my high school years, he is one of the founders of TAME. My two college mentors Dr. Chandler and Mr. Schneider, who were my SLI and TARC mentors. They are both professors at Texas Tech University. Lastly but one of the most important people is Dr. Langford who is the former CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, he is who gave me my first internship right out of high school.

Can you tell me about any moments of doubt you had as a student or early in your career and how you dealt with it?

There were many moments of doubt during my college career. One of those and one of the biggest ones was during and after my first semester of college. The first semester I took the basics, pre-calc, chem 1, English etc. The thing is that I got C’s in most of my classes and I failed chem 1, because of this I was placed in probation. That is the moment that I doubted myself the most. How was I going to get to my upper level classes if I couldn’t even pass the basics? From that moment I set goals for myself, daily study hours and surrounded myself with dedicated and responsible people.

Can you share two or three surprising twists or turns in your early scientific training and your later career path.

I’m still an entry level professional, however I can mention some twist turns during my college career. How I previously mentioned I was placed in probation after my first semester, but I also got a 3 something GPA after the second and getting officially accepted into the college of engineering. Another event that I saw coming but did not want to accept was the fact that I would have to transfer schools. There was one class that I really liked but somehow could not pass. TTU has strict rules that if you do not pass a class with two attempts you then have to change majors. I could not pass this one class, but I did not want to give up on my dream of becoming a mechanical engineer, so I transferred schools. All my credits transferred (Thank God) so I did not loose any time. I took the class again at my new school and boom! I passed it.

Can you give some examples of how you have incorporated your non scientific interests into your work.

I’m passionate about diversity and representation in the workplace. Only 2% of the engineering workforce is Hispanic and female. I’m currently working on getting started a Hispanic organization at my place of work. This org is not only for engineers, everyone is welcome to join. I’m applying my passion for diversity while networking, growing, meeting new people and making friends on the way.

Is there some advice you could share from your own experience to help someone with a science degree who is just starting off on their own career path.

The one advise that I would give is to be persistent and dream a little bigger each day. Listen to your inner self, sometimes all you need is a break to recharge, once you do that do not stay there, keep it moving. As you can see, my college career was not perfect. All those bumps on the road helped me believe more in myself, they taught me discipline and most importantly to never give up. As an ESL (English as a Second Language) there were times that I had to study more than my English-Speaking classmates because I did not know some words or the context of the question, but do not quit, surround yourself with smart people, mentors, professors and ask questions. Feel free to connect with me on linked and ask for more advise or any other questions/comments you might have! 

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