Visionaries Inspiring the Future of Technology
By Gloria Romano-Barrera
Examples of successful Latinas in technology are on the rise and as they become role models for the next generation, they are also opening doors creating a diverse future in STEM. The following stories of determined Latinas in STEM are only a small fragment of the many more to come.
Senior Technical Staff Member Cognitive Systems Development
Naturally inclined toward math and science, Madeline Vega spent her childhood hearing from her elementary teachers that she should become an engineer. It was in 5th grade that she decided to pursue it. This led her to Math, Science and Engineering summer camps at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez while in high school.
“Those STEM camps solidified my desire to study engineering, and also helped me decide to specialize in Electrical Engineering,” says Vega, Senior Technical Staff Member, Cognitive Systems Development at IBM Systems.
In College, Vega was a National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) scholar, obtained three summer internships at 3M Corp as part of the program, and the last summer of her BSEE, she interned at Lucent Technologies. For Vega, these early work experiences were very beneficial and helped her get the confidence to move forward in the field. Later while at a job fair at her alma mater, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, she interviewed with the IBM recruiting team and found a great opportunity to join the team as a Systems Engineer at IBM in Austin.
Today, Vega is a Senior Technical Staff Member (STSM) in the Cognitive Systems Development organization in IBM Systems in Austin, TX, working on future server technologies. She is the Platform Chief Engineer for the next generation of Power Systems and new Storage Class Memory offerings. In her role, she leads cross-functional teams on the architecture, design and development of systems and have technical responsibility for the successful general availability of the systems portfolio.
By focusing on STEM, Vega believes she has received many opportunities to try new things and continue evolving. Having mentors early on in her career also guided her in her journey both professionally and personally. She also credits her parents, her dad a retired Science teacher and her mom, a retired English teacher for instilling in her the importance of learning and education.
“Our culture, in general, is very family-oriented. I think that quality and the values associated with it give me a tendency to care a lot about the well-being of my team,” she shares. “As part of our business, we have challenging schedules to get technology into the market with very high standards. The people that we work with are the biggest assets and we must ensure they are taken care of, and I do my best to make sure they are doing well.”
For Vega, the best part of working with IBM is to work on what matters in the world and the flexibility to do impactful work while also having time for a fulfilling life with family and community.
“IBM cares about the community and the world,” she states. “I respect our company because we take on important, history-changing challenges, such as Watson in Jeopardy, which made the AI era tangible. And also because we continuously give back with programs such as the IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC). In 2010 I was fortunate to participate in the CSC Turkey Team 5 that worked in nonprofit projects in the province of Malatya.”
Vega is a lifetime member of the Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE). She is also part of the Hispanics in Partnership Business Resource Group at IBM. Through these organizations and other volunteering activities, Vega reaches out to the younger generation in the community and mentor them so they can see what is possible in STEM.
“My advice would be to get mentors and a support structure early on,” she shares. “Let them, and your management team, know what your aspirations and goals are. That way when opportunities come up, they will have you in mind and see if you are interested in pursuing them.”
Nancy E. Wild
Semiconductor Commodity Engineer
Nancy Wild’s love for math started at a young age. She recalls a moment when her dad designed electrical wiring of homes. “When I was 10 years old, I remember we were building our house and my dad was designing the electrical wiring of it,” she shares. “He would ask me to help him pull the wire through the conduit and draw the wiring diagrams to figure out where each switch would be.”
Intrigued by it, Wild look no further and committed to a STEM career. “I found it so fascinating and challenging at the same time,” she states. “The passion my dad instilled in me at a young age and my love for math, were the two factors which drew me into the STEM field, specifically electrical engineering.”
As a Supply Chain Commodity Manager for Emerson, Wild negotiates global contracts and advocates for Emerson’s business units globally. She also works on optimizing the negotiation process with suppliers to simplify Emerson’s global supply chain while making sure the delivery of quality components is on time and at the best cost. A STEM advocate with a focus on underrepresented groups such as Latinas, Wild makes it a mission to empower others.
“I am a female minority myself and being there for others who are going through some of the challenges I have encountered along the way empowers me,” she states. “I am also a mom of two daughters and being their role model is my motto.”
Wild’s work greatly impacts Emerson bottom line as she manages global spending for electronics where the strategy she sets is driven globally to all the business units impacted.
When Wild joined Emerson in 2014, she also joined the Employee Resource Group “Women in STEM” which at the time only had about 50 members, shortly after, the ERG grew in great dimensions to a well-established global ERG of 4000 plus members.
Wild’s advice for any Latina pursuing a STEM career is to ‘Go for it, and when you feel like it’s not going to work out, keep trying.’
“Perseverance and Passion are the two things you need in the mix of not giving up,” she states. “There is always a way, I assure you. When I moved out of my home in Mexico to come pursue a degree in the U.S., I didn’t know the culture, the language or the people. In the beginning, I felt alone, but I reached out to other groups within and outside school. I created a network of support which helped understand that we are never alone even when we think we are. Raise your hand and ask for help, I am positive there will be at least one person selflessly willing to help you.”