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Elena Rodriguez-Falcon

President and CEO, New Model in Technology and Engineering

Take risks, don't be afraid, what is the worst that can happen? That you have to try again? The best that can happen, however, is that you can be part of the change you want to see.

What do you do?

I am leading the development and creation of the first new university in the UK in some 40 years. NMiTE will be an engineering focused university, which will use a 100% ‘hands-on’ learning model and as such, it requires different types of educators, facilities and it needs the input of industry throughout the degree programme.

 

My job is to bring together all aspects of Higher Education to life in the context of this new educational model. A huge challenge.

Why did you choose this field?

"It was sometime later that I understood the potential and power of this amazing discipline."

I used to want to be a cardiologist. This is not surprising as the only role model I had was a distant relative, the only member of the family who had gone to university. This idea came to an end when I realised that I was not any good with blood!

 

After that, I had very little clue of what I wanted to do but I come from a city in Mexico, Monterrey, which is very industrial and engineering is a well understood discipline. When the time came to decide what to study, I decided on engineering, not because I was passionate about it but because it seemed sensible to me to do a degree that would most certainly result in a well-paid job. Perhaps not the best of motivations but that’s why I chose engineering. 

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

"Starting a brand-new university is by far the one thing I would tell younger me that it was possible to do."

I have been really lucky as I have been able to do some amazing things, including being an educator and working with young engineers to help solve various challenges faced by people with disabilities. On the one hand, empowering people is amazing and on the other, seeing engineering in use and making a change is just difficult to put in to words. And all this in a different country and in a different language than my own.

But perhaps, the idea that one day I would be starting a brand-new university is by far the one thing I would tell younger me that it was possible to do.

Why do you love working in STEM?

The idea that through my discipline and the work I do, I can help change many lives for the better is, without a doubt, the most exciting aspect of my job. I, like most, know that there are far too many challenges to solve in order to leave a world that is worth living in to future generations. I know that to do this we need more engineers, better engineers and engineers who care. And every day I wake up looking forward to making the skills gap a bit narrower.

Best advice for the next generation

The best advice I have received was from my first boss who said, “Elena, in this job not only you are allowed to make mistakes, we encourage you to make them. Once you do, however, learn from them and don’t make them again”.

So, to next generations of girls (and boys) in STEM, take risks, don’t be afraid, what is the worst that can happen? That you have to try again? The best that can happen, however, is that you can be part of the change that you want to see.

Fun fact

My favourite game/hobby is Pokemon Go and I am an avid player so much so that I spend weekends going to community days and soon will be travelling to Germany for a Pokemon Go Fest! I know, we all have our quirks.