Ana K. Nieto
Associate Engineer at Aurora Flight Sciences
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WHAT DO YOU DO?
I'm currently participating in a rotational program at Aurora Flight Sciences. My first role was as a supply chain engineer and my current role is Quality Assurance Engineer. After completing my current rotation, I will then participate in other areas of the company for two more rotations.
As a Quality Assurance Engineer, I'm involved in various tasks, such as Nonconformances, Obtaining IPC Certification for the Avionics Lab, participating and leading internal and external audits etc.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?
When I was little, I did not even know that engineers existed. I grew up in Mexico until 6th grade, and all I knew back then was that I wanted to become an OBGYN, a Chef or Criminal Forensic Investigator. When I was 12, my family and I moved to a small, rural, isolated border town in Texas. Presidio, TX is 4 hours away from the nearest city with a mall, 2 hours away from the nearest university, 4 hours away from the nearest Cinemark, you get the picture.
When my family and I moved there my siblings were both freshman in high school while I was in middle school. The high school offered STEM extracurricular activities, which included a Rocketry and Robotics Club lead by the best science teacher I have ever had - Mrs. Condino with the help of the best ESL teacher - Ms. Portillo. My siblings joined the club and I did too as soon as I was a freshman in high school.
I participated in TARC (Team America Rocketry Challenge) all 4 years of high school. TARC is the largest model rocketry competition in the world!! My high school made it to the top 20 teams out of 700+ teams in the nation, every year from 2009-2013, By making it to the top 20 every year, we got the privilege to participate in SLI (Student Launch Initiative). SLI is a college level high power rocketry competition, that takes place every year at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. During this experience we got the opportunity to present our work to NASA engineers and receive their feedback from the proposal all the way to post flight.
During high school I also participated in robotics, and various STEM competitions one of them being TAME (Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering). These experiences allowed me to explore, expand and connect with people from the industry and find lifelong mentors.
In 2012 I was invited to attend the Second Annual Science Fair at the White House to Present model rocketry to President Barack Obama. The summer of 2013, right before entering my freshman year of college I worked as high school intern at Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas, VA. All of these experiences and opportunities shaped me and guided me in my pursue to become a mechanical engineer.
My parents played a major role in my personal and professional growth. They always supported my siblings and I in all of our extracurricular activities and participation in different competitions during high school and college. My siblings pushed me to be a better engineer every day, and are great mentors and role models. As I previously mentioned, the best science and high school teacher is Mrs. Condino - aka second mom. She moved from Presidio to Virginia in 2013, and now we live about 30 min from each other. I also had other amazing mentors that I want to give credit for my growth and passion for engineering; Dr. Chandler - TTU ; Mr. Schneider - TTU Professor, Mr. Steve De Leon - TAME Founder and Lockheed Martin Engineer.
If you are interested on learning more about Presidio Rocketry and Robotics Club and my story check out this documentary -
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"
One of the major achievements that I can look at and think "I wish younger me would have known this was possible" would be right here, right now.
Working at this amazing company with all of these amazing and incredibly smart people is unreal! Living alone, being an independent, financially stable, healthy adult is what I wish my younger self knew that it was possible.
When I was younger, I always had ambition and I always picture myself doing great things, however imposture syndrome is real, and I often found myself doubting myself in the past. I still do sometimes, but I have gotten here so far, and it's not because I was "lucky" it is because of all of the hard work I have put into growing, learning, listening, expressing and putting working on what I want to accomplish.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?
Latinas in engineering only make up to 2% of the engineering industry in the USA. This is crazy! And this is one of the main reasons why I love working in STEM. I want to provide that representation that I needed when I was younger. I want some little girl to look at me and for her to be able to relate to my story.
I look forward to solving problems, putting my thoughts and solutions into actions. See how they failed or succeed and trouble shoot from there to make the world a safer and better place.
BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?
Be the best version of yourself, dream big and never doubt yourself. If you do not see representation, work hard to be what you wish there was. You can do this!
INSPO / FUN FACT
Dream big, work hard and never give up / RBG!