The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Region 1 Leadership Development Conference held in San Francisco, CA at Stanford University and Sheraton Palo Alto just ended a few hours ago. I must say that I was very impressed with the entire event, which was the first SHPE conference I’ve attended in over a decade. Attending the conference brought back a lot of fond memories of SHPE.
SHPE provided many first time experiences for me. I was one of the original members of the SHPE Cooper Union Student Chapter in 1991, serving as the Student Treasurer in 1993. That was the first professional organization I had ever joined and my first true leadership role. SHPE was also responsible for kicking off my career upon graduation from the Mechanical Engineering program at the Cooper Union in New York City. I received three job offers from the SHPE National Technical Career Conference (NTCC) in 1995. The offers were from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Rhode Island, Raytheon Missile Systems near Boston, and Honda R&D in Ohio. When I chose Honda, that set the path for my career as an Automotive Design Engineer that would eventually lead to working in Germany for Porsche AG on the Carrera, Boxster, and Cayenne. While at Honda, I served as a Vice-Chair of the SHPE National Student Affairs Committee (NSAC) and later founded the Columbus Ohio Chapter of SHPE (which unfortunately didn’t survive after I moved to Germany). Finally, it was the SHPE parties that inspired me to want to learn Salsa dancing – which would eventually lead me to my future wife 🙂
Based on all of this, when I found out that there was a regional conference in San Francisco at the same time that I was going to be in the area for business, I made it a point to attend. I reached out to the event organizers to see how I could participate, especially after reading that for the first time, there would be a Business Plan competition as part of the conference. Fidel Hernandez and Edgar Roman were in need of a main prize sponsor for the competition, so I was able to sign up Microsoft as an event sponsor.
I was impressed by so many things at this event. First was the speed and flexibility in which the event organizers were able to add Microsoft as a sponsor and update the full program. Additionally, having three separate tracks for Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, and Professionals, along with all of the high caliber presenters for each of these workshops was nothing short of amazing. The keynote lunch speech by Raul Vazquez, Executive VP of Walmart was one of the best executive keynotes I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Meeting and hearing from the first Latina in Space, Dr. Ellen Ochoa, Deputy Director of NASA Johnson Space Center was a special treat for me given my childhood dream of becoming an astronaut. The Business Plan competitors certainly did a great job of bridging the engineering and business disciplines and I was honored to have been asked to serve as a judge for the competition. And finally, the finalists for the Xbox prize at the Regional Breakout Meeting this morning (Sunday, 4/3/2011) shared some truly inspirational and moving stories of what this conference meant to them and how they are going to apply what they learned going forward.
I’m glad to see that SHPE has grown and flourished in the two decades since I originally joined the organization. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to be leaders and to make events like this happen. Until next time!