Diana Iracheta: Reimagining the path to engineering

19 minute read

Epsa 2:53 

And super excited to share our guest today. Her name is Diana. And she has started her own like resource Instagram platform. It’s called Latina engineer. And it’s all about her experience navigating the world of being Latina and engineering. She was one of the only Latina engineers in her University. So she talks about navigating that and then post grad and she has a following of over 8000 followers. And she’s a grown that within the past year. So she shares all these resources has created these awesome events, and is really just paving the way for other Latina woman engineers today. All right, so to start off, Diana, thank you so much for joining us today amidst your move and just this evening. But could you before we get into more of your questions, could you just give us a background on yourself like your personal and professional educational experiences? And what kind of inspired you to pursue the field of engineering?

Diana  3:51  

Yeah, so I am a Mexican immigrant. I came to the US when I was 12 years old. Both my parents are in STEM. So STEM has been in my life. Since, you know, since I was growing up. I remember seeing my mom doing like CAD models when when I was younger. So it was something that  had that influence in my life. So I got here, I didn’t know any English. So it was kind of like that transition from one country to the other. And then, you know, I, I went to college, I decided to go for engineering, something that I try not to do because my parents were in STEM. But it was something that at the end of the day I liked I enjoyed so I did my career in mechanical engineering, graduated with graduated and started working as a manufacturing engineer. And then as soon as I graduated, that’s when I launched Latina engineer, which is something that I’ve been working on the side, I was sharing my story and then it evolved into you know, wanting to see connecting with other Latinas and engineering, helping in any way that I could. So right now that’s what I’m focusing on. Besides from my job. I’ve been working,I’ve been in industry for two yours now. And yeah, looking forward for what’s to come.

Epsa 5:04  

Wow. Well, looks like you’ve had a lot of experiences and I love that you like obviously have this big side hustle passion project Latina engineering, which we’re very excited to get into. Yeah.

Sydney 5:15  

Could you tell us a bit about you said, So you said that you started this platform Latina engineer after you graduated college? Could you tell us a bit about like, what was your inspiration for starting not I mean, it’s also incredible that you already have like over 8000 followers. So obviously, this is resonating, and you know, making a huge impact. But we’d love to just know more about like, the founding story behind that.

Diana  5:42  

Yeah, so when I was in college, I feel really lonely. Like, I always felt like I was a non traditional student because of my English because I was a female, Latina and engineering. So it is something that I wish I had started when I was in school, or that I had, you know, gone on my Instagram and search, you know, engineers and like, found some of these girls before then. But it started because I started working. And when I started working, I started feeling more comfortable, and that my co workers were accepting me like it was I didn’t have to stop wearing what I was wearing, or Oh, you’re wearing pink or like, you can’t use these tools. It was like, I was just one of them. And that kind of inspiring me made me feel good. Me wanted to share that, you know, it was a good environment, once you finish, you know, you’re not gonna like, you might get it from experience experience, but he wasn’t all bad. And from there, that’s when I started meeting, like, it’s not so much I found them, they found me on Instagram. And they were like, Hey, I’m another Latina and engineer. And that was just awesome. Because in school, we were maybe three, and we didn’t, we were in the same classes in the same career like the same engineering type. So it was really hard. So just being able to meet all these other women and Latinas in STEM, in engineering, just through, you know, social media through Instagram, which before, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t know, I could use it for something more than just scrolling through pictures of your friends, you know. So from there, it just started growing, to start to focus on doing more educational content, you know, what it learned, how I got scholarships, anything that, you know, could be helpful. And that’s what I’ve been learning evolve, like, whenever I feel like people need or wonder how I found that motivation is the biggest part of it, like, he helps a lot. And I get a lot of good feedback that it’s like, because of this, you know, I, I keep pushing forward, I know, I can be an engineer, to me, like, you know, that means a lot of getting a message that, you know, they saw something and it was impactful to them. So I focus a lot on that. And, you know, sharing, you know, and you can wear pink, you can be feminine, you don’t have to be feminine, you know, just because my page is pink doesn’t mean that you have like pink. But yeah, and then just you know, we’ve all been to a conference, scholarships, and you know, we’ll see what what else gets coming.

Epsa 7:58  

Oh, my gosh, you have a lot and I’m very excited to see your platform grow. You bring up a really great point, because I think from the start an Instagram just kind of seems like oh, okay, here’s my highlights reel. Like, here’s it just personal just seemed like very personal. But I feel like, within the past few years, we’ve really seen Instagram transform into like a resource toolkit, like not just Instagram, like I would say like Twitter, Reddit. Sydney, Sydney can speak on that, but I feel like Sydney and I like we will go on Reddit to like, ask questions and stuff. But um, with using Instagram to kind of have that personal touch of your professional experiences, what to you were like some surprising outcomes of like launching and growing your platform like, where they’re really cool people you met communities you’ve built like followers your help, do you have any stories to share about like surprising outcomes?

Diana 8:48  

I wasn’t, I didn’t even know that community existed before then, you know, I had my personal account, I follow my friends, I had like, 300 people follow me back. And that was it. You know, it was to say, you know, family pictures. And the moment I open another account, I started like, you know, using hashtags and trying to find a count, I found out there was this like, complete world of like stem accounts, woman empowerment, other woman stem thumb. And I was like, We’re worried if you feel like you have to go and like, I guess you search and you can find them. So, this experience that I’m having now. It’s so much different to what I had before. You know, so you just have to go and you know, like hashtag or like find something in thing that we’re always learning, you know, put it in your description, what you do, what you offer, what you can learn, and you know, with Tik Tok to like, there’s a lot to do in a short video. And I know that we’re like creators that you know, we’re trying to make it as educational as much as entertainment, because we’re trying to get it I guess, to people that you know, like I said, like, I didn’t have access to this when I was in college that I wish I had so maybe just putting it out there where they’re gonna see it.

Epsa  9:57  

No, I think this is like the best way to now share information because like, we’re always on our phones. And in this pandemic, my screen time is so high, might as well be given resources. As I’m scrolling through tik tok and Instragram

  Sydney 10:10  

I was just going to touch on to last year was the first year that you started the international Latina engineer week. So I guess like, was this like the next step for taking your platform, just like to the next level, what was kind of like the process behind starting that conference and some of the key impacts that it’s had.

Diana 10:39  

I think that was the one thing that made it more like an organization rather than, you know, my Creator account. And, you know, it came out of nowhere, I planned it in one week, like it was was just mostly LatineEngineer because you know, I, my account is that but by no means I represent every latina in engineering. So I wanted to showcase that. And I started asking my followers for their pictures, so I could share them during that week. And eventually, you know, I had gotten so many that I needed a whole week to do so I was like, let’s call it, I have a video where I’m like, national, Latino engineer week. And then from there, people started making hashtags. And we’re excited, like, what are you gonna do? And I’m like, Oh, I was just gonna share pictures. So then from day one International, because I had girls from Mexico from other countries. And then I was like, okay, we need to come up with something. And I have a group chat with other woman Latinas, specifically in STEM, that are like creators on Instagram. And I asked them like, Hey, you guys want to be speakers? We want to host a live session, do you want to be a mentor of a group? So I opened registrations up, it was just like a free event, it was gonna be all streamed through Instagram, and YouTube. And people started registering, I was like, wow, like this is growing. So we were able to raise funds for a scholarship, we had the mentorships, we are giveaways, we did have one sponsor that sponsored the whole giveaway. So I saw the potential that we had to create an event that, you know, wasn’t there before that I googled out, like, Is there a female engineer week or anything, and there wasn’t, you know, the same way I was able to find the website domain, the same way I was able to find Instagram handle, there is a like for it. And again, we’re not that many To start with, but that’s why we need to bring us together. And I just enjoy it so much that you know, it wasn’t exclusive to the nine engineers at all, it was the main focus because of how the page is called, but it’s pretty much open, there were topics that were covered that could help any student in, you know, in college, you know,  mental health, we had you know, how to find a job, and all these things. So it applied to pretty much everyone. Everybody was happy with it. So I was like, we need to make it a yearly thing. And right now, like, you know, I already opened applications for companies, so they helped me start planning it because it was crazy to do everything in one week on my own. And we’re trying to make it grow to make it, you know, to not be the only in the last year it hosted to keep making it, you know, a yearly thing.

Epsa  13:10  

 Oh, my gosh, I’m so excited for you. Um, I know, you mentioned there were like a lot of events and speaker series you had but what would you say was your favorite one?

Diana  13:18  

The empowerment in general that you felt through that week? I was tired from from day one. So yeah, it was a whole week of planning. And then by the time we launched, and it was Monday, I was fine with Monday. And by Tuesday, I was like, I’m done. Like, I’m tired. I just want to sleep. But, you know, it was just the vibe that I got through the whole week of like, everybody was excited to see what was coming. I had multiple posts per day, I had a different girl taking over every day in my account. And you know, on Wednesday, I was that’s when I was feeling the most like down. I was like, okay, it’s halfway through the week, but I just can’t do it anymore. Uh huh. So I messaged one of my friends and she’s just great. I like you know, pumping you up. When I asked, I was like, can you jump on my Instagram Live like really quick and just like, give, like, have an empowerment switch to everyone? And she was, you know, she was working. And during lunch, she was like, yeah, let me do this. And she just went on for like, 20 minutes, and she just gave like a hype talk to everyone. And from that, you know, that was just kind of like what got me the most energy. And there’s a couple days like, like right now is you know, is engineers week and you like the beginning or like, yiou feel like everybody’s such positive they’re sharing the polls, they’re commenting. And that’s what gets me the most you know, feeling that that we are not like seeing each other in person but we feel that everybody’s like coming together.

Sydney 14:42  

Yeah, and the fact that you were able to like just continue growing and building this community and you said like, how just like inspired and energetic you felt throughout the week while doing this like in a pandemic and all virtually like. I can’t even imagine like just the turnout and how the will continue to build upon itself, like when you’re able to host something in person. So yeah, it just sounds like it was an incredible event and the fact you put it together in one week, like,

Diana 15:11  

Wow, and while working Diana you don’t understand, like after work, I’m just like, okay, let’s see what energy I have to maybe make myself dinner. So again, props again yet. Okay, so like, this year was like the inaugural year and you had sponsors and you have scholarships? What are like some future goals you have for this platform for next year? I mean, I would hope to, like have you in person if everything’s safe. But yeah, what are some future goals you have.

Diana  15:40  

So I am looking to partner with a couple companies through the year and especially during that conference, so that, you know, we can have the, the, you know, the engineers that work at those companies like big companies, so that they can speak, they can be mentors, they can offer resources, because a lot of the things that people ask me are, you know, how to get hired what a company is looking for. So I think getting hearing it from the companies themselves can be really, really helpful. The other thing is, I am looking to hopefully host a couple, maybe like one or two of the whole conference events in person. And then you know, broadcast and for everyone else, but that will be kind of like a big step from going from being completely virtual, to be able to meet some of this girl, especially the committee that’s gonna be planning with me with that, you know, I’m bringing six other people to help me because you know, I can’t do it anymore. I have, I just started the nonprofit so that we can do more scholarships, because when I went to school, I benefited a lot from scholarships. So it’s something that I wanted to do since before I graduated. So I want to keep growing and keep increasing those scholarships, we were able to do to $1,000 scholarships last year. And I want to, you know, be able to increase the amount of the scholarships or the number of scholarships, that’s incredible. And I think you’ve really inspired like, probably like a larger younger group of women to have any, like, younger students connected with you on your Instagram, like maybe not people in college, but maybe people in high school I never anticipated, like pursuing a career in engineer. Have you had any of those outreaches yet? I do. I have had a few. I know, they have messaged me through Instagram. And then sometimes, you know, when it’s, you know, we start having like a longer discussion, or they send me you know, a long message with maybe multiple questions that they have, then I have scheduled calls where I spend 30 or an hour talking to them answering their questions, or like, you know, they’ve asked me, for example, like, you know, guys are introduced to mainly are engineering things from when they’re younger, is that going to be a disadvantage for me? Or like, what do you do at your job and things like that. So I think that’s great. Because, you know, when you go for your degree, sometimes you’re not even sure what it is about, like how it’s gonna be, in hearing it from someone else, seeing another female figure that has gone through that career, I think that can be very helpful. I didn’t know any Latinas and engineering had graduated when I went to school. But I did have women in STEM mentors and those were giving to my to like for me to believe in myself to do to keep going, you know, seeing them finish their career to be successful, have families because that was my goal,

Sydney 18:21  

Your platform and like, what you were doing is helping like these younger generations to to see like, oh, like, she’s a successful, amazing, like Latina engineer, like, if she can do that, I can do that, too. And we talked with somebody who was kind of like, started a platform similarly for like, PA school, so like, for physician’s assistants. And it was a similar thing, like being that change, and like being that representation for others to look up to. I also wanted to touch a bit about your mom, because you mentioned that she was a big role model for you. And she was an entrepreneur, herself. Could you tell us a bit I guess about, like, her story, and, you know, in what ways like you’ve looked up to her, as you’ve, you know, defined your own career, too.

Diana  19:13  

Yeah, she studied industrial design. But she never actually, you know, took that profession as a as a job title. But she was always, you know, she always had different businesses or different things that she was working on. And actually, when I was younger, I would go with her, you know, she would have a client and that will be sitting there in the office with them just like waiting or painting or whatever. She had another event that she had to get ready for prep, and I’ll be on the stage just like playing in the meantime, you know, so I grew up always with that figure of a strong mom that she will be working and, you know, I would have stopped her and eventually, you know, I got used to just doing my own thing where she worked without, bothering her. And then after that, you know, she had another business and that time, she was one of the First, if not the first, like, you know, small business ahead using AutoCAD, you know,  like the designing on the computer presenting it to the client, and then actually doing it not just, you know, like an idea. So that was very innovative, where we were living at the time, and they started, you know, growing, and I will see her on the computer, you know, doing all those designs, you know, she had the background into from that career. And, you know, her handling business that, you know, it was an error, you know, she was mainly use metal, it was, you know, welding a four minute installing, if she did get her at once, but like, that didn’t stop her. So seeing that, you know, she was like, she wasn’t afraid of it. And then she would also bring me along, you know, we had maybe a supplier of this metal parts, and I will be there, you know, who would have thought that this woman with her child, her girl, their little girl will go into the shop and like ask for quotes and what not. So that was super powerful. So it’s just like things that I always grew up with the mentality, you know, I could do whatever I wanted, as long as it was something that I wanted to do is not as much as Oh, you’re a woman? Or you can do this, or you can do that, or a certain career like that.

Epsa 21:09  

Well, it sounds like you, your mom sounds like a kick ass woman an incredible role model. What does she think of your platform? And I mean, you’re almost like a role model to 1000s of young women who look up to you, like, what are your parents take on your platform, growing your friends, co workers, people in your community,

Diana 21:26  

They’re super encouraging and supportive, you know, they always, you know, my friends is always put on my mind, you know, you’re gonna be successful, you’re gonna do something with your life. So I don’t think they like, you know, they always wanted to see me do something and continue to grow. And, you know, they always follow me, they like it, they’re, you know, they always like, my mom shares and things on Facebook. So just seeing that, you know, make me make me really happy. You know, I have friends and other people that, you know, they’re not close friends, but that maybe knew me at some point in my life. And when I see them again, they’re like, your platform that you started and you’re working on, and it just makes them feel great. That is reaching people and that people support it.

Epsa  22:09  

Have you ever thought potentially like down the road? Since you’ve been doing this for a while? Obviously, you have your full time job and engineering. But does it ever cross your mind? Hmm, could I do this platform? Can I do this full time? Like Does that ever cross your mind?

Diana  22:24  

There is a big dilemma with that, that I have, you know, females in engineers, usually after 10 years, most of them tend to leave the field. So that is something that you know, it’s always there, like, are you going to become one of those then eventually leaving engineering, but engineering doesn’t mean that you have to have that title, specifically the whole time. So there is like a really fine line there, you’re just walking through, like, do I want to take a job that doesn’t have the engineering word in it does that gonna make me fall out of it, but you’re still in some. And then just this is something that I do, because I’m passionate about, it’s never because I want to make a profit out of it. You know, all the things that go from my Etsy shop, go directly into, you know, either the resources, recording the video or anything that I need, the scholarships or things like that, maybe like a meal that I had there while I was playing the conference. So it’s always been removed from my mind that it wasn’t something to do for a living out of it. Sometimes it gets really like time consuming when I’m just like, I need a break from this. But I love what I do at my job as an engineer. I also love what I do after my work. So I think right now I have the perfect balance, but I get to do both. And as far as I want to say I don’t want to leave engineering. So I want to keep it you know, half and half. Right?

Sydney 23:47  

Yeah, you’re definitely like, working hard with like, the full time job. And then the side hustle, too, but it’s, it’s like so inspiring to hear you share your story and from what it sounds like to like, with your mom just being a super strong like, amazing woman to look up to. I can tell like, this entrepreneurial, like breaking the stigma blood, like, runs. Yeah,

Diana 24:11  

it runs in the family. I didn’t know she she always pushed me to like, Oh, you should just tell them. And I was like, No, I don’t like going out of my comfort zone. Yeah, and you know, now I’m doing all these things. I’m like, Yeah, like eventually I did. But you know, it’s been it’s been a progress is going from you know, I was super required to like, you know, I’m doing this because I like it and he you know, it’s uncomfortable the first time but you know, I’m getting used to it.

Sydney  24:39  

Did you always know too, that you wanted to go into engineering because it sounds like you know, like with your mom being in this field, like it was kind of close to home. Did you ever think about like branching out and doing something different? Or did you kind of always know that like, engineering would call you home kind of not at all.

Diana  25:01  

I was a senior in high school, I still didn’t know what I was gonna do. And I went through, like, you know, I was researching all the majors that I could have done, you know, I was in business, I was into nursing, I was like, I went through the whole, like, as many as I could research on. And then eventually I took physics class. And even though it was, I was terrible at the beginning, and even when I took it again, in college, it was just I was I was terrible, but I liked the problem solving, and that I could use math to connect with the real world, find out how things why things did the way they they did, and then using that math, so that’s when I knew that it was STEM. Once I went into college, that’s when I had to focus more on the STEM careers and figure out which one was the best one for me. And then engineering kind of overlapped. So even once I pick one, I was still within 100% sure what it was, you know, my dad is an engineer, as well. So he’s also in STEM. So I kind of didn’t want it to do it because of them. But eventually, it was something that I enjoyed. And then I’m really happy, because it’s always, you know, critical thinking and coming up with a solution, creating something new. And I also bring some of the creative side, you know, designing things when it comes to mechanical engineering.

Epsa  26:11  

That’s really cool. You had early on exposure to this field, especially, you know, growing up with both your parents, and especially your mom being so active in the field, I have like a pretty similar. So like my major and like what I’m doing now at work is identical to what my dad studied and what he’s doing. And one of those moments where I take a step back, and I’m like, wow, I really am your child, we are so similar. But thank you for sharing that. I think it’s always cool hearing if people are like super similar to what their parents do. And I wanted to touch on I know, earlier, you said you were one of the few Latina engineers at your school and at your work with just like navigating like I mean, engineering is a difficult field in itself. But with like stereotypes, and the difficulty of this field, was there a specific like mindset you had or quote, or just something that kept allowing you to push through and continue to grow in this field,

Diana 27:05  

there is a quote that I always share, it’s feel the fear and do it anyways. And it’s just like, you know, it’s okay to be scared. And engineering can be really, you know, confusing and complicated at times. But, you know, I like to always share, you know, I was scared everydayI went to classroom, there were a lot of classes that, you know, I thought I was ever gonna get through or that I fail and had to take again, so to understand that the fears are okay, and that is going to be challenging, but not to give up, if that’s their goal is going to matter what, what you know, you want you want to do your goals. And that’s it and doing things that scare you always bring you to growing into better thing.

Sydney 27:45  

Yeah, I’m really excited to just like, continue following, like, this year’s conference and everything, would love to sit in on a couple sessions, if it’s virtual, too. But yeah, I think like both Epsa and I are really glad that we got to talk to you and just like, learn more about what you’re doing. 

Epsa 28:06  

Oh, totally Sydney and I definitely enjoyed this conversation. And we always like to ask the question at the end about just reimagining the industries our interviewers are in. So for you, Diana, how can we as a society and school systems reimagine creating opportunities that provide young women you know, a more streamlined path into engineering and STEM fields,

Diana  28:27  

I think the biggest thing is getting you know, since it’s such a male dominated field, my biggest thing is getting men and woman in this field in the same page, because I feel like for example, with us with like, the my friends that are creators that are an Instagram, they’re doing something, most of them are woman, or at least we collaborate with other woman. So we’re woman empowering woman, which is there’s nothing wrong with it. But I see the like, of maybe men jumping into that. And I know, a lot of creators are woman, the majority. But for example, when we go to classes, there’s men, and sometimes, you know, we’re in engineering, so we’re shy, we don’t want to talk. So that we don’t want to see, like, for example, it’s not that they don’t want to see a female in their classroom, but it’s just they don’t know how to approach her. And it’s things like that, that changed completely how you perceive it. When you go into those classes. For me, it was hard because it was like, Why are the two seats next to me? I was the ones that are empty. Why is everybody else decide to sit everywhere else? And he was another woman in the wrong you as soon as that? You know, I didn’t know why they didn’t really think it was something that was affecting, like, you know, how I felt when I went so getting us on the same page. You know, I know there’s a lot of men that support woman in STEM, but I think we would like to hear to hear a little bit more often just so that we know that there’s that support and you seeing that you know, you don’t only start pushing women with women or men with men, just seeing them together and knowing the support is all we need. 

Sydney 29:50  

Yeah, I love that. I feel like in it like that story of you, like in the classroom and wondering why like why are these seats like next To me empty. It just like reminded me of a time when I took a finance class that was like, of course another like, male dominated field. And, like we were put into a group project, and I was like the only girl like in my group, and none of the guys would like ask me for help on the project. Like, they wouldn’t ask me questions or like for my input, and I was like, why is that anyone like, so like, I’m smart? Like, I’m capable. I have some Yeah, you are Sydney. But I, I just like, to that point, I just think that what you bring up is, it’s important to like, bring men into this conversation as well. So yeah, I just I like what you said there because I do think a lot of the focus is like, women empowering women, but like men should also empower women as well. I mean, we’re all in this together.