During the interview with NI, Lina mentioned “another change” multiple times. It seems her life has been a steady stream of events that would shake most people. Instead, Lina, over and over again, identifies the challenges, creates solutions and works through it – as a good engineer would – and then passes on her lessons learned to others. Her life, her academic pursuits and her leadership in the College of Engineering earned her recognition at the UNC Charlotte International Women’s Day ceremony and caught the attention of NI. This is her story.
Lina's life started in New Jersey for a few years before her parents decided to move to Colombia when she was seven. Though she knew of Colombia from her parents, “knowing and going are completely different.” A quick adapter, she made friends, went to school and embraced life in South America for five years. At twelve, a sensitive time for most middle-schoolers, Lina’s family moved again – back to the United States – to North Carolina. Another change. Lina again adapted to a new life, a new set of rules and norms and new friends. She added another skill to her portfolio as well: “the ability to appreciate what she has here as well as to distinguish between cultures.” This skill would surface throughout her time in college.
The oldest of two girls, Lina was the first to navigate the college decision and application process. Her dad sat with her as they looked at Lina’s strengths and interests to determine a career path. One application went in: to UNC Charlotte. Specifically to the Lee College of Engineering. She was accepted and went through another change: entering college. And, her parents and sister moved back to Colombia at the same time. Another change. She accepted her independence with a resolve to successfully navigate her college career in computer engineering.
Another change. After three years she decided computer engineering wasn’t the best fit and switched to systems engineering. In her words, systems engineering is “engineering with business decision-making involved.” It added more time to her anticipated graduation date, but would give her a degree in a field to which she could commit to a professional career. A tough decision, and phone call to her family, but the right decision for her.
With a significant background in change management, MAPS was a natural place for Lina to get involved to share her experience with other students. Committed to “students helping students succeed”, MAPS is a program for engineers to develop skills beyond the classroom to further enhance their careers. Students have the opportunity to be coached by other students in areas of leadership, global skills, transitioning to college and employability/internships. Small groups meet weekly to discuss areas pertinent to the track they chose.
Obviously, NI is most interested in the global track. Each session, students look at the business practices of a different country. The countries are selected based on industry leaders, particularly those with offices in Charlotte – France, Germany, Korea and Russia being among those mentioned. The sessions explore such components as history, keys to success, travelling, behavior and body language. For Lina, the giving and receiving of business cards with two hands when in Japan stood out as a salient example of a small cultural difference that could have a big impact for a graduate looking for a job with a Japanese firm.
A trip to Germany over spring break (part of Global Perspectives in Engineering) – another change – was another opportunity to enhance her skills and portfolio for a more competitive skill-set upon graduation.
Another change – graduation May 2011. Lina is prepared to navigate the global market, to rely on her skills to recognize and appreciate cultural differences, to adapt and to lead.