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About the Event

What are your favorite hobbies or activities you do for fun?
Watching sci-fi movies, watching college men’s basketball, sewing.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Piano and snare drum (when I was young)

What’s your favorite music?
1970’s music

How do you describe yourself?
I can be shy until I get to know you. I enjoy working with people.

Who do you look up to and admire?
My dad, and Michelle Obama.

Other basic bio info that you’d like to share
I have a little dog named JuanDoe.

Highest degree attained
Master’s of Science in Structural Engineering

Schools attended
University of New Mexico (UNM) – Gallup Campus and Main Campus; Stanford University

Favorite classes/coursework in elementary school, middle school, high school, college?
Math, physics, & science

What educational accomplishments are you most proud of?
My Master’s degree

What kinds of challenges did you overcome during your education?
- Culture shock being the only Native American at the first college I attended in Michigan
- No study group at Stanford like I had at UNM

Sandia National Laboratories

Official title
Principal Member of the Technical Staff

“Layman’s” title

Years in this organization/position
24 years

What does your organization do?
National security work for the federal government (Department of Energy)

What is your role in the organization?
Indian Energy Program Lead. I lead the technical assistance requests for US tribes.

Describe your work environment
I travel to meet with tribes and give educational presentations. Office work is where I follow up after the visits.

What tools and/or techniques do you use in your job?
Facilitation (help people talk through issues in a formal way), public speaking (education about renewable energy)

Describe a typical day in your job
No typical days. A lot of business travel to work with tribes.

Describe an atypical (but notable) day in your job
Staying in my office following up on tasks.

How is the work you do important to society?
I help tribal nations create clean energy and save energy. Cleaner energy can help save the planet.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role?
My student interns which I mentor over the summers for the last 13 years.

What projects or goals are you currently pursuing?
I’ll be featured in a project called the DOE Women@Energy

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
Finding the right people to assist with tribal technical assistance requests.

What is the most exciting, most amazing, or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?
Traveling into the interior of Alaska to several Native Alaskan villages – exciting, scary and amazing

What would a teenager find interesting about what you do?
Knowing how solar and wind energy works. I help people solve problems.

What’s the coolest part of your job?
Talking to people

What are some of the perks of your job?
Lots and lots of travel

What are the downsides of your job?
Lots and lots of travel

If asked to “sell” this career to someone, what would you say to convince them to pursue it?
Help me save the planet!

What’s something that most people don’t know about your job/work?
It is a very unique job at a very unique National Laboratory. I created my job.

What are the biggest misconceptions people have about your job/work?
I don’t spend much time at my desk, which looks like I’m not working. I spend most of my time meeting with people where they are located.

What personal traits make you well suited for the work that you do?
I know how to talk to people in a straightforward manner – easy to understand.

I like working with people. 

What career-related awards or other forms of recognition have you received?
Alumni awards from my universities; Life-time achievement award from the American Indian Science & Engineering Society; Alumni of the Year from the National Action Council of Minority Engineering

Previous employers and positions that have lead to your current role
I worked at all three National Laboratories which focus on nuclear weapons where I was a Facilities Engineer (project manager).

Other positions not necessarily related to your current career
Executive Director of a non-profit (American Indian Science & Engineering Society)

Best job you’ve ever had and why?
My current job – I work with tribes.

Worst job you’ve ever had and why?
My first job out of college – I was a rookie.

Biggest career “break” or notable moment
When I went to work for the Sandia National Labs President as a staff member.

Proudest career accomplishment
The internship program which I created, which has lasted 13 years.

What were you like as a kid?
Shy, quiet, smart, always listening

What were your favorite books/shows/movies when you were a kid?
I liked the Charlie & the Chocolate Factory book, TV shows like the Brady Bunch, Monkees, Waltons.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up at age 12? At age 15? At age 18?
Engineer since 6th grade. I decided on Civil Engineering my Junior year in High School.

When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career, and what drove you towards it?
6th grade – my teacher encouraged me to think about engineering since I was good in math. An architect was appealing but I’m not an artist.

Who inspired you on this path?
Teachers, parents, advisors.

What did you believe about this career before entering into it that proved to be different once you were in?
I’d have to work full-time in the construction yard or job site. I worked as a project lead and spent a little time at the job site but mostly in an office.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what other career(s) might you have pursued?
Architect, Human Resources manager (find people jobs).

Why did you agree to become a STEM Role Model?
I’m one out of 13,000 US engineers (as a Native woman engineer).

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career?
Persist, keep working hard as it is a not easy but very worthwhile.

What advice would you give students in general?
Find people who will encourage you and your dreams; be careful who you chose as a mentor.

What are some interesting places you’ve traveled?
New Zealand to meet with Maori engineers, rural Native Alaskan Villages.

Final words of wisdom?
Find a career that has some fun and is satisfying to you.  

Additional resources