Hispanics in IT are on the cutting edge of technology
If you don’t keep current, you’ll be left behind, says Jose Alvarez, United States Secret Service
“We all face challenges, but if you set your mind on a goal, there are ways around obstacles.” – Dr Ester Gonzalez, the PhD Project
By Dan Margherita
Senior Contributing Editor
IT pros with current skills and Hispanic roots have a special appeal to many employers.
“We need people who have the cross-cultural experience that Latinos and Latinas add to our diplomatic presence,” says Terry Davidson, recruitment outreach division chief at the U.S. Department of State (Washington, DC). “We are determined to have the diversity of our nation representing America to the world.”
Like other employees in the IT field, Hispanics know the expertise that passed muster a few years ago is not enough for today’s requirements in areas like e-commerce, cybersecurity, energy management and exploration, and government. “I believe that if you are ready and prepared, you will succeed,” says Jose Alvarez, telecommunications specialist with the U.S. Secret Service (Washington, DC). “If you don’t, you will be left behind.”
Since 1985, when he got his AS in electrical technology engineering from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, Alvarez has seen big changes in the worlds of information technology, cybersecurity and law enforcement, both here and in his homeland of Puerto Rico.
“My associates degree was good for a long time,” he says, “but today the world requires more people with specialization, particularly in cybersecurity and intelligence analysis.”
Alvarez earned his BS in computer information systems at the University of Puerto Rico-Bayamón in 2007. He’s now working on his masters in cybersecurity at the University of Maryland-University College (Adelphi, MD). He already holds CompTIA A+ and N+ certifications, and he’s a Cisco Certified Network Associate.
“Today, people get a degree in computer science and figure that’s enough, but it isn’t,” cautions Alvarez. “You need certifications. You have to make a package of yourself.”
Gilbert Sandoval works in IT as a medical admin in the USAF
“When I joined the Air Force, I liked the infrastructure, the integrity, the camaraderie and the core values that they live by,” says Gilbert Sandoval.
This summer, Staff Sergeant Gilbert Sandoval completed his Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) degree in medical administration. “It teaches you how to run military hospital programs,” he explains, “or even a hospital.”
As a medical administrator in the United States Air Force, he is in charge of the systems shop at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center at Lackland AFB (San Antonio, TX). He manages a team of six enlisted men and over thirty government contractors. “It’s a lot of keeping up with what we have and maintaining it, and making sure only the right stuff is on the computers,” Sandoval says. “We manage, prioritize, diagnose and repair 5,000 computers and about 1,000 printers throughout the facility,” he says.
Interestingly, social media is considered “the right stuff” because so many individuals need it to communicate with people around the country and around the world. “But anything that isn’t for an assigned purpose, we need to get rid of; otherwise, the computer is considered a hazard.”
Sandoval was born in Louisiana but grew up as a “military brat” living all over the U.S. “Unfortunately, in college I didn’t have much direction. My dad, an Air Force man himself, recommended the military.”
Sandoval enlisted in 2006. “At the end of basic training, I chose medical administration and was assigned to tech school at Nellis AFB (North Las Vegas, NV). I worked in internal medicine as an administrative assistant, keeping schedules and patient records for the doctors. I was learning what has to be done to progress.”
He explains that IT is one of several different military job descriptions in medical admin. “My dad was always into computers and I grew up with technology,” he says. “I liked it and knew that I wanted to go there.”
In 2008, Sandoval was assigned to the system shop at Nellis. “It was awesome,” he says. “They had all the technology you could possibly think of and I was surrounded by a good group of individuals.”
Sandoval came to the system shop at Lackland in 2010. For the next two and a half years, he worked with medical personnel who were being deployed overseas. He moved to his current assignment in May 2013. He plans to work on a BS in business information systems online at Ashford University (Clinton, IA). “I know that I’ll be set up for success when I retire from the Air Force,” he says. “I’m in the IT field right now and I love it. Getting a degree will improve my chances of finding a job I like down the road.”
Zachary Toney is a service desk analyst at FHLBank of San Francisco
“I was born Mexican by blood but I was raised in an Italian, German and Scottish family,” says Zachary Toney. “My parents adopted me when I was three weeks old. I grew up just outside San Francisco.”
Toney is a service desk analyst in desktop support at the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco (FHLBank). The bank delivers low-cost funding and other services that help member financial institutions make home mortgage loans and provide credit that supports neighborhoods and communities. It also funds community investment programs that help members create affordable housing and promote community economic development.
Toney joined FHLBank San Francisco in 2011 as a contractor working in desktop support. Two months later, he added the service desk to his duties, and became a fulltime employee. “I’m still learning both roles, but on the service desk there are a lot more procedures and policies,” he says. “Banking is a highly regulated industry. Everything has to be done a certain way.”
Growing up, “I didn’t really like school,” he admits. “Math wasn’t my friend, but I enjoyed English and history.”
In high school, his goal was simply to graduate. “I didn’t like the idea of a four-year college route so I started at a junior college. Then a representative from Heald College School of Business & Technology (Hayward, CA) said that I could earn a degree in eighteen months and that’s what I did.”
After earning his AAS in computer technology in 2000, Toney started working on a helpdesk at a law firm working with the tech and life sciences communities. “There were a lot of startups and venture capitalists out there at the time,” he says. “We worked on Google’s IPO in 2004.”
There were twenty-three people on his helpdesk team who supported over 900 attorneys and 3,000 employees. By May 2005, Toney was doing the work of a senior analyst but without the title and recognition, and he decided to move on. He returned to Heald for a second AAS degree in networking technology.
Late in 2005, he joined the San Francisco office of another law firm with twenty-two offices worldwide. “What intrigued me was that I got to do desktop support so I had a real opportunity to learn more,” he says.
After five years, Toney hit a brick wall again and started working part time as a personal trainer and fitness instructor.
“I knew I had to find a steadier job,” he says, “so in 2011 I joined yet another law firm.” This one handled financial institutions and investment banks, among other clients. “It wasn’t the greatest job, but the pay was decent and it was steady work,” he says.
Just over a year later, Toney was offered a job as a contractor at FHLBank San Francisco. “I liked the opportunity and I liked the people on the team. It wasn’t a law firm so that was intriguing as well.
“The opportunities here are unheard of,” he notes. “I’d never had the exposure to these types of systems, software, policies and procedures.”
Gregory Fontenot, senior vice president and director of human resources at FHLBank San Francisco, notes, “The information technology group is one of the largest divisions in the bank. We have opportunities from time to time ranging from systems administrator and quality assurance engineer to consultant and management levels.”
Toney looks ahead to becoming more involved in networking. “I’m interested in the back end of computer technology, what makes everything come together and communicate,” he says. “I’d ultimately like to move into the server, systems administration and networking side.”
James Madril is a foreign service IT specialist at the State Department
Jim Madril is passionate about working as an IT specialist at the U.S. Department of State (Washington, DC). “It’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle,” he says.
Madril joined the agency in 2002 when he retired from the U.S. Air Force after twenty-one years of service. “When I was overseas, I managed IT networks in our embassies,” he says. “When I was in Washington, my job included project management of IT issues.”
He explains that there are two foreign service IT career tracks in the U.S. Department of State: information management specialist and information management technical specialist. Madril is in the information management specialist career track. There are four major IT positions in this specialty: IMS, ISO, IPO and IMO. The lowest ranking is an information management specialist (IMS). The information systems officer (ISO) oversees the unclassified network at an embassy. The information program officer (IPO) oversees the classified network as well as radio, telephones and the mail, and the information management officer (IMO) is the person to whom the IPO and ISO report.
In U.S. embassies overseas, the unclassified network is managed by a staff of local employees who keep the network running, do backups, and follow up on trouble tickets. The classified system is handled only by American staff. “The IMS and IPO do a lot more of the work so there is no spillage of information or compromise of the network,” he notes.
Madril has served in all but the IPO position. In his first overseas assignment, he was an IMS in Mozambique. He came back to Washington and worked in the Diplomatic Telecommunications Service Program Office (DTSPO) in Virginia. DTSPO supports all U.S. government departments and agencies operating from diplomatic and consular facilities outside of the country.
Next he was an IMO in Niamey, Niger in western Africa. After another stint in Washington, he was assigned to Tunisia where he served as ISO. “I just returned from Tunisia in April,” he says.
U.S. Department of State personnel can stay in the U.S. for five years before going back overseas and Madril will spend the next four years in Washington. For two years, he’ll be recruiting foreign service specialists who are already experts in their fields, like nursing, human resources and facilities management. In that job, he says, he’ll broaden his focus beyond IT.
He’ll spend the next two years in IT management, mainly overseeing contractors and managing personnel who, like him, are now back in the states.
“One of the nice things about the Department of State is that there are ways to do jobs outside of your career,” Madril says. “This is part of my career development plan. The IT people want us to branch out to see how other people work.”
Madril was born in France. His father is Chicano and his mother is French. “My father was a medical supply specialist, a troubleshooter, in the U.S. Air Force, and we traveled around a lot,” he says.
He lived in France, England, Spain and Germany as well as Texas, Colorado, Indiana and Montana, where he graduated from high school. After high school, Madril joined the Air Force in 1981. “I didn’t get into IT until 1987 when I was in Spain,” he says. “I didn’t know how to use a computer so my staff did all the work for me, but I got tired of that and taught myself how to use a computer and became pretty good at it.”
He became a defense attaché specialist and worked in Defense Attaché Offices (DAOs) at various embassies. DAOs have their own network separate from the Department of State’s, and there is no IT specialist, Madril explains, “so everywhere I went, I became the system administrator because I was the only one who knew anything about computers.”
Madril hopes to complete his undergraduate degree during his stateside assignments. He’s well into a successful career, but maintains that “you always need education, especially in the IT field. Things change so much. You have to be able to show people that you can progress to the next level.”
The Department of State is committed to a diverse workforce
Steve Taylor, chief information officer, bureau of information resource management (IRM) at the U.S. Department of State, says, “IRM participates in annual recruiting fairs supporting presidential programs like women’s history month, Hispanic heritage month, national Native American heritage month, and executive order 13518’s veterans employment initiative to bolster recruitment and retention of veterans in the federal workforce.
“In IRM, we have increased qualified applicants by thirty-five percent while also widening the target audience to ensure a diverse group of applicants from underrepresented regions of the United States. The Department of State is committed to a workforce environment of equal opportunity, inclusion and diversity to accomplish mission goals and objectives.”
Jackie Campuzano is in an IT leadership program at GE Oil & Gas
Jackie Campuzano is in the General Electric information technology leadership program (ITLP) at GE Oil & Gas, a worldwide company providing advanced technology equipment and services for drilling and production, liquefied natural gas, pipelines, refining and petrochemicals. U.S. headquarters are in Houston, TX.
She recently completed her second rotation working as an IT risk identity and access management lead in Florence, Italy. Her job was to develop detailed oil and gas critical application project plans and roadmaps for approximately thirty projects.
Campuzano was born in Miami, FL. As a high school freshman, she joined Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda (www.FBLA-PBL.org). “I was on a track for a business concentration,” she explains. “I was taking a course in Microsoft Office and competing at word processing and digital media conferences. They had companies coming to these events and talking to us.”
Campuzano earned her 2012 BS from the University of Florida (Gainesville) in information systems and operations management with a concentration in Italian studies. She joined the college division of FBLA-PBL, the Florida Leadership Academy and other leadership development programs.
Her first internship as a sophomore was on campus as a digital signage intern at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. “It was really a research program, with two of us developing digital signage solutions that would make the Harn Museum compliant with American Association of Museums technical standards,” she says. In summer 2010 she worked abroad as part of her Italian minor.
As part of the leadership academy, she had two mentors during her sophomore year. “In the fall, you’re part of a small group and, one week, someone from GE came to speak to us,” she says. “I was quickly able to understand what GE was all about and what the opportunities were for UF students.”
Campuzano applied for an internship with GE’s commercial leadership program (CLP), but the lead recruiter also told her about ITLP. She felt ITLP would be a better fit for her major and spent the summer of 2011 as an ITLP intern at GE Power and Water in Schenectady, NY.
When she started her senior year, she already had a verbal job offer from GE. After graduation, Campuzano started her first ITLP rotation in risk and compliance controls intelligence at the company’s Cincinnati, OH location. Six months later, she spent a month learning technical soft skills in Detroit, MI.
She went to Houston, TX in March and on to Florence in April. She finished that rotation back in Houston and trained for a month in China before starting her current rotation in September.
Campuzano is an active member of the GE Hispanic Forum. “I got involved when I was in Cincinnati,” she says. “It isn’t just for Hispanics and Latinos. It’s for anyone who wants to learn about the culture. It’s a great way to collaborate and to volunteer.”
She’s currently a professional division member of FBLA-PBL and she maintains close ties with the Florida Leadership Academy by mentoring University of Florida students. “I wouldn’t be here today without the nurturing of those organizations, and of course the support of my family,” she says.
“I’m hoping that my rotations will help me decide whether to pursue an MBA or an advanced technical degree,” she says. “I like IT and I like business so I want to make a solid decision.”
Matias Mora-Klein is a software engineer at NRAO
Matias Mora-Klein graduated in 2008 from Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (Valparaíso, Chile) with an undergraduate degree in computer science engineering and informatics. He went to work at the ALMA Observatory in northern Chile; he’d worked there during the early stages of construction.
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an international partnership among North America, Europe and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The North American effort is led by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO, Charlottesville, VA).
ALMA is a single telescope with a revolutionary design, made up of sixty-six high precision antennas located on the remote Chajnantor plateau in northern Chile. Its official inauguration took place in March 2013. Astronomers are using ALMA to study the “cool universe,” the relic radiation of the Big Bang, and the molecular gas and dust that constitute the building blocks of stars, planetary systems and galaxies.
Mora-Klein was born in Chile. His family moved to Germany when he was a year old and returned to Chile when he was thirteen. He developed an interest in math and science, which brought him to a technical university. As an undergrad, Mora-Klein worked with other students to create the Computer Systems Research Group (CSRG), which collaborated with observatories including ALMA. “We started working on astronomy-related projects in 2005 with organizations in the United States and in Germany. ALMA was still in its very early construction phase. We got public funding from Chile and ALMA, and that’s how we got started,” he says.
In 2006, Mora-Klein interned with an observatory of the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) in Chile. “I worked on the observatory’s hard drive monitoring system. Hard drives tend to fail more at high altitudes so we developed a system to predict when this may happen, and try to prevent data loss.”
The ESO is an intergovernmental astronomy organization that led the construction and now leads operations at ALMA on behalf of NRAO.
Mora-Klein interned again in 2008, right before graduation, with NRAO in Socorro, NM. “ALMA’s prototype antennas were there,” he says, “and I worked on the infrastructure for the hardware control simulations. We were already quite familiar with all the ALMA technology so we were ready.”
While employed at ALMA, Mora-Klein earned his 2011 masters in computer science at his undergrad technical university. “This gave me the opportunity to maintain collaboration with my professors at the university, and also with the CSRG,” he says.
He and his wife, also an astronomer, came to the United States in late 2012. “When I worked at ALMA, I was working in shifts, one week at the site, and then a week at home. This went on for four years,” he says. “It was hard making that compatible with family life.”
Now that ALMA’s major systems have been completed, the work has moved from implementation and development to testing and maintenance. “At the technical level, that’s a big change and it’s normal that people look for something new and move to different places when it happens,” he notes.
Today, Mora-Klein is an NRAO software engineer working in Charlottesville, VA. “Half my time is spent on a project called the ALMA Phasing Project, which will let ALMA observe simultaneously with other radio telescopes all over the globe using a technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI),” he explains. The other half of his time is spent working on the central computer that correlates all the signals received from the antennas. “We work closely with the people in Socorro, so I may spend time re-implementing some part that didn’t work all that well or implementing some capacity we need,” he says.
Mora-Klein eventually wants to go back into research. “My passion has always been research,” he says. “There are several interesting radio astronomy projects coming up and I’m looking closely at them too.”
Christopher Rivera leads the cybersecurity policy and training team at DIA
At the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA, Washington, DC), Christopher Rivera is chief of the policy and training section in the certification and compliance branch of the cybersecurity division. He reports to the agency’s chief information security officer.
He leads DIA’s cybersecurity policy development and review team as well as the agency’s cybersecurity training initiatives. “My team is small and we are geographically separated,” he notes. “We communicate via video, voice, e-mail, and every so often face-to-face.”
He and his team review existing federal law, executive orders, DoD and intelligence community issuances, and other guidance in order to ensure that DIA’s cybersecurity program remains current and compliant. “We draft and coordinate new cybersecurity issuances and answer cybersecurity policy-related questions,” says Rivera. The training team also ensures that employees who require certifications get the training and credentials they need.
Rivera is from Oxnard in southern California. “When I was growing up, Oxnard was a low to middle-class city made up of military families and migrant farm workers,” he says. “It was a challenge because, as a mixed Hispanic/Caucasian kid, I got picked on a lot. It was my family and upbringing that helped me build not only my confidence but also my loyalty to family and country.”
IT was not an early interest for Rivera. “In my early teens, it was movies like War Games, Hackers and The Net that truly piqued my interest,” he admits. “But when my grandparents bought a computer, I was hooked. I would go over to their house to use it. I eventually realized that I enjoyed figuring out how the computer worked, how technology worked, and how to make technology work for me.”
His interest really took off in his late teens when he got his own computer. “By the time I was twenty, I began to realize how important computers had become to the world, but also how easy it was becoming to conduct harmful activities using new and existing technology,” he says.
He wanted to be on the front line of what would eventually be an ongoing struggle between those seeking to use technology for harm and the people who protect technology. “That was the start of my passion for IT and cybersecurity,” he says.
Rivera earned his BS in information technology at Central Michigan University (Mount Pleasant, MI) in 2009. When he started college, he was twenty-five with a wife and baby. He chose Central Michigan because it had a program specifically for working adults.
He is now pursuing a masters in information assurance with a concentration in digital forensics at Walsh College of Accountancy and Business (Troy, MI). “I chose Walsh because it’s certified by the National Security Agency as a center for academic excellence in information assurance, and because the IA program is online,” Rivera notes.
“My desire to help and serve people was instilled in me by my grandfather, who was retired from the Navy, and my grandmother, who spent her career with the United States Postal Service,” he says. “They served as examples of who I wanted to become and who I wanted my own children to become.”
He appreciates the role he plays in defending the nation. “I intend to spend the rest of my career here at DIA,” he says.
Dr Ester Gonzalez: graduate of the PhD Project and assistant professor at Cal State
“We all face challenges,” says Dr Ester Gonzalez, “but if you set your mind on a goal, there are ways around obstacles. It may not be a smooth road, but it can happen.”
Gonzalez is in a tenure-track position as an assistant professor of information systems at California State University-Fullerton. After a career spent largely in government and nonprofit administration, she is part of the PhD Project Information Systems Doctoral Student Association (ISDSA, www.phdproject.org).
She grew up in Uvalde, TX, not far from the Mexican border. Computers and programming were just becoming popular when she was in high school in the late 80s. “The school offered one course,” she says. “I was intrigued and joined the class. There were eight or ten of us and only two females.”
The class sparked Gonzalez’s interest and she considered CS as her college major. She enrolled at Baylor University (Waco, TX) after graduating from high school in 1989, but faced constant struggles and dropped out after her first semester. “The coursework was challenging but there were other issues,” she recalls. “My parents were Mexican immigrants who didn’t see the need for a young woman to go to school. There wasn’t a big support system at home.”
Within a year, Gonzalez had married, divorced after six months, and had a child. In the spring of 1991 she enrolled at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde and earned an AAS in data processing and programming in 1992.
“I pushed myself and got the degree in less than two years,” she explains. “I was a single mom who needed to support her son. In 1992, I got a job with the Texas Department of Health. It was a great opportunity for me and they had great benefits!”
Gonzalez was an administrative assistant for the dental program and her abilities caught the attention of the regional director. “He got me involved in projects at our regional sites that made good use of my programming skills,” she says. “Even though I had not been hired as a tech person, I started getting lots of calls for troubleshooting. I really enjoyed it because it kept my skills growing.”
She was working with social workers, using her technical skills to help them serve their clients and manage their caseloads. “Every six months I got promoted but after a couple of years I realized that I had reached the top of what I could do there,” she says.
Her director encouraged her to go back to school. “I found out that my AAS degree was lacking in some areas, like English, so I went back to the junior college to pick up those courses,” she says. In 1996 she entered Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, TX.
Gonzalez earned her BBA with a concentration in electronic commerce in 1998. As her academic credentials expanded, so did her family. By this time, she had remarried and had two more children.
She joined Sierra Industries, a privately held jet aviation company in Uvalde. Although hired initially for her business skills, Gonzalez again found herself involved in moving company processes from manual to computerized administration.
After only a few months, she learned that the Community Council of Southwest Texas in Uvalde was opening a charter school and was looking for a math teacher. Gonzalez had done tutoring in college and saw this as an opportunity to use that experience and have more time to spend with her children, particularly in the summer.
She started at the school in August 1998. “We had about 180 students in fifth through ninth grades and were pretty much starting from scratch,” she says. “In addition to teaching, I was the business manager. And I was writing grants to help us obtain a computer lab.”
By the following May she was named principal. She stayed until 2000. “I was having my fourth child and while I was on maternity leave, a former instructor at Southwest Texas Junior College (Uvalde) called me about an opening they had for a substitute professor to teach courses in administrative IT and computer information systems.”
She accepted the temporary job and was offered a position as lead instructor for administrative IT when the professor didn’t return. In 2007, Gonzalez was ready for the next level and decided to pursue grad school. “It was a difficult decision,” she admits. “The idea was to get my masters and return to Southwest.”
So, almost twenty years after she dropped out of Baylor, Gonzalez returned there and earned her masters in 2008 and her PhD in 2012, both in information systems. Again, she pushed herself to earn the masters in less than two years, and the toll on her marriage was enormous. She and her husband divorced, leaving her a single mom with four children.
“My kids were lights in a very dark time for me,” she says. “They took part-time jobs and made other sacrifices to help me. They said, ‘You’re so close. You can’t stop now.’”
Gonzalez had heard about the PhD Project and its Information Systems Doctoral Student Association in 2009. The Montvale, NJ-based organization helps Hispanic Americans, African Americans and Native Americans attain their business PhDs and become business professors, mentoring the next generation. It enjoys funding support from many corporations, foundations and organizations including Aerotek, TEKsystems, Microsoft, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the KPMG Foundation and Merck.
“Partnering with organizations like the PhD Project is critical to the success of corporate America,” says Larin Limones-Nelson, manager of diversity and inclusion at TEKsystems (Wayne, PA). “If we don’t have professors out there in front of the classroom who mirror what our organizations and communities look like, we are not going to have the future pipeline of Hispanic talent to work for us in corporate America.”
Gonzalez says that the ISDSA connects PhD students with each other and shows them they are not alone. “It opens a door that allows students to get to know the senior faculty. When you’re in a PhD program, you read articles and the experts seem like unreachable celebrities in the IT world, but as a part of ISDSA, you can meet them one-on-one. They’re very approachable. They know what you’re going through because they went through it themselves.”
As Gonzalez was receiving her PhD in 2012, she met someone from Washington State University-Pullman, who told her about an opening for a visiting assistant professor at the school. “I wanted to be acquainted with more of a research school and I jumped at the chance,” she says. “It was a great benefit to my professional growth.” She moved to a similar position at Cal State in the fall of 2012, and is now an assistant professor on a tenure track.
The year before she received her PhD, Gonzalez and her husband reconciled and remarried. “Our family is together, and I am Dr Gonzalez,” she says with a smile.
SSG Carlos Cazares is a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B avionics instructor
Carlos Cazares has found his true calling in the U.S. Marine Corps. “I considered a lot of occupations in the Marines, but aviation caught my interest,” he says. Today he is an avionics instructor for the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, FL. In fact, he is one of the first USMC avionics instructors anywhere for the F-35B.
The F-35 is the nation’s newest fighter jet. The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines are all using versions of the plane. While legacy aircraft have often been retrofitted with new technology, the F-35B was designed to use modern electronics. It can tell its pilots in real time exactly what is going on 360 degrees around them.
“Its electronics are designed for both the pilot and maintainer as a forethought, not an afterthought,” says Cazares. “Plug a laptop into the aircraft and the F-35B provides you with the necessary diagnostics to tell you what’s going on.”
Cazares was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. After graduating from high school, he studied criminal justice but after his first year, “it just wasn’t working out.” He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2001 and became an avionics technician working on Harrier aircraft.
“I needed a challenge,” he says, “and the Marines provided that.” He attended Avionics Technician Common Core (Pensacola, FL), a school funded by the American Council on Education (ACE, www.acenet.edu). Through ACE, Marines can take academic credit for most of the training they receive, including basic training. “Since I was top of my class, I got to choose what aircraft I wanted to work on and I picked Harriers.”
After spending classroom time in Pensacola in 2002, Cazares was sent to Cherry Point, NC where he joined his first squadron and spent four years as an avionics technician for the Harrier aircraft.
His USMC career took a very different turn in 2007 when he joined the Marine Corps embassy security group and became a Marine security guard protecting U.S. embassies around the world. Cazares spent the next three years in Kenya, the Dominican Republic and Sri Lanka, all considered dangerous areas.
“That was another challenge for me,” he says. “Not many Marines do it, but I signed up and went to Marine security guard school in Quantico, VA. It’s a tough school and a lot of Marines get dropped, but I believed that I could do it. I never gave up.”
In his security role, Cazares was responsible for protecting embassy staff, property and classified material. “You are the entire control at the embassy,” he says.
It was always his intent to return to being an avionics technician and in 2010 he returned to North Carolina. Also in 2010, while on active duty, he earned his BS in organizational management online from Ashford University (Clinton, IA).
In late 2011, he was offered his current position as F-35B avionics instructor at Eglin. “I had never been an instructor of anything before, but I said yes,” he says. “Again, I wanted to challenge myself.”
The F-35B program involves several different career fields including airframe mechanics, engine mechanics, avionics technicians and support equipment personnel.
Zeus Leon is a systems specialist at Baker Hughes
“We are multipliers of information. That’s the beauty of this career,” says Zeus Leon, a systems specialist III at Baker Hughes (Houston, TX), a supplier of oilfield services, products, technology and systems to the worldwide oil and natural gas industry.
Leon works in IT for the Andean geomarket at the company’s Colombia, South America location. He’s part of a team of four who support operations in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. “As a main responsibility, we keep the IT infrastructure up and running through constant communication with employees, helping them with their technical needs,” he explains.
Leon grew up between Venezuela and Colombia and has studied and worked in both nations. He discovered computers in high school. “I got close to PCs, hubs, modems and other peripheral computer equipment,” he says.
He earned his degree as a computing engineer at the Universidad Autonoma de Colombia (UAC, Bogota, Colombia) in 2010. “The school has a prestigious computing program,” Leon says. “The mission of the university is to make well-rounded students, learning and practicing in different multidisciplinary areas of knowledge. I am very proud to belong to this university.”
A recommendation from an internship at Colombia Telecomunicaciones led to his first fulltime job at Empresa de Telefonos de Bogota (Bogota, Colombia). “I only spent a short time there, but it taught me the importance of knowing the organization, understanding the responsibilities of your position, delegating work to others, meeting goals, and teamwork.” Leon joined Baker Hughes in 2011 after responding to a job posting.
Today, he’s considering postgraduate work in telecommunications. Before he starts, he’ll complete Cisco networking training in WAN/LAN. He wants to continue developing his career at Baker Hughes.
“At Baker Hughes, we strive to build an inclusive culture that fosters diversity in our workforce, reflects our geographic footprint, and sustains an environment in which employees can realize their ultimate potential,” says Naa Wulff, diversity and inclusion manager.
“Zeus is a great example of our efforts to attract, engage and develop outstanding talent from every country where we operate,” she notes. “Our diverse and competent workforce is the cornerstone of our competitiveness across geographies and business segments.”
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