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February/March 2010

Diversity/Careers February/March 2010 Issue




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Managing
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Managing

The VA’s Dr Jaime Quiñones handles a multi-faceted career

Engineering officer, project manager, aerial crew member, QA inspector and more, this enterprising Air Force major has now set his sights on becoming an astronaut


As senior resident engineer, Dr Jaime Quiñones has finished a new admin building project in Puerto Rico.You might say Dr Jaime Quiñones’ life is specially marked by hard work and dedication. He’s juggled careers in the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army, and also as an engineer in both government and civilian jobs. He’s currently a major in the Air Force and a senior resident engineer, overseeing large-scale construction projects for Veterans Administration hospitals in San Juan, PR.

He’s also finishing up a second PhD which he needs for his other career goal of becoming an astronaut. His appointment is currently awaiting approval by NASA.

Huge responsibility
The renovation and construction work, Quiñones says, “is a huge responsibility. The main thing is keeping everything coordinated and under control, sticking to rigid schedules, and getting everything organized and orchestrated to have a quality product that the VA and veterans deserve.”

Quiñones has just finished a new administrative building project in Puerto Rico. His responsibilities included technical procedures, engineering, contracting, monitoring critical phases of the project, and everything related to project management, including safety and environmental health.

“We are a small team that works for the VA central office,” he explains. “It’s a multi-dynamic environment.” The group includes a CE, a structural engineer, an admin and Quiñones himself, the senior resident engineer. The admin building project was finished a month ahead of schedule, so Quiñones is preparing to move on to his next project, also in Puerto Rico.

Of necessity, Quiñones has a team-oriented management style. He attributes it to twenty-three years in the military, both on active duty and as a reservist. “I enjoy working with people,” he says. “I like to complete the schedule and the mission the way it is predicted.”

Into the Air Force
Quiñones joined the U.S. Air Force in 1986. “This was a good opportunity, not only to grow
as a person, but to make a contribution to my country.” By the age of twenty he was an aerial crew chief, flying missions to Japan and Bermuda as well as Hawaii, Alaska and other parts of the U.S.

In 1990 Quiñones moved to the Air National Guard as an F-16 aerial crew member and QA inspector in Puerto Rico. At the same time he was contracted to work as a civilian for American Airlines’ Eagle Division based in Puerto Rico.

He started at American Airlines as an airframe power plant mechanic but soon moved to quality assurance engineer, responsible for operations, design, quality control and compliance.

Health and Human Services and more
In 1994, Quiñones completed a BS in applied science and engineering from Thomas A. Edison State College in Trenton, NJ. He moved to a new job at the Department of Health and Human Services, as project manager and director of physical plant at a location in Puerto Rico.

From 1997 to 1999 Quiñones worked for Insignia ESG, an international real estate company,
as project manager and director of physical plants. Leading a twenty-five-person crew, he
was responsible for building conservation, environmental health and safety and daily branch ops island-wide.

All this time he was also doing his military service. In 1997 he became an engineering officer with the U.S. Army, joining a unit in Puerto Rico as a sanitary and environmental engineer.
In 1999 he moved up to company commander, and went off-island to Decatur, GA, where he oversaw enlisted troops with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He also got his MBA from the University of Phoenix that year.

In 2000 he moved to the VA in San Juan, first as a resident engineer, then environmental and safety manager and finally senior resident engineer, his current position.

Pushing forward
Meanwhile, his military and academic careers continued to push forward. From 2002 to 2003 Quiñones was command radiological, environmental and safety engineer for the U.S. Army Reserves command medical services in Puerto Rico. Today he’s with the Air National Guard, which he joined in 2003.

In 2001 he received a PhD in administrative science from the University of Costa Rica. In
2008 he received his second MS, this one in aeronautical science and safety from Embry
Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. And he’s currently working on a second PhD in
project engineering, under a joint program of the Universidad de Leon, Spain and University
of Panama.

All this time, Quiñones says, he’s been working to be accepted as an astronaut.

“It takes a lot of time and effort and some sacrifices,” he says, but I hope that at the end I’ll look back and say, ‘It was worth it. It took a long time, but I got it.’”

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