For alumnus Henry Martinez, the transition from high school to college was tough. As the first member of his family to go to college, studying electrical engineering didn’t make it any easier.
But with determination and the right skill set, anything is possible, Martinez told Cal State Fullerton students at the recent STEM Summit on campus, geared for Latino science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors.
“You have to work hard. STEM is not an easy track, but it’s very rewarding,” said Martinez, the keynote speaker, who encouraged students to stick with STEM.
Latino engineering and science students were invited to participate in the summit to brush up on professional development skills to prepare for internships and the workforce.
Martinez is an infrastructure expert who earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering-electrical in 1975 and holds certificates in executive training, including from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. He credits his undergraduate education at CSUF for giving him the foundation that helped him become a professional leader in the corporate world.
“My education here provided me with great opportunity,” said Martinez, who has spent more than 40 years in the energy sector. “Everything that I learned here at CSUF on the technical and education side tied in somewhere along the line to make me who I am today.”
Martinez has held executive-level positions at three large national electric utilities: Tennessee Valley Authority, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Edison International, where he served as vice president of power production. He currently is senior vice president for water infrastructure at Cordoba Corp. in Santa Ana.
“Everything that I learned here at CSUF on the technical and education side tied in somewhere along the line to make me who I am today.” — Henry Martinez
While a solid understanding of technical skills for a STEM career is essential, Martinez stressed to students that “soft skills,” such as personal attributes, and social, written and communications skills, are just as important in today’s competitive job market.
Employers, Martinez noted, are looking for well-rounded candidates who can collaborate with others: “You’ve got to put yourself out there,” he said, adding that he stepped out of his comfort zone many times to make professional opportunities happen.
“Your résumé opens the door,” said Martinez, who serves on the ECS (Engineering and Computer Science) College Leadership Council and is a member of the Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors.
“Your personality finishes it. It’s you who is going to be the one to sell yourself.”
The summit offered students workshops, presented by the Career Center, on topics ranging from networking, building a résumé to interviewing in corporate America.
Cesar Andaya, a civil engineering major and first-generation college student who is an intern at Cordoba, said the summit was an opportunity for him to gain insights on how to land his first job.
“It’s important to take advantage of developing professional skills to make the transition from student to career. I want to be as prepared as possible for the workforce,” said Andaya, who plans to graduate in May.
The Division of Student Affairs, in partnership with the colleges of Engineering and Computer Science and Natural Sciences and Mathematics, hosted the STEM Summit, sponsored in part by Southern California Edison.