Leticia

Leticia never let anything stop her from following her dreams — even if it meant taking a risk and attending her local Club back when Boys & Girls Clubs of America was still a boys-only organization. That risk led her to discover her lifelong passion.

Making Bold Moves to Break Down Barriers
Posted 09/13/2022 by Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Youth Voice

I'm living proof that girls can be anything they want to be. Growing up, I never liked wearing dresses. For me, it was my small way of rebelling against stereotypes when people didn't view females equally as males. And even though I came from a pretty traditional background, my parents always encouraged me to be myself — no matter what others thought. 

As the youngest of three siblings, I looked up to my brother and loved doing everything he did — including going to the Boys Club of San Pedro. The only problem was that the Club was a boys-only organization back then. I didn't let that stop me.

Taking Risks to Rise to the Top

Sometimes you have to make bold moves to get where you’re meant to go. I learned that early on when I started going to the Boys Club with my brother. I'll never forget the first time I snuck in. I wore a baseball cap, jeans and a T-shirt, so the other Club kids didn't realize I was a girl. But eventually, they caught on, and I remember them shouting to my brother, "That’s not your little brother. It's your little sister!" Even though I was asked to leave, I kept coming back — for years. 


Leticia and her family

From age 7 to middle school, I attended the Boys Club of San Pedro and loved every minute of it. At the Club, we worked on a lot of building projects. From constructing go-karts (with me as the test driver) to woodworking to creating electronic boards and TV jammers, we were always tinkering with something.  

I quickly took an interest in building things and showed all the Club kids and staff I could do anything the boys could — but better. With my brother by my side as my biggest fan, he rooted for me and told the boys to listen to my ideas. It wasn't long before I had Club kids following me around, asking for my help, my opinion, my ideas, and how I would execute a project. I like to think that I was one of the first girls in a Boys Club who made everyone see that girls deserved a seat at the table.

Developing a Passion for Electrical Engineering & Leadership

My Club experience exposed me to different projects involving building and electronics, and it helped foster my curiosity — allowing me to discover myself and my interests. My brother was going into mechanical engineering, and I remember sitting together designing glider airplanes. I enjoyed that, but I really loved when we'd experiment with breadboarding and resistors capacitors — now that was something I was passionate about.

For the first time, I was able to ask myself, "What do I enjoy doing?" Well, I enjoyed electrical engineering and being a leader among my peers. Those two interests have shaped the rest of my life, thanks to the Club.

Overcoming Adversity to Achieve Big Dreams

As I entered college, I was advised to go into pre-med instead of engineering because it was a “male-dominated major.” However, two years into college, I was unhappy with pre-med. I remember waking up one morning and reminiscing on my time as a Club kid, building and designing, and I told myself, “I need to pursue electrical engineering.” 

That day, I walked into the engineering department and was immediately told to go into civil engineering because there were more females. I refused to be talked out of my decision to pursue electrical engineering and ended up completing all my prerequisite courses and earning my spot — right alongside the male students. Fast forward two years later, and I earned my electrical engineering degree with an emphasis on power. 

Today, there’s a minuscule percentage of women in the electrical engineering field, but if I can do it, so can you. I always encourage girls to pursue STEM fields and, no matter how many things they might have going against them, to remain steadfast in their dreams. To all the girls out there, remember that no one can stop you from getting what you want.

Betting on Myself to Further My Career

I started my career at Raytheon Technologies, which creates products for the aerospace and defense industry, over 23 years ago in the laser department. With a background in power, at first, I wasn't sure it was a good fit for me. But after thinking about it, I saw it as an opportunity to challenge myself and apply my power background. Within 10 years, I worked in the lab on laser rangefinders, and as the REA (responsible engineering authority), which catapulted me into a systems engineer role as an integrated product team lead (IPTL). 

From there, I was selected to join a rotation program, where I could explore different roles for two years to see what skills I needed to hold leadership positions — it was a fascinating experience. It led me to hold positions in radar and space, and now I'm the director of electronic warfare systems — a department I started from the ground up. Today, I oversee 42 engineers, and I'm expanding our team across the U.S. and U.S. territories.  


Big Bend

Through all this, I've had incredible mentors and colleagues encouraging me along the way. But I've always had this no-nonsense confidence in myself and my skillset to push through the most challenging times.

Now I’m passionate about encouraging the next generation of engineers through programs like the ones offered at Boys & Girls Clubs.

But my advice to young girls, in particular, is to stay focused, pursue math and science and join STEM clubs at school (or start one at your local Boys & Girls Club!). Get connected with a mentor and surround yourself with like-minded people so you can get to know the dynamic world of engineering. And remember, sometimes it just takes one bold decision to change the entire trajectory of your life — I know it did for mine.

Great Futures in STEM Start Here

With careers in STEM on the rise, Boys & Girls Clubs recognize the importance of exposing youth to science, technology, engineering and math through programs like DIY STEM and Centers of Innovation. Through mentorship and hands-on experience, Club kids can explore multiple avenues so they’re ready for a career in STEM when the time is right. Learn how Clubs are preparing young people for college, careers and life and how we can help you, too.


 

Raytheon Technologies has been a Boys & Girls Clubs of America partner since 2015, working to increase exposure to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with high-quality programming that’s culturally relevant and focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.

 

 

 

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