Welcome our new board members!

SHPE San Diego familia,

It is my please to announce three new additions to the SHPE San Diego professional chapter’s board! We have Natalia Torres ( Civil Engineer ) assuming the executive board member position of Secretary, Ileana Figueroa ( Chemical Engineer ) taking on the Community Outreach Chairperson position, and Reyna Rendon ( Civil Engineer ) taking on the Membership Recruitment and Retention Chairperson position. We are very excited to have them on the team and look forward to the great work we will be able to accomplish with their passion and commitment to the Latino community! Read on for short biographies of our new board members.

Natalia Torres – Secretary
Natalia grew up in San Diego, California and graduated from Hilltop High School in Chula Vista. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from San Diego State University in 2010. Although she was not involved with SHPE during college she shares the passion in fulfilling SHPE’s vision of Latinos being highly valued and influential as the leading innovators, scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
Impressed by the professionalism and dedication the current SHPE members have for the organization, both at a college and professional level, Natalia has been inspired to be part of an organization that, in her own words, “is dedicated to help younger engineers become the future of the engineering industries. By sharing our stories, not only do we as professionals set an example to others, but also help ourselves self-analyze and motivate our careers.”

Ileana Figueroa – Community Outreach
Ileana grew up in Tijuana until the age of 16 when she moved to Chula Vista and graduated from Castle Park High School. She attended UC Riverside earned a degree in Chemical Engineering on June 2013 and now works for Synergeyes as a Chemical Process Engineer. While at UCR, Ileana was very active in SHPE and most recently served as the chapter president. As chapter president, she helped organize several outreach events such as Noche de Ciencias, MESA Day, MESA Night, and Engineering Week.
Ileana’s passion towards SHPE grows every day as we work towards fulfilling our mission and vision of impacting the Hispanic community. In her own word, “I believe that by sharing some of our time and experiences we can inspired the younger generation to not only become the best that they can be, but to also guide them and help them through their journey to success.”

Reyna Rendon – Membership Recruitment & Retention
Reyna was born in Tlaxcala, Mexico but grew up in San Diego where she graduated from Monte Vista High School in 2003. She attended San Diego State University and received a degree in Civil Engineering in 2008. She currently works for the City of San Diego as a Project Engineer in the Right Away Design Division Transportation and Street Design Section. Reyna has been a part of SHPE since 2004 where she held several board member positions at SDSU.
although Reyna has been dedicating her time to her career and personal life recently, she has been inspired by the professional chapter’s professionalism to giving back to the community as she did while in college. In her own words, “As a student I strongly believed in SHPE and saw the great impact it had on our careers. Now I would like to give the same support to the student chapters by recruiting more professionals and making sure they are strong in their commitment.”

Member Spotlight: SWC to USC to TURNER Construction, Engineer Viry Martino

SHPE San Diego is proud to shine a spotlight on one of our very own professional members, Viry Martino. A SHPE member since college, Viry held a two year internship with Turner Construction. Upon her graduation Viry was hired full time with Turner Construction in Los Angeles as a project engineer. She recently relocated to San Diego and transferred to Turner Construction’s Estimating Department. Please read on to learn more about Viry in her own words.

Viry: Project Engineer at TURNER Construction Site As I was growing up in my hometown of Tijuana, Mexico, I remember noticing an incredibly large difference every time I went back and forth along the international border. Not only was there in Tijuana a lack of proper city development and bad transportation planning, but there was also a lack of academic and financial support extended to students. I knew I wanted to become a civil engineer, but I just didn’t have the resources to reach my goals. One day, I decided I would not see my life go by in mediocrity, and I enrolled at the Southwestern Community College campus in Chula Vista, CA to begin a life on my own – in English. I relearned all my science and calculus classes I had previously studied only in Spanish, and I supported myself by working as a math and chemistry tutor on campus. An even greater challenge was being a Hispanic girl leaving home – without being married – to pursue studies in engineering, and eventually entering the construction industry. Being aware that I was falling under a “triple minority” group as a Hispanic woman engineer, this was never an excuse to say that I deserved more opportunities than others just because of my background. Rather than that, I knew it meant I had to work very hard to prove myself and show that I was just as good as anybody else, or more so, that I could be maybe even better.

Rebuilding Together-Homes for the CommunityWith this mindset, I joined SHPE at SWC, and I immediately connected with students with the same energy, enthusiasm, and motivation as me. As club president, I had the opportunity to coordinate several science fairs and engineering competitions targeted to local underrepresented schools. Some people may simply call it “volunteering”, but in my eyes, I was being trained to become a project manager.

Building Homes In HondurasTwo years later, after applying for scholarships, I transferred to the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, CA. There, my commitment to my major and to my local and global community grew progressively stronger. In addition to continuing my involvement with SHPE, I collaborated extensively with Engineers Without Borders in the design and fundraising of a project to implement a water filtration and distribution system at a rural village in Honduras. In contributing to this project, I learned that there’s a side of engineering where not everything is based on technical principles, and that “soft skills” are just as important, which helped tremendously for me to get by in a very competitive environment at USC, and more so now in the construction industry. This has forced me to be always ready and willing to overtake challenges with creativity and inventiveness.

I am unreservedly grateful and proud of the fact that I thrived through the aid of scholarships and the support of organizations like SHPE. For this reason, there is no doubt in my mind that the least I could do is to give back, share my story with the new generation of students, and tell them that it CAN be done. All they have to do is try.