Women’s History Month means inspiration and motivation for AMT chair Erika Guerra
Influenced by industry from a young age, Advanced Manufacturing Technology department chair Erika Guerra said she was raised watching her father who worked in manufacturing technology. In honor of Women’s History in March, Guerra reflects on her journey so far thriving in a male-dominated industry.
March is Women’s History Month, and it has prompted South Texas College alumna Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT) program chair Erika Guerra to reflect on the successes and challenges she encountered as a woman in a male-dominated industry.
From her days as an engineer in the oil industry and then travelling abroad as part of an international contingent of women professionals, Guerra said there was a common thread present; all felt like they belonged, and all were determined to succeed, she said.
“Imagine being one of one of only two Hispanic females from the United States in a group comprised of international engineers that included women from Mexico and Russia among others,” Guerra said of her experience at the time. “If you think about what something like Women’s History Month represents, no doubt it is found in that group of determined women who wanted to lead, succeed in and learn as much as they could to make a difference in their respective field. We all felt confident, and we all felt like we belonged.”
The entire month of March is dedicated to the vital role women have played throughout American history.
"…we belong. We’re here, and as long as we have the interest and put forth the effort to improve our skills, we can do whatever we want to do.”
From the famous image of Rosie the Riveter rolling up her sleeves to those brave women replacing men in factories in wartime, Guerra said she takes inspiration from many, but this year was especially significant as she was able to meet with one of her personal heroes.
Guerra met United States Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu when she attended a recent manufacturing expo held at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. According to Guerra, this was a longtime goal realized.
At the Expo, the Under Secretary met with leadership as well as community partners and representatives from manufacturing organizations and addressed an auditorium packed with community members as well as high school students from across the region.
Guerra said the visit with Shyu left her feeling especially moved.
“Through Shyu’s words I came to understand that I deserve to be here as much as anybody else, whether it’s in manufacturing, education or anything else I set out to do. I have a lot to give back,” Guerra said. “Her message assured all of us that as women we belong. We’re here, and as long as we have the interest and put forth the effort to improve our skills, we can do whatever we want to do.”
Influenced by industry from a young age, Guerra said she grew up watching her father who worked in manufacturing technology and was able to put together a good living while possessing a certificate in machining.
She carried this early experience into her education where she began as a lighting and sound engineer for the theater department at her high school. Entering college, she then completed an associate degree in Engineering from STC and a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas-Pan American. Today she is working on her master’s degree in Mechatronics Engineering through Texas A&M University.
“Manufacturing has come a long way from how people perceived it in the past and I want to make sure people and especially women know that,” Guerra said. “Now we have options. We have choices. We're able to go to school and get our skills, get our education in something that we get to choose and then go and work in manufacturing if we want to. It's very different from what it was before, and South Texas College has played a big part in changing that mentality.”
For more information on STC’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology program visit www.southtexascollege.edu/academics/manufacturing/#Mech-Cert.