Paying It Forward: A Female Engineer Opens Doors of Opportunity to Others That Were Once Opened for Her
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor the many Latinos who have contributed, influenced, and enriched our culture and society as a whole.
One such person is the national director of electricity at the National Energy Secretariat in Panama, Guadalupe Gonzalez, PhD, who is helping to shape energy policy across the country of Panama for the foreseeable future.
According to Guadalupe, her role brings with it both enormous responsibility and professional accomplishment, and is something she has been training for almost since childhood.
Growing up in Panama, Guadalupe’s parents encouraged her not just to excel in her studies, but also to enjoy them.
“My parents showed me that studying was like playing, not a task,” she explained. “They helped me find joy in studying and learning.”
Like many children, Guadalupe entertained dreams of becoming an astronaut for a short time, but eventually turned her sights on engineering, a career that could open up many avenues of discovery for her.
“I chose to become an electromechanical engineer specifically because it was the toughest engineering specialty I could find in my country,” she explained. “I enjoyed it from the first day.”
Guadalupe completed her bachelor’s at the Universidad Tecnologica de Panama and her doctoral studies at Texas A&M University in the United States. It was during her undergraduate years that she first learned about the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Power & Energy Society (PES) when one of her professors began giving her research responsibilities focusing on the science of engineering.
“I enjoyed doing research,” she said. “I never imagined I could develop myself in that area, but from there I started meeting many new people through IEEE and PES and other organizations and it opened many doors for me.”
With the completion of her PhD studies, Guadalupe stepped up her PES volunteer activities in a big way when she became the vice president, and then president, of the Panama PES Chapter and Panama section. She also took on the role of PES representative of Central America and started Women in Power (WIP) in Region 9.
“I started our chapter of WIP in 2013, and from there we started traveling to different areas in Latin America sharing the importance of this initiative in our society and soon it had a special place in different sections, such as Brazil and Peru. I really enjoyed my time leading the initiative and passing the torch to new young professionals who are continuing to develop their own ideas and mixed energy initiatives.”
In addition to her work with WIP, Guadalupe is also very active within IEEE’s Women In Engineering (WIE), particularly a program that was established in the Panama section involving both university and primary students.
“In 2014, we initiated a program that is now known internationally as The Star Program, which helps university students learn how to teach students in grades one through four. The program has been very successful within Panama; not only are we able to teach the university students leadership and research skills that they use throughout their professional careers, but we’re also taking STEM to kids. When you see young girls losing their fear of math and science and say they want to become engineers, it’s so rewarding.”
Guadalupe was also instrumental in helping to form a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between PES and the National Energy Secretariat of the Republic of Panama for the purpose of leveraging the knowledge and expertise of both entities to educate their constituents on the latest technologies and advancements to help develop the energy sector policies directly affecting Panama.
“I don’t know any other institution that is more technically relevant than IEEE, so to have an advisory group at that level as we work to develop our energy transition agenda is invaluable,” Guadalupe explained. “In return, we are working with the Panama Section to be a voice in the country to bring even more people to join IEEE and help PES.”
She continued, “IEEE reaches people across all levels and ages, from students to young and senior professionals. I’ve reached all that I have thanks to IEEE PES; I’ve been able to travel, know the world, and reach wonderful people who I call friends thanks to this organization. Giving back is the least I can do.”
As she looks to the future related to her career and PES, Guadalupe hopes to continue to advance in both.
“All of us within IEEE PES share similar values and goals, and I firmly believe that IEEE is advancing humanity though its initiatives that bring the gift of energy to the world. That should be the role of all of us – to humanize energy through policy and discovery and make sure that our efforts reach those who need it most.”