Engineer in Central Florida Gives Back in Many Ways

By Leona Mynes

Of Those to Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Required

Naomi Hernandez, a lead project engineer in Strike division, believes in servant leadership. She also doesn’t think her success is defined by a job title or a paycheck, but by her impact within the engineering community.

That’s why, in her spare time, she can be found volunteering around Central Florida, sharing her perspective on the engineering discipline and its professional opportunities. That could mean spending a Wednesday evening helping a college senior rewrite his resume’s objective statement, or spending hours on a Saturday recording a podcast that underscores how relocating to follow career aspirations can work for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

While excelling in her demanding role within restricted programs, Hernandez tenaciously balances engineering-centered community service with serving as vice president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Central Florida professional chapter.

Her efforts in and out of Northrop Grumman’s walls led to her being nominated for, and winning, Outstanding Woman Engineer of the Year by the Society of Women Engineers Space Coast section in March. Last year, Hernandez was named a 2017 Luminary Honoree by the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation (HENAAC). However, Hernandez doesn’t feel she is a visionary of volunteerism or leadership. She is just paying it forward.

She said hundreds of Hispanic engineers before her built the career-enhancing framework SHPE provides its members and made it into an organization that behaves more like a familia. SHPE bridged the gaps for her professionally and personally — connecting her with the resources and information necessary to make the leap from student to professional engineer — so many times throughout her undergraduate studies that she feels a duty to do the same for the scores of young engineers who join SHPE during undergraduate studies each year.

Mentoring Makes a Difference

Mentorship and service have been part of Hernandez’s life since childhood. She and her sister grew up in a faith-based family with a Vietnam-era Army veteran dad. “We were definitely very patriotic and had humble beginnings,” she said. “My family definitely gave back, even though there was not much to give.”

Hernandez has mentored engineers from undergraduate gripes through first jobs to management job interviews. Maricela Hernandez (no relation), one of Naomi’s protégés, wrote to HENAAC about how profoundly Naomi impacted her life after they first met at an SHPE regional retreat in Austin, Texas, in 2009. “I was a single mom in my junior year,” Maricela wrote. “I did not have a support system at home or in school to help me get through this trying time.

“She kindly listened to my story and offered some words of advice. Afterward, I felt that YES, I could be successful no matter what, and all it took was someone to see that in me and remind me that I could succeed no matter the situation. That person was Naomi Hernandez.”

Maricela now holds a master’s degree and is a mechanical engineer and mother of three. And Naomi has been there for it all. “It’s so fulfilling to see people grow throughout their personal and professional lives,” she said.