Blazing Her Own Trail

Mariel has been reaching for the stars from an early age, blazing her own trail to an engineering career at Northrop Grumman.

Born in Mexico City, Mariel and her family immigrated to the United States when she was seven years old. When she attended school, learning English was difficult and consequently, she was bullied a lot in school for her inability to speak the language. Mariel found comfort in books and first read about astronomy in third grade, which launched Mariel’s math skills and interests in science.

Latina woman smiling

“All of my teachers really celebrated my math and science skills and my curiosity,” she said. “As a third grader I knew I wanted to explore space and build rockets. At that age, I used to tell my parents when I grew up I was going to work for NASA.”

Mariel graduated high school from the California Academy of Mathematics and Science, where she had her first formal engineering class. The experience cemented her choice of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) career.

Mariel was at the top of her class in school when she was recruited by Northrop Grumman for an internship in 2006 and quickly made her spacefaring dreams a reality.

“I was building things that promoted the space exploration missions I dreamed about as a child,” she said. “I’ve done everything from electromagnetic compatibility to make sure space platforms operate successfully, to lighting protection on next generation fighter aircraft, to electrical subsystem design of unmanned airplanes, to finally getting to set the vision for emerging military technology.”

Currently, Mariel works as a systems engineering manager at Northrop Grumman’s campus in Redondo Beach, CA, where she is a people leader as well as a technical lead for modeling and simulation looking at next-generation battle management.

Mariel is proud of her heritage, thanking her parents for instilling her professional values. She recalled the multiple jobs her parents held in order to provide for Mariel and her sister.

“My parents taught me to be humble and to put my head down and get my job done. This was great advice as I went through school and focused on doing my best to become an engineer,” she said. “I’ve been very proud of my roots and the work ethic instilled in me. Their career journey taught me to value what I have and to be resourceful.”

Mariel describes herself as “first-generation for almost everything in my family,” but acknowledged the hardships of being first in the family to achieve career goals.

“I am the first in my family to finish high school, the first to go to college,” she said. “I am the first in my family to have a graduate degree, which I did while working full time at Northrop Grumman and raising a newborn baby. I am the first person in my family to have a career. I am having to navigate the workplace for the first time without insights from my family.”

Mariel is involved with Adelante, the company’s all-inclusive employee resource group to connect employees that share an affinity towards Hispanic culture.

“Being a part of Adelante allows me to freely express my cultural background and surround myself with people who understand me,” she said. “I appreciate having a home with Adelante.”

Mariel is also involved with Northrop Grumman Women’s International Network (NGWIN), the employee resource group that inspires women to lead, succeed and excel personally and professionally. During the coronavirus pandemic, Mariel’s NGWIN chapter held more than 60 events – nearly all virtual – and grew in membership. She is also a member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, which she credits for developing her voice and building her confidence as she gives back and encourages children to pursue a STEM career.

“Coming from an underprivileged neighborhood, I wish somebody had reached out to me and encouraged me to be an engineer,” she said. “I get to make sure I’m making an impact in my community.”

Mariel said she cherishes her team’s camaraderie and calls them family.

“When we have challenges, we face them together. When we have joys, we celebrate them together. There are so many opportunities at Northrop Grumman, we really do ‘define possible,’” she said.

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