Naomi Hernandez, a lead project engineer in Strike division, believes in service as a key part of engineering leadership. She defines success as her impact within the engineering community, not by her title or paycheck.
That's why, in her spare time, she is often found volunteering throughout Central Florida, sharing her perspective on engineering and its many professional opportunities. Sometimes that means helping a college senior rewrite his résumé's objective statement on a weeknight, or spending hours on a Saturday recording a podcast on relocating for work and how it can help women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields achieve their career aspirations.
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 named Outstanding Woman Engineer of the Year by the Society of Women Engineers Space Coast section. Hernandez was also 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 engineering 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 more like a familia. SHPE bridged the gaps for her professionally and personally, connecting her with the resources to make the leap from student to professional engineer. She aims to return the favor, providing the same engineering leadership, mentoring and assistance to 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 very patriotic and had humble beginnings,” she said. “My family definitely gave back, even though we had little 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 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. Naomi listened to my story and offered words of advice. Afterward, I felt I could be successful no matter what, and all it took was someone to see it in me and remind me that I could do it. That person was Naomi Hernandez.”
Maricela now holds a master's degree and is a mechanical engineer and mother of three. Naomi has been there for it all. “It's so fulfilling to see people grow throughout their personal and professional lives,” she said. She can see her impact on the engineering community firsthand, and it's her benchmark for success.
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