Si Se Puede

In His Own Words, One Employee Discusses the Value of Mentorship

By Erwin Morales, with Natalie Perlin

I was born in East Los Angeles, California, but spent much of my childhood in Delicias, Chihuahua, Mexico. There, from the age of 9, I worked in the chili and cotton fields; my family needed the money I earned to pay for my education.

When I was 12, my mother became ill; my siblings and I migrated back to the United States with my father who financially provided for our family while my mother was hospitalized in Mexico.

Moving back to the United States was life-changing. Unlike Mexico, the U.S. has a public education system where all kids have access to and can get an education. As a first-generation student, I initially lacked confidence and English presented a language barrier; however, I was passionate about overcoming this to pursue my education and I knew I needed mentors to help me achieve my career aspirations.

“On my first day, I learned that my team was even more diverse and full of opportunity than I had even anticipated.”

— Erwin Morales, Aerospace Engineer

After graduating from Garfield High School in Los Angeles — which was immortalized in the film “Stand and Deliver” — I pursued my aerospace engineering degree at California State University Long Beach. As an undergraduate, I became an active member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and MAES: Latinos in Science and Engineering.

Through these groups and their conferences, which Northrop Grumman sponsors, I found mentors who shared my passion for engineering, including Adelante Employee Resource Group members who made me feel like part of their family. It’s thanks to the mentors I met at these conferences that I pursued my dream of becoming an engineer at Northrop Grumman. I am proud to say that I have been for the five, unforgettable years. Today, I am the Mission Assurance Lead for the Sagittarius program and, through Northrop Grumman’s EdAssist program, pursuing my master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Joining the company, I was excited to be part of a diverse, welcoming team with many professional opportunities. On my first day, I learned that my team was even more diverse and full of opportunity than I had even anticipated — in fact, to my surprise, I ran into one of my old classmates from high school at the company’s Space Park site in Redondo Beach. It was very refreshing to see someone from my local community working in the same place as me.

My experience is an example of how we, as Northrop Grumman employees, can make a difference by volunteering to mentor students who, like me, need someone to guide them and reassure them that their career aspirations are possible. Today, through volunteer efforts with Adelante and Hispanic Serving Institutions STEM at Cal State Long Beach, I encourage students of all ages to pursue STEM careers through mentorship, mock interviews, resume workshops and more. My involvement has bolstered my leadership skills and my passion for engineering, which has helped me grow as a professional inside and outside the company. One of the most important things I’ve learned over the course of my life is that with passion and perseverance you can achieve more than you expect. Although, at times, the world might not be as open and accepting as we’d like, if you have a solid foundation and passion for what you want to achieve, you will get there by persevering. As Jaime Escalante famously said in “Stand and Deliver,” “Si se puede” — yes, we can.

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