As part of the TTU speaker series for engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and American Society of Mechanical Engineers invited three bilingual guests to speak about their differing experiences getting hired and the importance of knowing a second language.
Speakers Samantha Mendez, Eduardo Pereira and Daniel Perez each landed a full-time job at Cummins Filtration located in Cookeville.
According to Pereira, advancing in a career requires obtaining work experiences through internships, co-ops and scientific research.
“The main thing is that you get experiences you can talk about,” said Pereira.
Pereira received a full scholarship to Vanderbilt University to obtain an engineering management degree through undergraduate research and maintained a 3.3 GPA.
“Life is a never-ending learning experience,” said Pereira. “You train in college or university to be very good at learning new things so you can solve many types of problems.”
He also said extracurricular involvement, including nonprofits, religious and student organizations, shows an employer the applicant’s willingness and disposition to work in teams.
“You're going to be working with a team and presenting with management,” said Pereira, “so if you can't effectively communicate, your interview may not work in your favor even if you have the best work and learning experience.”
Mendez is a chapter adviser and part of the national committee of SHPE as well as a full-time manufacturing employee at Cummins Filtration. She has been a part of implementing large projects and new products, such as Nissan Titan.
“Research isn't my thing,” said Mendez. “My job is hands on. I wear jeans, steel-toed boots – the whole thing.”
According to a city data report from 2013, manufacturing is the third most common industry in Cookeville, closely following retail trade. The most common industry in Cookeville is accommodation and food services.
Mendez said interning is what helped her learn that manufacturing is what she likes doing. She attended a career fair where she was accepted as an intern at Cummins Filtration.
Mendez described interning as a three-month interview.
“You need to interview the company and interview the job, and they will interview you,” said Mendez. “They will teach you. They know you do not have experience yet.”
Mendez said she believes the costs of going to a national conference are worth it.
“If you have one or two hundred dollars that it takes to go, then it is worth missing class time for,” said Mendez. “Your teachers already know you'll be gone, and you'll be in contact with so many companies. I went to one conference and found the job I have now, so it paid off.”
Pereira said he also believes it is worth the cost because you will see the competition beyond your peers.
“It makes you realize that you're on the right track or that you need to step it up,” said Pereira.
The Office of Institutional Research reports the number of students enrolled as a foreign language major at Tech have decreased from 36 students in 2014 to 23 students this year. The number of engineering students has also decreased since 2014, from 2, 871 to 2,715.
Perez said being bilingual has opened doors for him in his career advancement.
According to Perez, speaking more than one language enables a worker to speak to a wider range of people, understand business in other parts of the world, have a more professional value in growing global business, and increases the chances of climbing the ladder in other markets.
“I work as a supply chain ops analysis for Cummins Filtration, and I'm a mechanical engineer,” said Perez, “so I do not currently work in my field.”
Perez said that even though being bilingual opened more opportunities for him, being an international worker limited his options.
“Companies pay for fees and paperwork to get you there on a work visa,” said Mendez, “so you need to show them you're worth the money.”