Zaida Hernandez-Irisson is an electrical engineer at Fischer, USA in Racine, WI. In addition to finishing her engineering degree at the Milwaukee College of Engineering, Zaida also mentors girls in her community. "Discovering You: Engineering Your World" is produced by NBC News Learn in partnership with Chevron, the American Society for Engineering Education and the National Science Foundation.
Discovering You – Engineering Your World – Zaida Hernandez-Irisson
ZAIDA HERNANDEZ-IRISSON (Electrical Engineer):
Yeah, that looks great. Awesome, you did such a good job. That looks good.
My name is Zaida Hernandez-Irisson and I am an electrical engineer. I'm originally from Veracruz, Mexico, and I moved here when I was 11 years old and I've lived in Wisconsin ever since. I did not know any English. I took a placement test to see where they would place me for my English level and I was at level zero. I couldn't even say door.
Middle school is rough regardless, so moving to a different country, having all of those disadvantages was very, very hard. When I was in high school, so sophomore year, I came across biomedical engineering. I wanted to provide the equipment for the doctors to be able to help people and that's what really got me inspired to go into engineering.
So you cut it at the 200 millimeters?
I work at Fisher U.S.A., where we manufacture high-speed spindles. A spindle, it's something that you can compare to an electric drill. My job focuses on all of the cable communications from the spindle to the drives that control the spindles. For example, one of the spindles that we produce goes in a robot that cuts metal for airplane wings.
Do you girls know what we're going to be doing today?
GIRL: Building a robot?
HERNANDEZ-IRISSON: We're going to be building a robot!
I am involved in several programs that allow me to be a mentor to young girls in engineering. I'm a first generation going to college and I like giving that back by being a mentor now for younger girls so they can pursue engineering. Regardless if it's a difficult career, I want to show them that it is possible. I had a lot of obstacles in my life. My language barrier and financial barriers that I have been able to go through and be successful so I want to show children that it is possible.
Looking back, I would tell my 11-year-old self to embrace who I am. I think that's what really made me stand out in the engineering field. To know that whatever career I was going to go into, I was going to stay true to myself, that I was going to do the things that I loved and just to be happy at what I do and to enjoy life. Very good, good job. That looks good!
Zaida Irisson wanted to become an engineer to work on specialized equipment for doctors. Without such equipment, doctors aboard the Flying Eye Hospital couldn't provide life-changing care. Learn more in this TIME for Kids story.
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