Today is Winning With Women Wednesday, and within the past week we had met Aixa Lopez. Aixa, is an intelligent, dedicated, and ambitious woman who is currently the Marketing & Business Development Manager for both Robinson Aerial Surveys, Inc. and the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of NJ. Her days are certainly hectic, but this well organized Professionally Licensed Engineer has her mind on success and is committed to showing others how success is within their reach.
Get To Know Aixa:
Name: Aixa G. Lopez
Education: Bachelor’s Degree – Industrial Engineering- University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez Engineering Campus
Organization: Robinson Aerial Surveys, Inc. | Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of NJ
Position: Marketing & Business Development Manager
Time with the Organization: Almost three (3) years with both organizations.
Organization headquarters: Hackettstown, NJ and Newark, NJ
1. Aixa, in your own words please share what it means to take on the role of a Marketing & Business Development Manager for Robinson Aerial Surveys and the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of NJ. What responsibilities and duties do you oversee and partake in?
This role has allowed me to grow my network in New Jersey and also within the Hispanic community. It has given me a new perspective of the industry. I was always involved only in the technical aspect of a project; just getting the end result. Now, I can be part of the conceptual process.
In general, I direct and oversee both organizations’ Marketing/BD/Proposal efforts to identify and develop new customers/partners. I develop strategies and plans which identify marketing opportunities, direct marketing, and new project development with current and potential clients.
2. Can you share with us your story of being a Latina and what it meant to you to become a Professionally Licensed Engineer?
Most of my professional career was developed in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, you don’t feel the impact of being a Latina but you do feel the impact of being a female in a male-dominated industry. Thankfully, I was always given the opportunity to work in positions that were typically occupied by men which led me to face some challenges, but at the same time I was able to show what a woman can do. Here in New Jersy, being a Latina has not been a huge deal either. I do get lots of questions about what school I went to and prior job experiences. For some reason still in 2015, people are surprised that a woman can be a professional engineer.
I didn’t get my professional engineering license until I got involved in Public Works and Construction work. That was over ten (10) years after I graduated from college.
My supervisor at the time said to me that if I wanted to be taken more seriously, I had to get my P.E. license. After a few years struggling to accept this fact, I decided to take the exam and got the license. It made a huge difference. I finally understood that even when a professional license does not prove the knowledge you have; it is a credential that certifies what you can do. I am very thankful for the supervisor who pushed me into getting it.
3. Do you have a quote, mantra or tip regarding how our audience could manage their one-to-one personal interactions better?
I am big on quotes. I love quotes and mantras because they are reminders of what I believe in. I like a phrase that is simple but powerful. I always tell everyone to “Go for It”.
It applies to everything in life. I have had moments in which fear has paralyzed me and I just remember this phrase and it gives me the push that I need to move forward. It helps when you need to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. It helps when you have to give a presentation before a large audience. Or when you are in a meeting and you want to say or do something, but you are afraid to do so. Fear is our worst enemy and this phrase gives you that kick that sometimes we need to get out of our comfort zones.
4. Who was an influential boss/mentor for you and in what ways did they shape you to become the leader you are today?
Well, I have a long list here because I learn from everyone, but the supervisors I had early in my career and in the manufacturing industry were very influential in my professional life. They were extremely tough on me. They pointed out things to me that I had no idea I had to address. They talked to me about the importance of networking. They told me about the need to become bilingual and why we all need to be open to asking for help when needed. They didn’t allow me to say “I’ll try”, they wanted me to say “I’ll do”.
When I moved to New Jersey, the person who offered me my first job here, asked me to do marketing for the company and I was in shock. He took the time to drive me around NJ and to explain to me the origin of projects and the history of NJ. He brought me to his client meetings so that I could see how he networked and interacted with the clients.
My current supervisor is a pillar when it comes to networking and helping, not only the Hispanic community but anyone who needs business guidance. I’ve learned from him how important it is to be available for others, volunteer, and keep in touch with your connections. Also, never be afraid to ask for exactly what you need.
I believe in mentorship. It works and it is a responsibility of a leader to view mentoring as their legacy for future generations.
5. What do you think are the greatest challenges for women who are currently engineers today?
I think the greatest challenge for female engineers is how to focus on the goal and not let external situations contaminate their efforts.
I’ve gone through everything a female can face in this industry. Sometimes you feel angry because of a comment, an unfair decision, or a hostile environment. However, it is in those moments when you need to stay calm, cool, and collected. That doesn’t mean that you will allow disrespect in any way or fashion. It means that you need to get the job done and then address what you need to address in a professional manner.
It’s difficult because we are emotional human beings and those emotions, even though they could be valid, can be taken out of context. As women, we need to be assertive and use those emotions in the right way. The right way comes with confidence, and confidence is something you develop with time. Therefore, we need to work with our young girls in a very honest way and help them develop confidence as early as possible in their lives.
6. What is the highlight of your work week?
When it comes to Robinson Aerial Surveys I’d say that being able to learn and get involved in Infrastructure/Transportation projects that will positively affect people’s lives. It’s amazing when you cross a bridge or take a train and you can tell the story behind the planning, design, and construction of it.
In terms of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, it’s the people you are able to meet and the stories behind their success. Immigrants that came to this country without anything and through hard work and persistence have been able to accomplish their dreams.
7. How would you characterize your management style?
I am mindful and participative. I like to get to know my employees and what they think about their work, how we can do things better as a team, and what ideas they can bring to the table. At the same time, I expect them to be engaged, accountable, and responsive.
When I was supervising construction crews, because of the amount of employees I had, it was challenging for me to know exactly what everyone was doing and how well they were doing it. I came across a book called “Leadership” by Rudolph Giuliani. On one of the chapters he described how he had meetings first thing in the morning and in the afternoon and how that made his staff more accountable. I started to do that.
Every morning, I had all the crew chiefs in my office. Computers were not available, so, I bought a gigantic white board and I had a column with the name of each one of them. We’d go over each column to discuss the work planned for the day. At the end of the day, we had another brief meeting to update the board with what was accomplished.
They loved it, to the point that they would come to my office, take a marker and update the tasks on the board. They even competed with each other to see what list was getting more tasks accomplished. They would help each other and even exchanged resources. That taught me that communicating with your employees in a daily basis allows them to be part of the solutions and growth of the organization.
8. What is it about your current role at Robinson Aerial Surveys and the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of NJ that sets them apart from other organizations?
Robinson Aerial Surveys is a well-established company with 78 yrs. of successful experience. Even though it’s an old company, our business model is an advanced one. I can work remotely when needed which allows me to cover and work in the Tri-State region. We have staff working out of state in a very productive way.
Being a small business allows my role to be flexible. I can get involved in whatever task is needed within the organization. That means that if I have to do office engineering, I’ll do it, but if I have to make copies or run to the post office to make a deadline, I’ll do it as well. We treasure relationship, quality, and end-results. That’s our main goal and vision and any task that I take on will be focused on that.
9. What topics do you feel are necessary to remain on top of your industry?
I try to read about everything. I connect with people from a different backgrounds and industries; therefore, I need to be able to talk about a variety of topics.
I think we live in a “flat world”. There’s no geographical communication barrier anymore. We are constantly connected with everyone around the world and that facilitates staying on top of topics such as politics, environment, engineering, infrastructure, social issues, and of course, marketing and social media.
10. What are some organizations in New Jersey that you belong to that you would recommend other professional women should join as well?
Well, that will depend on the interest of the person. New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners (NJAWBO) is a good organization for Female Entrepreneurs/Business Owners. The National Association of Professional Women in Construction (PWC) is a good one for women in construction. SWE is the Society of Women Engineers. WTS is Women in Transportation. I have been in and out of these organizations based on my schedule but all of them are good for networking with and learning from other women in the industry.
11. When speaking to others about diversity and women in the workplace, what is the most important message you want them to take away from your conversation?
I have an existentialist view on Diversity. When I think of the Universe, it’s when I’m more certain of the importance of it. Diversity is everywhere and it’s not only related to race. When I speak to other women, I tell them to embrace diversity. It’s not only a nice talking point; it’s a way of life.
As professional women, part of embracing it, is working together with men. I’d say that probably 75-90% of the people I’ve worked with have been men. I’ve embraced them as peers and as mentors and have learned a lot from them.
I have also taught them a few things about our way of thinking.
The synergy that diversity creates is amazing and we need to create it and promote it in order to grow and be innovative.
12. If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
I would be a writer. Reading and writing make me happy. Everything I do, everywhere I go, everyone I meet makes me want to write about it.
I have a blog and I write from time to time. It’s like therapy to me. I guess people also get to know me better through the blog.
13. What is your favorite Mobile App? Why?
I love Zite because it allows me to read in one place, a variety of articles and blogs from topics I select.
I also like the Iphone Podcasts App because I can select different topics and it brings me podcasts from people that I didn’t know existed.
14. How has social media impacted the way you connect and network with others?
At the beginning I was terrified by it. I grew up with basically no technology, so to me it was too much exposure.
Now, I think it’s an amazing tool. I stay connected with people from my childhood. I stay in touch with my family in Puerto Rico and the United States. I am able to stay current with the events going on around the world in such an easy and convenient way. I have resolved retail situations with companies, just by posting my concern on their social media pages. It’s very powerful when used in the right way.
I also think that it has allowed the new generations, like the Millennials, to embrace diversity even more. When I look at my teenage daughter and her friends, for them talking to someone abroad or just having a study group and exchange ideas about an issue, is second nature. Isn’t that amazing? It’s like a universal brainstorm session. We need to learn how to use it in appropriate ways though. When misused, it can also destroy something in a second.