I had the pleasure of sitting down with Adrian Garcia, Engineering Manager at Team Industrial Services. This is the first female engineer I have interviewed for my series, and I couldn’t be more excited! Adrian has made strides in her career in just a few years, and is challenging the status quo in a historically male-dominated industry. When she’s not making strides in the engineering world, she enjoys spending time with her husband. She loves anything and everything to do with music, snowboarding, reading, cooking, and binge watching TV shows on rainy days.
Tell me about your career progression into your current role.
I graduated from Texas A&M in the summer of 2011. The whole time I was at school, I didn’t know if I actually wanted to do engineering. To be honest, it was brutal. Classes weren’t fun and I was struggling. But I stuck through it, graduated and started at Team right away in Houston.
I started as a Design Engineer, doing the daily grunt work of the engineers. It was very fast paced and high stress. I was on the on-call rotation until 4am, often working weekends too!
My boss at the time knew I wouldn’t be satisfied in the position I was in, so I started to learn more about what Team offers. In 2014, I ended up going out to our customer in Baytown, located in the facility as a contractor. I was still a design engineer, but tailored to one client, interfacing with that client, speaking to process engineers, etc. first-hand. I’d then go back and produce the design. That was really great for my career because I got the field experience.
I started the lengthy process of getting my engineering license. Within Team, we need PE’s because we’re doing third-party projects for refineries and chemical plants. They want a stamp to say “this is legit, sound, safe and a product we can rely on”.
After getting my PE license, I got very involved in customer trainings. Team does a lot of classes for the likes of Exxon, Shell, etc. I started to be their instructor, walking them through everything engineering. I helped with training new hires, too. Becoming a fully qualified PE also came with more responsibility in the design work. I was reviewing my peers’ designs and stamping them or giving them back to fix.
I also ended up in many Team departmental meetings, discussing the path forward and what changes needed to be made. My boss seemed to value what I had to say. I wanted my voice to be heard, and he did a great job of making that happen.
We had an organizational shift about a year ago and I ended up taking the Leak Repair department under my wing. That shifted things – not a lot of design work, but a lot of problems to deal with. The leadership team had a vision for a flat structure with one person managing the group in the western hemisphere, and in July of this year I ended up taking over the department. Now I am the engineering manager for Americas/western hemisphere.
However, I’m never satisfied staying in the same position. I’m competitive and I like to keep learning. I have that drive to keep doing stuff and keep furthering my career.
A big challenge with getting mor women and minorities into STEM is not introducing these career options soon enough. What peaked your interest in Math and Science at a young age?
Honestly, I have no idea! I guess I wasn’t a typical little girl. My sister played with Barbies whilst I was playing outside. I was very athletic and competitive, and I liked to play with Legos and build things.
In school, I liked Math as it came very easily to me. I remember in other classes we would have to write stories, but my creativity just wasn’t there! I need structure and for things to make sense. I always loved science, too. I remember my mom driving me to soccer practice, and I was rattling off my science facts to her. I continued down that path, and the first thing that got me interested in engineering was my dad when he said, “you love math and science, you should be an engineer!”. In high school, I took some engineering classes and auto CAD, calculus, physics, and did well, so that’s when I decided to give it a try.
What are your thoughts on education and certifications in relation to career success, specifically for those in the engineering community?
Education is huge, including where you get your education. A&M is known for their engineering school, but also for the networking opportunities. People see my Aggie ring and they immediately take interest in me. Especially in engineering, as you know how tough it is and what that person went through to get that degree – if they can make it out, they will be solid in the work field too. In fact, I got my job at Team from another Aggie.
I’m a firm believer in pushing myself, so as far as licenses go, I’m all for it. I’m encouraging many people on my team to get their FE and their PE. Not only is it going to help Team, but it’s going to help their career. If you have your PE, you must have continuing education which is about 15 hours per year. If I were to go back and do something else, it would be my MBA to get a better understanding of the business side of things.
Do you believe the "glass ceiling" exists for women in the workplace? What should companies be doing to combat this?
Unfortunately, yes, I do think it exists in some cases, but it’s few and far between now. Most companies are realizing that we can’t do things the same way we have always been doing them. Leaders want to change things, and that’s where it starts. Team has done a fantastic job of trying to shatter the glass ceiling. We have a lot of new leadership, and they are all pro-diversification and gender representation. For a while, I didn’t think there were any women higher than manager-level, but now we have female representation at the VP-level.
I hate to say the stigma is still there, but sometimes I will get the vibe that someone is looking at me thinking, “okay little girl, what do you know?”. Let me tell them what I know! Unfortunately, there are times where I still feel that condescension from people who still have that mentality. But it has improved drastically, in the 6-7 years that I’ve been in this industry.
As an individual, what can you do to combat people with that mentality? Do you have tips for women in the engineering space who might be having the same problem?
Keep pushing. I was very upfront with my bosses and let them know that I was not going to be stagnant in my career. If someone is driven and they want to climb and get into new ventures, don’t ever be satisfied. Keep breaking down the walls. Be vocal, too. Almost every meeting that I’m in, it’s me and all men. I probably talk the most. You must make yourself seen and heard.
In your experience, what are the benefits of diverse teams and organizations?
Before two or so years ago, our team wasn’t super diverse. All guys, same age range, same culture. Now, we have a much more diverse group. We don’t have fantastic gender representation in our group, but we do have cultural diversity and colleagues from different backgrounds. I love it! It brings lots of different points of view to the table, and a lot of different attitudes and ways of thinking. It shakes things up and we aren’t doing things the way we’ve always done it – we are breaking the mold and moving forward. We have a whole mix of experiences, which means we have a mix of designs going out.
What are some practical steps that organizational leaders can take to improve their pipeline of diverse talent?
Recruiting is very important. I know the major companies (Exxon, Chevron, and Shell) are at every single A&M, UT, and UH career fair with a huge booth. When I was in school, the female population in engineering was only around 10%, but it’s now at least 15% or 20%.
Because those companies have the reputation of being a huge player in the engineering domain, everybody is applying to work there (male and female). They do a fantastic job of recruiting female engineers because they are applying for it. However, if you’re off the map, like Team used to be, nobody knows about you and nobody is applying. People tend to stumble upon us and 90% of those people are male. That’s why we’re actively making ourselves known. I go to career fairs, and I’m going back to A&M soon to relive my glory days and interview some of the engineers there!
Also, you’ll attract more diversity by making sure people know there are different career paths they can go down. It may seem like you can only do a Design Engineer role, but the opportunities are endless. An engineering rotational program right whenever you get in, and that’s something that they are incorporating. I’m excited that Team is adding these features within our organization. It’s something that’s overdue, and will bring about more positive change here.