Published on April 3rd, 2017 | by Aasha Francis0
Honoring our (S)heroes – Women’s History Month
When Esmeralda Jimenez came to America from Mexico at 15 years old, she had one goal in mind, pursuing education. The journey was tough, being undocumented and only speaking Spanish at the time, but her love for studying drove her passions. She enrolled in Roberto Clemente High School, getting exposed to computers for the first time in her life. After graduation, she attended the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), gradually learning English along the way by using a dictionary. She worked full time as an administrative assistant at the school, which paid for her tuition. She got her undergraduate degree in computer science with honors, and later, a Masters in business administration from IIT and is proud to be the first to get a college degree in her family. Jimenez worked at Cisco as a systems engineer for 5 years then transitioned to the partner world for Presidio as a Collaboration Solutions Architect. “I’ve tried to explain my job to my mother like 20 times,” she laughed. “Just how a systems architect works for a regular infrastructure with designing the commercial building or house but they don’t actually put in the bricks, windows, or cabling, well that’s what I do on the technology side,” Jimenez said. She feels that most barriers women face are cultural and in the workplace, women have come a long way. “My workplace is white male dominated which is a problem, and it’s a long journey for women but unless this generation earns the degrees and hit the workplace to become professionals, then women won’t be represented in these fields,” Jimenez said. Jimenez sat on a panel at Wright College Humboldt Park sharing her experience as a female IT professional along with Trista Bonds, Vice President of Manufacturing and Owner of BSD industries.
A native of San Diego, California, Bonds grew up surrounded by a supportive family who encouraged her to problem solve and learn engineering concepts in everyday life through her mother who she calls a “technology geek.” Bonds began her path in the US army, winning awards for “Outstanding Soldier of the Year” in 1994 and the “Army Achievement” medal. She completed her undergraduate studies at Tuskegee University, earning her degree in Electrical Engineering all while being a single mother. In her professional background she’s worked for Ford Motor Company as a Controls Engineer and currently serves as the VP of her own company, BSD Industries and her manufacturing plant, located on the south side of Chicago, opens this summer. “I hear the narrative that minorities don’t have opportunities, but we do,” Bonds says. “The problem is we’re sometimes afraid. We don’t know how to dig deep or we don’t have the foundational knowledge to try STEM careers, especially by the time we get to college and we don’t ask for help, I think we’re our own worst enemies.”. Bonds shared that there are STEM programs that target women in elementary schools and robotics teams, that she personally has coached in Illinois that young girls have access to early on and free programs that should be taken advantage of. “I think the opportunities are there but the problem is the fear because some people don’t understand them and what they can do in these careers,” Bonds said.
Students who attended the panel were inspired by both women who make history every day in the workforce, by being visible, vocal, and victorious.