Q&A: Talking with SAME’s 2020 STEM Champion Awardee, Victoria Hernandez
Federal & Environmental Solutions Executive Advisor Victoria Hernandez talks about her recent award from the Society of American Military Engineers, working on the rebuild of Tyndall Air Force Base and and her love of the Kansas Jayhawks.
Victoria Hernandez, executive Advisor to our Federal and Environmental Solutions team was therecipient of the 2020 STEM Champion-Individual Award from the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME).
Victoria earned the award for her exceptional contributions in advancement of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math programs (STEAM.) The nomination process looked at her leadership, innovation, STEAM outreach Events and related results within SAME.
We caught up with Victoria to talk about her involvement with and recent award from the Society of American Military Engineers, experiences working on the resilient rebuild of Tyndall Air Force Base and her love of the Kansas Jayhawks in this virtual interview.
Congratulations on receiving the 2020 STEM Champion-Individual Award. What does this award mean to you?
I am just really honored and grateful to have been recognized by SAME for all of the work I have been doing with the San Antonio Post. STEAM is a passion of mine, especially engaging with our K-12 group. It’s been a privilege to be selected out of all of the volunteers across the organization for the STEM Champion award.
To win this award, you had to demonstrate your passion for the STEAM field. Can you share what events and programs show this?
At the San Antonio Post, we have a robust K-12 program where we engage with several local schools in various events. In the past several years, we have really ramped up our program by having more STEaM fairs, science fairs, robotics competitions, and other events. One of my favorite events is a Design Treasures Event where we partnered with the Society of Design Administration (SDA) to create a design challenge for fourth and fifth graders. I really enjoy being able to create the event concepts, having to research what will be fun for that age group and help them learn STEAM in a unique and challenging way.
STEAM is such an easy way to help the next generation and in San Antonio we do a lot of work in low-income areas. It’s encouraging to be able to do STEAM activities with those who might have not had as much exposure to that field. As well, showing them a Hispanic woman in STEAM field is really rewarding. A lot of them have never seen that and it’s empowering and a privilege to have the opportunity to show kids that they can do it too.
What does it mean to you to be a part of SAME?
I think SAME is all about partnership. With our government and industry partners, we can come together and look at what the Architecture and Engineering (AE) industry looks like today, and hopefully make it better for the next generation. Being a part of SAME is also a great way to connect with leaders throughout the industry and grow personally and professionally. Maybe one day I will be their shoes, and I can be a mentor to others as well.
What do you think the partnership with SAME means to Jacobs?
It is a great way to partner with the industry. At events, you can see those leaders face-to-face and connect with them directly. We can learn and grow from one another and I think there is a huge benefit to that connection. These relationships help drive the company forward and get our brand out to potential clients and recruits.
What’s your favorite part of your role as Executive Advisor?
My favorite part is getting to see all the different parts of the business. In my previous role as an Environmental Planner, you are focused on one track or one aspect of the business. In being an Executive Advisor for Federal and Environmental Solutions, I can see all the moving parts and the key messaging, and then help drive it forward. It’s been interesting to be a part of the process.
What inspires you?
Definitely my family. I come from a very big family, I have five nieces and nephews and numerous cousins who I all love very much. I strive to succeed so I can be a good role model for them. It inspires me to be able to keep going and show my younger family members that there is no limit to what we can accomplish.
What is a typical day like in your role with Jacobs?
A typical day for me is connecting the dots. As I mentioned earlier, a big part of my role and day is learning constantly. I always have to be open to new challenges and opportunities. While in meetings I am always trying to make connections that can move our business forward.
If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?
I really enjoy writing. I haven’t been able to practice much lately but I was the editor of my high school year book and I was the editor of an online magazine in college called Her Campus. I love writing and wish I had more time to do it. I have started and stopped many books, and if I had all the time in the world I would write.
Most interesting career moment?
I have had several of them, but they have always been moments that have taken me out of my comfort zone. For the last two years I was part of the Tyndall Air Force Base rebuild program. One defining moment was when we were giving an outbrief to the Base Leadership, including the Wing Commander, our Project Manager decided last minute that the younger employees would be the ones to present the brief. Not a lot of us were prepared but in a way, we were already prepared. We had been taught for weeks how to do the job and it was encouraging to be given an opportunity to share that. It showed me the dedication this company has to giving opportunities to our younger employees. After the briefing, other senior co-workers took the time to give us tips and encouragement so that we could continue to improve. It’s nice to be a part of a project and company that wants us to shine rather than sit in the background.
What’s something you learned in the last week?
I was reminded to check-up on those I care about this week. Over the week, I had the opportunity to check-up on a few co-workers that I had not spoken to in a while and it was such a good reminder just to keep in touch with people. Especially right now, a lot of people might be going through things we are not aware of. It was an important reminder just to take care of each other.
Most proud career moment?
I was very proud of getting this position. I wasn’t sure this position was looking for someone with my experience level, and I was honored to be selected. I took a shot and I am very happy that I did.
It was also encouraging to be able to show that all the hard work paid off. I had a lot of co-workers that helped prep me for my interview. It was incredible to have a support system of people who were willing to use their personal time just to help me. And then to have those same co-workers congratulate me and send me flowers when I got the position. It made me feel good about all the people I work with.
People would be surprised to know that I….
I am a huge Kansas Jayhawks fan. I was born and raised in San Antonio, so people are usually surprised to find that out. My grandmother and all her family were raised in Lawrence, Kansas, and that’s where my loyalty comes from. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Jacobs family?
The people! I have met a lot of people across the company who have welcomed and helped me get to where I am today. With such a large company, it is always surprising how willing people are to mentor you and take time to take care of each other. It is rewarding and humbling to be a part of that.
I have also made a lot of friends that I reach out to outside of work. They are always willing to step up and help me when it’s needed. It’s nice to have co-workers who have become like family.