Hailing from Minnesota , Flores-Castillo twins have worked tirelessly towards their dreams of becoming engineers. Facing struggles as young Hispanic women in STEM not only have made this duo stronger, but has instilled a high level of ambition and determination in Sandra and Diana.
Names: Sandra & Diana Flores-Castillo
Alma Mater: Stillwater Area High School
STEM Career Paths: Civil Engineering
KH: Who/What inspired you to become interested in engineering?
Sandra: I first became interested in engineering through my Project Lead The Way (PLTW) courses at school. My engineering teacher was Mr. Kapsner and he had taught a variety of different courses from PLTW to Woodworking to Metalworking. He was actually the one who showed me the interesting opportunity to work and have an internship at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). I applied and got accepted into the Phoenix Internship Program at MnDOT. My first assignment was at the Concrete and Metals lab with James Ferry as my supervisor. That was for a short three month period, and then I transferred to other offices until I settled at my current job with the Pavement Engineering offices. I worked there year round with my current supervisor John Garrity. My two supervisors, John and James both helped me apply for colleges and were amazing mentors along the way too. I was also inspired to pursue an engineering career path because of my dad. He would teach me about laser machines, 3D printers, repairing cars, fixing computers and showing me the way machines work through coding.
Diana: I was inspired by my dad, he is an engineer as well, and he would constantly tell my sister and I that engineering was really fun and a great career to go into. He would say that he never felt like he went to work because he loved what he did, which I personally thought was awesome. Same as my sister, I also applied through the Phoenix Program because I wanted a head start and my dad encouraged me to be bold and seek internships from a young age, so I did, and I struck gold! The internship inspired me to look further into bridges, since I was still debating into what field I wanted to get into, the work experience I received and the mentors I was fortunate to have, helped me to realized that civil engineering was the path to go for me.
Check out the Flores-Castillo twins feature in the Stillwater Gazette HERE
KH: What struggles have you faced as Hispanic women in STEM thus far?
Sandra: A struggle I have faced as a Hispanic woman in the STEM field has been overcoming the typical Latina stereotype. When I first arrived on my first day of work , many co-workers stared at me curiously. Another minor struggle was learning the English language, when my family immigrated to the United States in 2005 from Mexico.
Diana: I knew that there would be struggles as Hispanic woman in the STEM field but my dad said that I shouldn’t let that stop me from trying, so I didn’t and persevered. And to be honest, since Diversity and Inclusion is such a big effort done by my office, I never really felt out of place because diversity is actually being sought out after, so if anything, I feel proud to be representing Hispanic women. And all of my coworkers make me feel special and treat me with respect because they see such a hard worker and little by little I am proving to them that I am a worthy employee.
KH: How did you overcome those struggles?
Sandra: I overcame those struggles by showing my knowledgeable skill set and applying them to my current work assignments. Continuously, I slowly changed their beliefs of young women working in the STEM fields. I am now working side to side with some of the most talented civil engineers in my department. I enjoy learning from them and I am a very inquisitive student who asks tons of questions.
Overcoming the language barrier struggle took me constantly asking for help from my grade school teachers. But what really helped me get through this tough period, was my interest and curiosity of engineering. Therefore, I want my family and society to give young girls an opportunity to introduce them into STEM fields. Even, though the women from my family became nurses or mothers, I want to take a different path from my family’s traditions.
KH: Best Advice You've Ever Received?
Diana: The best advice I ever received was actually given by my awesome dad. He has always told me again and again that “imagination is more important than knowledge”. I intend to use this in my future career because I want to be able to design bridges that are aesthetically beautiful yet safe to use. Also I think this advice is critical in my path to success because if ever I am struggling with science or math, imagination will be there to remind me that it is still possible to succeed.
Sandra: I would have to agree and say the best advice I've ever received was from my dad as well. He has taught me to keep moving forward and to never give up on yourself. When I am doubtful about myself and the future ahead of me, he then asks me “how far are you willing to go?”. I then pick myself up and say “I am willing to go all the way, ready to reach those dreams!”. He has been an important role model in life to follow and to learn from.
KH: What Has Been The Most Interesting Part Of Your Journey Thus Far?
Sandra: I would say discovering and learning about myself as a young Hispanic women. I have learned to be more confident around people at work and school. That I can do anything I set my mind to and reach any future goals. Finally, I have also been slowly shattering the typical stereotype of a Latina; and to be recognized more for my intelligence than my appearance.
Diana: The most interesting part of my journey so far has been that I was fortunate enough to even receive an internship at such a young age and that I have been very successful at it. Also I have been surprised that all of my coworkers like me very much and I hope to connect more with them as I proceed with my second year as an intern by asking them if there is anything I can do to help or learn...
KH: Why Is It So Important To Get More Women Of Color Into STEM Fields?
Diana: We need girls to realize that the STEM fields are for everyone and not just for a select few. If they put their minds into it, they can achieve anything they want to!
Sandra: Getting more women of color in the STEM fields helps contribute more diverse voices into the workplace environment. It also builds and strengthens relationships within one's own community. Inspiring more young girls to be confident and have fun learning the world through STEM is very important.
Right now Diana is working as a Seeds student worker at the MnDOT Bridge Office, which is a college-level career track, and hope to continue in that position for the next four years while I attend the U of M-Twin Cities.
Sandra has been working at MnDOT as a new Seeds Student Worker. Currently she works at the Materials and Road Research Lab in Maplewood, MN. She works in the Pavement Engineering offices.
Thank You Diana and Sandra For Being Such Wonderful Inspirations!