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What We Learned At SHPE’s Women in Leadership Summit

Last Friday a small group of us here at HCUPRM attended the Women in Leadership Summit organized by UPRM’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), where we had the opportunity to listen to great speakers talk about becoming a better leader, overcoming obstacles, and excelling in our careers. Two of the speakers were none other than former candidate to the governorship, Alexandra Lúgaro and famous meteorologist Ada Monzón. As well as, Chevron executive Mariano Vela, Accenture executive Gretchen Clavell, pharmaceutical executive Daneris Fernández, chemistry professor Dr. Madeline Torres, and marketing professor Dr. Mari Luz Zapata. Each and every one of them had incredible anecdotes as to how they got where they are, as well as insight to the hardships one may face while pursuing a professional career and advice to help us be on the top of our game. For those who didn’t get the chance to attend, we have the best quotes and advice given by the professionals, so you can excel in whatever path you choose.


Mariano Vela started off the summit with a strong phrase his father used to tell him that goes, “sometimes the train passes just once and you gotta get on it,” while talking about how he chose his career over his PhD. He was advising  us that it’s okay to pursue our passions and that some opportunities only come knocking once. However, he believes that we should leave dreaming to the bed and focus on the present, which is when you can make things happen. He also emphasized on the importance of perfecting technical skills, which is ultimately what gets us the job. The last piece of wisdom he imparted was, “how achievements don’t change you, and what changes you is the journey.” So if you heard something pop, it was probably my brain blowing up because of these words. Not only can this be applied to your career, but also to every other part in your life where you might have a goal.

Our minds blasted a drumroll when they announced Ada Monzón,Puerto Rico’s sweetheart, at the podium, and as soon as she started talking we got on a emotional rollercoaster. Her speech took us back to the horrible month of September, making us a little teary eyed, but her inspiring words gave us hope for the new impending hurricane season. The message was clear: a great leader needs to be empathetic, because if Hurricane María taught us anything, it was that we’re all the same under the circumstances. Another important trait she pointed out was resilience, something we all have learned the hard way, but will make us better leaders in the future. To close her speech, she urged the public to become better prepared for adversities and to have a genuine interest for helping others.

Gretchen Clavell, an UPRM alumni and Senior Manager at Accenture’s Finance and Risk Practice, used her experience in operational risk management and being a mother of two, to give us some tips on managing (for lack of a better word) ourselves. She gave us a 4 step solution to any problem that has helped her before during hard times. First, you need to take a step back and assess the problem, then formulate an action plan. Next, is looking for the necessary skills or tools needed for the plan, and finally launch into action. 

We all know Alexandra Lúgaro’s story and she is an inspiring woman who gets what she wants and isn’t afraid of failure. Her best piece of advice was to do what you’re passionate about, utilize every opportunity and tools given by the UPR and most importantly, to innovate. She also talked about how there’s a lack of representation of women in the government and other organizations, to which she encourages women of all ages to get involved and make our voices be heard.

Some of our girls had the pleasure of having one-on-one time with the guests during the event. In which they talked to Dr. Mari Luz Zapata, who told them how her mentor and her family were the people who helped her break out of her shell and dive into new horizons. She also talked about how surrounding yourself with people who are driven and go-getters helps tremendously, and how facing your fears is the key to success. Then, Dr. Zapata admitted to one of the most common problems with leadership, which is not being able to achieve a work-life balance. This was supported by Dr. Madeline Torres, who emphasized on setting boundaries at work to allow yourself a healthy work-life balance and also the importance of mentorship and learning to become a mentor. Lastly, Daneris Fernández left us with the phrase, “learn to learn,” by which she meant to learn how to keep learning throughout your life and expanding your knowledge, because keeping yourself updated is an essential skill.


We would like to congratulate SHPE  for putting together such an inspiring event and hope to attend many more to come.


Fashion and style enthusiast with a specialty in so-ugly-it's-cute trends. Mother of two gorgeous feline queens. Fluent in Beyoncé and "HTV" hits.
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