Meet SWE Global Affiliate Member Yuriko Tanaka who was interviewed by SWE Latinos AG. She shared with us her experience as a mentor, how she became inspired to support others, and why having mentors during the process of deciding on a career field helped her to select a career where her interests fit the industrial engineering field. Here is what she shared with us!
What initially inspired you to be a Mentor?
As I grew up, I observed that my mom served, guided, and mentored other people. She had leadership roles at my school and in our community. Up to now, people continue asking her for advice or guidance for different situations. I can say that her passion for serving and guiding others using her experience and knowledge inspired me, and I wanted to be like her, a mentor and support others in need. She has been definitively a role model and mentor to me and many others.
Can you mention some of your personal learnings as a Mentor?
As a mentor, I have the opportunity to interact with people from different countries, gender, and expertise. I find that mentoring someone is a very effective way to offer counseling and resources to help our mentees to improve their skills. Also, when you are a mentor, you expand your network and support others to find better opportunities to advance in their careers. Mentoring also enhances learning, provides new perspectives for both, the mentor and mentee, and supports diversity and inclusion. From every person I have mentored, I am always learning, and I allow myself to be open to hearing new perspectives from my mentee. Currently, the pandemic situation has brought difficult times, and I consider that mentoring can help many thrive. We can create a network to support each other and promote collaboration in our communities.
Did you have a mentor that helped you to pursue your career in engineering? How having a mentor helped you to pursue your career?
Yes, I had, I remember that when I was in the process of deciding the field for my future professional career, the STEM’s disciplines were not very common for female students, but I already had some level of interest in engineering. After having evaluated several options, I decided to contact the career director, P. Alonso, from the university that I wanted to attend, to receive more orientation. She agreed to meet me, and after we had some conversations, she helped me to have a better perspective of what the engineering field was about. The mentoring that I received from P. Alonso, was crucial to take the final decision to enroll in a career that fits me and to pursue the industrial engineering degree. Since then, the relation student-mentor continued until the day of my graduation. Later, I had the opportunity to work as a quality engineer, as a manufacturing engineer, operation process engineer, and in leadership roles. Through this journey, in every single position that I held as an engineer, I had the privilege to learn from mentors who provided me with personal and professional advice, allowing me to continue aspiring and advancing in my career.
Do you consider yourself an advocate for women in STEM careers? Can you briefly mention one example of the activities you do as an advocate in your company or community?
I do. I can say that in 2014, when I attended the annual conference of SWE for the first time, I strengthened my commitment to advocate for women in STEM. And ever since then, I committed myself to create an impact in my community by empowering women to reach their full potential and promoting the power of diversity. Also, I have had the opportunity to lead different efforts to attract, promote, and retain female talent in the company I work, and some of the activities that we host are conferences and workshops to support women in their professional development. I also mentor women inside the company to help them be successful in their current roles, and it is very rewarding seeing how working together and creating an inclusive environment, can immediately bring positive outcomes for people and the company.
I also work on planning activities to support young women. I am a strong believer that if we would like to create a cultural change to increase the opportunities for women in STEM, it is important to start with younger generations. I consider that being an advocate for them, helps to create a future where there will be more representation of women in these careers. In my opinion, events such as “Introducing a Girl to Engineering Day” allows young female students to meet professional women in the company. During this day, the female students have the opportunity to interact with women engineers and know more about the activities they perform. The objective is to expose young female students to role models in engineering, and they can learn more about their role in the field. Promoting educational and professional development programs inside a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment, helps to offer mentorship and sponsorship effectively to inspire and attract female talent into STEM roles.
We can do this together!
About Yuriko Tanaka
She is an industrial engineer and is currently pursuing a business degree with HR. Currently, she works as a Business Unit Lead (BUL) and is mother of 2. She is a diversity and inclusion advocate to empower women in engineering and leadership. Yuriko is a STEM enthusiast and mentor.