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Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Mayra Klessig!

Featuring successful Latinas in STEM during Hispanic Heritage Month is one of the ways we can increase the representation of minority women in STEM and encourage others into STEM roles like these.
Meet Olga D. González-Sanabria -

Featuring successful Latinas in STEM during Hispanic Heritage Month is one of the ways we can increase the representation of minority women in STEM and encourage others into STEM roles like these.

This week, meet Mayra Klessig! A SWE member from Michoacán, Mexico, she’s going to tell her journey as a Latina in Mechanical Engineering.

Introduce yourself and give a brief background of your educational and professional experiences. Feel free to include both STEM and non-STEM related endeavors!

Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Mayra Klessig! -Mayra Klessig: Howdy! My name is Mayra Klessig, a Latina Mechanical Engineering graduate from Texas A&M University Class ’14. I started my engineering career with Verizon right after I graduated. September 2021 is actually my seven year anniversary working at Verizon. I love working for Verizon because Verizon is a global leader in telecommunication, it’s a Fortune 500 company, and we focus on meaningful work that makes a positive impact to society. At Verizon, we create the networks that move the world forward. We are problem solvers, entrepreneurs, engineers, and leaders that always work as a team on cutting edge technology such as LTE and 5G to build Verizon’s best network for our customers.

Within seven years working for Verizon, I went from working as a traffic engineer working on the Houston Gulf Cost Deployment plan, to an outside plant engineer in New York City to then a construction engineer for 5G pre-commercial trial in Houston, TX. Then I had the opportunity to be a Network Assurance Supervisor where I had the opportunity to see all the troubleshooting involved by my team to ensure optimal network performance for paramount customer experience and help with Hurricane Emergency Response.

Then for personal reasons after being engaged to my now husband, Troy Klessig, I moved to Orlando, FL where I worked as an outside plant engineer for the Orlando market then a Program Manager for the Southeast Region, and finally to becoming the engineering Project Manager for the Jacksonville Market.

When did your interest in STEM begin, and how did you nurture it?

MK: I graduated number six in my high school class and my favorite classes included physics and mathematics. My high school math and physics teachers guided me to sign up for a summer event with PROMES (Program for Mastery in Engineering Studies) at the University of Houston which allowed me to build roller coasters where the key concepts to learn was about potential energy, kinetic energy, friction, and conservation of energy! I thought I would build roller coasters for a living. That’s why I ended up studying Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University. While at A&M, I learned more about engineering through my courses, professors, colleagues, as well as through my involvement with SHPE, and the Society of Women Engineers Chapter.

Through my SWE Chapter involvement at local level then at a Regional level as the SWE Regional Collegiate representative, I was able to support the underrepresented students to learn about STEM careers and to empower women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders. All the SWE mentors, colleagues, and SWE events allow me to learn more about the engineering profession at different companies. I was also supported by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).

What challenges have you faced to get where you are today?

MK: As a first-generation Hispanic female Texas A&M Mechanical engineering graduate, the main challenge I encounter is feeling less prepared than my colleagues who studied at private schools, high schools with a STEM focus, or at high schools that had better ratings. Second, financial hardship was a constant reminder that I had to really study 24/7 for it to be worth the financial effort my family was making to pay tuition, room and board, as well as expensive textbooks. My family paved the way for me to be at Texas A&M and I couldn’t let them down.

The feeling of impostor syndrome where I know I doubted my intelligence and accomplishments and have felt like I was a fraud throughout college believing that others are more intelligent than myself. As a professional, I have learned to overcome the impostor syndrome, and I have learned to be confident to take the seat at the table using my voice, being humble, listening to others, advocating for others, and collaborating with my team, cross-functional teams, and leadership.

Are there any groups, people, organizations, or institutions that you have found that best support you and your success as a Latina in STEM? How did you find them?

MK: I thank many organizations for helping me through my success in my college career, as well as all the educators, professors, family, my husband, friends, corporate mentors, and professional organizations that really supported me in my success as a Latina in STEM.

The Texas A&M University’s Society of Women Engineers chapter is the organization that I was highly involved with throughout my collegiate career. The Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce led by Dr. Laura Murillo was also very inspiring organization. The University of Houston PROMES was also very influential. I founded this support system through my high school teacher, and counselors that introduced me to PROMEs and helped me through the college admission application process. Once you make it to the University, there will be many Professional organizations that you can join based on the organization’s mission statement that aligns with your goals. I joined the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) as well as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) because my goals aligned with their mission. SWE and SHPE supported my success as we had the opportunity to learn from many companies that would come speak to us about engineering careers, and I would work together with the members on our engineering homework.

Finally, at Verizon the Verizon Leadership Development Program (VLDP) allowed me to move across states and different engineering roles which empower my love for engineering and allowed me to meet great leaders and colleagues across the business. I was able to be in the VLDP by first doing an internship at Verizon then applying for the VLDP to start after graduation.

The Verizon leaders, colleagues, cross functional groups and partner vendors have supported me a lot throughout my career at Verizon. I was honored when a Verizon Vice President requested to have a mentoring meeting with me so I can give an overview of my experience before I left Houston, TX. As I moved to Florida, I cannot thank enough the SE/Florida leadership team for all their support. Tammy, my current leader at Verizon, has been influential in teaching me how to be a great leader and how to set work life boundaries. The Jacksonville Market engineering team supports me daily, inspires me every day, and I am so thankful to work daily with each one of them. I am blessed beyond measures with my Verizon family.

Organizations that I am part of as a professional are Verizon SOMOs, and Verizon WAVE. Additionally, I am honored to be in the Pre Leader Academy at Verizon. I found them through Verizon.

Did you have any role models or people who influenced your decision to pursue STEM?

MK: I had strong support from my high school teachers, counselors, and mentors that influenced me to pursue STEM.  I am thankful for all the support and encouragement of my family.

I thank the support of my parents, Jesus and Concepcion Magana Patino.  My mother has been one of my role models because she has always our family’s pillar of strength. My mom always would support/comfort me, encouraging me to continue my education in engineering as education will unlock many doors of opportunity for my future. She encouraged me to always have faith in God, work hard, and be humble.

My brother, Jesus Magana, is one of my role models, he represents the pillar of leadership.  Jesus has always given me great advice, motivated me to work hard, and made me a proud aunt to Alex Magna.  Jesus is an entrepreneur who worked extremely hard to start his business when he was very young and I have always admired his determination to succeed in life, and he really inspired me to study more at school so I could become an engineer. I don’t think my brother knows this but while he was in High School, he would do long complex math/algebra problems and I as a little girl saw his math homework assignments and that’s where my love for math began.

I wanted to become the first Latina engineer in my family to take on the male dominated engineering world, make a positive impact in the world through engineering, and I wanted for my little sister, Yolisma Magana, to do the same! Yolisma is now another amazing Latina Texas A&M Engineer grad class of 2018, making a great impact in the engineering world! Whoop! Gig’em Ags!

Additionally, I had great mentors along the way, my A&M professors, Verizon leaders, family, friends, and those colleagues from organizations. One great mentor and family friend that I will forever be grateful to is Mr. Tim Erway. Mr. Tim opened the first door of opportunity for me to work at VAM USA (a French and Japanese Joint Venture) as a 6 month COOP Mechanical engineering intern while he was the VP of Operations.

Finally, and very important, I am thankful, respectful, and appreciative of my husband, Troy Klessig, as he has been very supportive of my engineering career and I am blessed to grow alongside with him.

In what ways have you used your role as a woman in STEM to encourage young women and girls into STEM?

MK: While in college, I was highly involved with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) outreach, and the SWE Regional College Representative with the mission of supporting and empowering more women to pursueSTEM careers. I was also involved with Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) where we would go to high schools and set up engineering workshops for high school students to learn from. I went back to my high school and helped organize a STEM workshop for the high school students at Pasadena High School a few years ago.

As a professional, I have helped by volunteering through the Verizon Innovative Learning where Verizon provides free technology, free internet access, and next generation technology to help students learn at Verizon local stores. The mission of the Verizon Innovative Learning is to deliver the promise of the digital world by giving people the ability to do more, innovate, and drive positive change.  I have also participated in the Verizon Winternship in New York City where I led a team of interns through an engineering project where the interns had the opportunity to showcase the final engineering design and presentation to senior executives with Verizon. I also mentor students who have questions about STEM careers. If there is anyone needing STEM mentorship please contact me directly to LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook.

What has been your biggest lesson as a woman in STEM? (technical or personal)

MK: Have Faith in God. Absorb like a sponge. Learn to fail and recover quickly. Manage in all directions. Have integrity and always be honest. Always be humble and kind. Challenges and hardships should be welcome as a test of character. Work extremely hard but also set boundaries in all aspects of your life both, professionally and personally. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and of your peers, colleagues, mentors, and leaders. Communicate effectively. Focus on your health: Physically and Mentally.  Learn to listen twice as much as you speak. Find your own purpose, set goals, and work to accomplish them. Read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. Also read, “Life’s Greatest Lessons” by Hal Urban as many great nuggets are shared such as we are successful in the doing not in the getting. Successful people adapt to life. They look for the good in others. Successful make relationships, have a sense of direction, and purpose. They set goals and work to accomplish them. They have a strong desire about life, existing and living, and they enjoy life to the fullest.

Looking back, what advice would you give to your younger self?

MK: Learn from all your experiences the good and the bad. Build your life on the foundations of respect, honesty, and integrity. Always work hard at everything you do. Be kind to everyone. Learn to set goals, take action, and prioritize. Have a strong support from family, mentors, professors, colleagues, leaders, and friends. Get involved with organizations and build good relationships. Be curious about everything and never be shy to ask questions. Don’t take yourself so seriously and have a sense of humor.

What advice do you have for SWE members to help support the younger generation of women and girls looking to pursue STEM careers?

MK: I encourage SWE Members to continue partnering with high schools to create STEM workshops for the high school students to work on hands-on engineering projects that will ignite the curiosity of the younger generation to pursue STEM careers. Get involved in STEM activities and promote mentorship. Pay it forward.


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