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How I Became a Systems Engineer: Meet Cindy Paz

Cindy Paz shares her story of deciding to pursue engineering, what it's like to be a systems engineer, and why volunteerism is important to her as a woman in STEM.
Cindy Paz with Colling Aerospace logo

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RTX logo with Collins Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney and Raytheon brands

How I Became a Systems Engineer: Meet Cindy Paz
A picture of Cindy Paz with her parents and siblings, May 2022 at her graduation

I graduated from Northern Illinois University in May of 2022 with a B.S. in electrical engineering. I began working at Collins Aerospace, an RTX business, soon after as a Systems Engineer in Power & Controls.

Before I get into what I do day-to-day, I want to highlight how I decided to be an engineer in the first place. My mom encouraged me to pursue engineering as a major, but I did not feel interested in pursuing it at first. Like any parent who wants the best for their kids, she introduced me to engineers who work with her at Abbott. After speaking with them, I learned more and more about engineering and decided to give it a try.

I signed up for the Pathways Program with my high school and started taking an Introduction to Engineering course. In this course, we were given different projects to work on throughout the year. We used SolidWorks to design different things to 3D print. We also were taught to use different machines like a laser cutter, 3D printer, saw machine, and many others. I had a lot of fun learning about engineering design principles and seeing my designs come to life. So, I decided to take the class that proceeded it.

This was a Digital Electronics class where we learned how to use circuit design software to build basic electrical circuits. We also were taught how to use a voltage supply and build a circuit using a breadboard. I absolutely loved this class ― so much so that I started to think about majoring in electrical engineering. Thanks to my parents, I was able to pursue a degree in electrical engineering and learned that it is my passion!

How I Became a Systems Engineer: Meet Cindy Paz
Cindy Paz with a few of her fellow SWE members

I interned over the summer of 2021 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at Collins for the Mission Systems business unit as a Systems Engineering Intern. I was able to work on site with the Dismounted Assured Position, Navigation, Timing (PNT) System (DAPS) and Mounted Assured PNT System (MAPS) by testing them to the U.S. Department of Defense standards.

A great thing about Collins is the diverse group of people that I met and got to work with. I met engineers at different levels of their careers and shadowed them while working on the DAPS and MAPS projects. Within the short time that I was there, I felt a part of my team and felt a part of the Collins family.

I remember one lunch-and-learn where we had Stephen Timm, President of Collins Aerospace, join all the interns and co-ops for a call where we were able to ask him questions. I thought it was so great that he took the time to meet with us and answer any question we threw at him. It showed the culture of Collins and how people take the time to invest in their employees, which is one of the many reasons why I wanted to grow my skills and knowledge at Collins.

How I Became a Systems Engineer: Meet Cindy Paz
WE Local in Des Moines, Iowa

Today, I work in the Power & Controls business unit located in Rockford, Ill., as a Systems Engineer. We work on the electric power systems of planes. It is nice to work with a team of engineers with various years of experience. I am able to either learn alongside someone or ask questions from those who have been with the company for more than 30 years.

One of the many reasons why I wanted to work at RTX was that they encourage volunteerism and diversity. We partner a lot with the local schools to host STEM events and tours. Being able to connect with students and encourage them to become engineers is one of my passions. It is amazing to see a girl get excited for something STEM-related ― it reminds me of my younger self.

Rockford Power & Controls has a partnership with Northern Illinois University’s (NIU) College of Engineering. Every year, we host a few events, including NIU Day at Collins and Collins Day at NIU, and we always have a booth at the career fairs that happen once a semester. I have had the opportunity to attend all events, and I always feel good to be able to give back to my alma mater.

In college, I served as president of NIU SWE my senior year, and one of my favorite things to do was to volunteer at the local middle school. For NIU SWE, we volunteered with an all-girls STEM club every week. We formed mentor/mentee relationships and would help them with homework and projects or answer any questions they had about engineering and college.

How I Became a Systems Engineer: Meet Cindy Paz
Volunteering at Sycamore Middle School for Science Olympiad Night and the all-girls STEM club: G-Force

For two years now, we have been volunteering at their yearly science symposium night to talk about SWE and answer the question, “Why engineering?” They also took a trip to visit NIU for Senior Design Demonstration Day. SWE has been a great place for me to feel welcome and safe, make some friends, and have fun. I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for my group of supporters, which includes SWE.

Not only can you connect with your local SWE section, but attending conferences exposes you to other SWE members from across the U.S. My favorite part of conferences is attending the keynote sessions ― I get goosebumps every time! I encourage everyone to join SWE and to get involved ― the future needs more women engineers!