Who said working with cars was just for the boys? Transito Macias, a manager in product quality assurance at Nissan, is proving each day that women and STEM careers most definitely mix.
Always attracted to the problem-solving approaches associated with math and science, Macias chose to study chemical engineering at Mississippi State University. She launched her engineering career at International Paper in Vicksburg, Mississippi, becoming the first person in the company to implement solid-state chemistry and improve fiber retention. In February 2006, Macias joined Nissan North America as a product quality assurance engineer at the Canton Plant. and she was promoted to manager in March 2007.
Macias took some time away from the problem solving to talk to us about her career at Nissan, how she became interested in engineering, why girls shouldn't be afraid to pursue a STEM career, and more.
Read all about this Inspiring Latina:
Where did your interest for engineering come from?
Oh, I’ve always really liked math and science. In school I did better in math and science because there was a right and wrong answer. In literature, every time we had to write long essays or research papers, there were so many different answers that someone could come up with. It bothered me that there wasn’t a definite black and white, right and wrong answer. But in math and science, at least at the high school level, we had that quantitate value or solution to the problem. I have always, for a long time, liked solving problems. In school, just traditional word problems, or at home when something broke or something needed to be coordinated. The problem solving nature itself went well with engineering.
What is it like being in such a male dominated field and what were some of the challenges you faced coming into it?
You know definitely day one as an engineer and an in a manufacturing environment, and probably in most engineering environments, it’s very intimidating. Even just day one in school it was intimating when people were asking what is your major. I can’t say I was always taken very seriously. So day one I was very imitated when I entered the work force, but after day one, on day two, what you look like or who you are…all that stuff gets pushed back and what you do and what you are capable of doing comes forth. After day two, it got so much easier. Once you are able to prove that you are just as capable as anyone sitting next to you, or if you are lucky maybe even more capable than them, the differences really melt away. That kind of bond evolves quickly. Working in a male dominated field for me is exciting because it is always very competitive, very quick, fast paced, and there’s always something new and more to be challenged. But the intimidation factor of being the only woman is an advantage in the long run, if anything else. It certainly means people will notice your successes. People will recognize your strengths.
Being that you are Latina and come from a Latin background, what were your parent’s thoughts on the career you chose to pursue?
My grandmother is the essence of a Latina grandmother: she goes to church every day and she was not playing around when it came to education for any of us. I have five cousins and three brothers, and every one of us went to college. Most of us have graduate degrees and that came from her. We did not get gifts, we got college money. I had strong family support in what ever I wanted to study. Not going to college was not an option. We were expected to go and work hard, and take advantage of all of the blessings we had gotten. We were definitely expected to go, and I had family support through the whole process.
Amazing, so tell us what a typical day at Nissan is like for you?
I wish a day were typical. [Laughs] We do start very early. Today I got here about a quarter to 6, and we start off with what happened last night because we run production. Currently we run truck production 24 hours a day for five days a week. So first we see if we made our production targets and are they good, and what quality or productivity issues come up. Then if night shift had anything that carried over, we go in there and correct it. Then if there’s something that we need to investigate, prepare for that. And then we take on the long-term issues. It’s a lot of coordinating [because] in engineering; it is truly a team activity. No one solves a problem by himself or herself. It is always a cross-functional activity. We will have someone from body shop or maybe a supplier, somebody from Detroit or our designer, even somebody from our sister plant in Japan or Mexico or Tennessee will come together and weigh in on an issue either at my plant or theirs. We’ll just start hacking away at the potential root causes of the issue, and what are some temporary and permanent solutions that can be implemented. So it’s a lot about making sure that the right owner has the lead on the right defects or the right concern. Then that those owners have the right support, and that everyone is contributing to that issue. Our goal is to make really well built cars, really efficiently, and that’s a constant. If we achieve the target today, our target will be higher tomorrow. It is definitely constant improvement…in Japanese it’s called “kaizen” and kaizen means continuous improvement. There is a journey to get better in whatever way you are called to contribute on that.
More on page 2 >>>