Friday, February 19, 2016

#ILookLikeAnEngineer: Alex Buitimea

As president of UCSD's Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Alex wants to empower the Hispanic community. He loves soccer and problem-solving, and he also cares deeply for underrepresented regions and hopes to develop technology for education.

Name: Alex Buitimea
Major: Computer Engineering
Estimated graduation date: June 2016

Why did you choose engineering at UC San Diego?
I think primarily in the area I grew up, there’s not many engineers. Not many talked about engineering. I myself didn’t know what engineering was until the last year when I was choosing my major. I knew I was good at math and I knew I liked solving problems, but I didn’t know that what the the meaning of engineering was— solving problems. Obviously, not knowing what path I was going to take but knowing I wanted to something like that, that’s why I ended up choosing it.

I’m very fond of technology, I’m very fond of computers. I was really good at it, I believe, because I was always on my laptop. So pairing the two, I chose computer engineering. I knew this was a good engineering school.

What do you see yourself doing in the future, goals after school?
Many people have been asking me this, especially recruiters. I always tell the same thing: I don’t know. I learn by experience. You know, trying out different things, you get to learn what you’re actually passionate about. I always tell all our members in SHPE, it’s okay not to have a passion, it’s okay if you don’t know your goal, but just by letting yourself try different things, you’re going to find what you’re passionate about and what you think you’re good at and what you should actually keep doing. So I know I want to go into industry because I really like the atmosphere of working with other people, especially where you get to solve problems that are actually going to go into the world and out there, into things people are actually going to purchase. I think I want to go into industry for that same reason. I can start working and teams and put stuff out there.

Do you see yourself with a specific company? Or do you have a dream job, beyond practicality?
It always brings me back to where I grew up. In the San Fernando Valley, there’s not many opportunities. You rarely hear about engineering. Schools are not that great. But one thing that technology does for them is it provides them new opportunities to teach in different ways. It also encourages students to pursue STEM, so I knew my freshman year, I wanted to pursue computer engineering more on the side of building technology for education, such as building smart boards, things like that. Building devices that actually help students learn better, so I think I want to follow that path. I know Microsoft and Google are doing big things along that path. If I can be involved with a company that has that kind of sector or project for education, I think I’ll follow that.

If you weren’t in engineering, what do you think you’d be doing?
I honestly don’t know what I’d be doing other than engineering. I really like solving problems, and that’s exactly what engineering is. If I were to do something else, I’d probably be a contractor. Throughout high school, I worked with my dad in demolition, so I would work at job sites, demolishing houses and bringing metals apart. His dream has always been to have his own company, and he’s been doing this for the past four years. I’ve been helping him. In the situation he’s in right now, he can’t be the owner or manager so he’s always asking me if I’d be willing to do it. After all these years helping, I think I would do that, being a contractor.

What are three interesting facts about you?
1) My passion for turning technology to education. I respect working with other people on teams, and I respect their ideas and strengths as well. That’s one of the reasons I chose to be the president of our [SHPE] chapter. I was going to be working with eleven other students to move that chapter forward.
2) Respecting people and working on teams.
3) Definitely stamina. I played soccer in high school and now on an intramural team. It’s definitely stamina to move forward. Even if you’re discouraged with not getting a certain internship or a certain research position or doing well in class, if you just get up and keep on trying, at the end of the day, you’re going to end up on the other side. That’s something that I’m very fortunate to see in myself, that I have that stamina to keep going.

Would you say you have a favorite quote along those lines? Or something you live by?
I always like to work with teams. One thing I always stay is “If you could do something in under two minutes, just do it now.” At one of my internships, one of my co-workers would always lived by that. It just clicked with me. Why wait? Keep moving forward.

Also, if you could say you can do things differently and say that you’re working hard...Working hard is not enough. It’s working smart, making sure that the amount of time you’re putting in is smart. Make the right decision about how you’re spending time.

I like spending time with my friends and I play soccer on the weekends. I’ve been playing soccer for twelve years, the first seven years I played defense and the past five years I’ve played right midfielder. I also play video games, and that’s weird because I played no video games until my third year of college. I have an xbox, but I also play League of Legends.

What does this campaign mean to you? Any specific opinions?
Primarily, the campaign also falls under our [SHPE’s] objective, which is to empower the Hispanic community to realize its fullest potential. All STEM majors. Everything is possible just by putting your mind to it and making sure that you don’t tell yourself that you can’t do something if you’re very passionate. Just because you don’t have the same opportunities as everyone else, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful. We make sure that people don’t think that way. There are people in your community that will help you be successful. I think that also falls under the campaign. No matter what people think or what you think of yourself or what you can’t do, other people may see it differently and believe in you. Know that you can be an engineer, that you can be successful.

I grew up in a social justice community. It was good and bad. I grew up with my principal as also my life mentor. He was very passionate about how anything is possible. I put my own spin to it, by empowering the community with STEM. Making sure that we go into STEM fields, that we go in and explore and solve problems. I’m actually taking a course in ethnics and work. You’d be surprised how much diversity helps with solving problems and how having a diverse team— not necessarily just a matter of being Hispanic or black. Having people who think differently will actually help you solve a problem much better than having people who all think the same.

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