Veronica Cintron, 28, is a materials engineer at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in Largo, Fla.
Tell me about your job.
I work on a variety of materials and items used in the communications systems we manufacture for our military services and foreign customers. These are items like radios and antennas — anything our troops in the field need to communicate — and also air traffic control systems deployed in the field. I investigate when there’s a problem. Usually I get a call from a technician on the manufacturing floor, and I’ll go there to see the problem, take photos and document it. Sometimes I’ll take a part to the failure analysis lab for a more detailed examination using optical or scanning electron microscopes. Then I recommend how our technicians might fix it.
What are some examples of problems you might encounter?
The coating on a radio’s metal chassis may be discolored, similar to silver becoming tarnished. If it’s cosmetic, that’s not a problem. But if it’s deteriorating, for example, that could interfere with soldering a part onto it. I decide whether the chassis needs to be stripped or recoated. Another example might concern a laser marking system. Most of our products have an aluminum label with information, such as part number and name, cut into it with a laser. If the information isn’t legible, it’s my job to determine why.
How did you get interested in this field?
My grandmother inspired me. My mom’s side of the family emigrated from Cuba to the United States in the 1960s even though Castro was making it difficult. My grandmother lived with us, but I didn’t know she had been a chemistry teacher there until I took my first chemistry course in high school. I majored in engineering and minored in chemistry in college. I loved chemistry, and we had that in common. I think of it being at the atomic level, involving chemical reactions, and materials engineering as the next step up.
How was your job interview at Raytheon?
It lasted about six hours and was intimidating. I met with several people for an hour each and had lunch with one. I talked about my internship in the failure analysis lab at Siemens and the research in nanotribology I had done in school, about friction, wear and the like related to interacting surfaces. Since working here, I’ve gotten a master’s in materials science and engineering, the same areas as my undergrad degree.
What’s a favorite part of the job for you?
Occasionally I visit a vendor to determine whether something went wrong with a part on their end. It’s always interesting because they’re the experts in their areas. I learn something every time.
What’s one of your challenges?
Our priority is protecting our U.S. and allied troops. It concerns us when something has failed an electrical, thermal or vibration test, for example, and doesn’t have a quick fix. I’m anxious until we fix it.
You’re active in an employee resource group at Raytheon. What’s that like?
I’m the Eastern region vice president of the Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Advancement, or HOLA. We’ve held a 3D printing seminar to teach other employees about the technology, and we do a lot of outreach, such as giving a STEM presentation in Spanish at a local elementary school with a Spanish immersion program. I’ve also gained intangible leadership skills.