#PeopleofSTEAM: Meet Heidi
Heidi Lagares is an engineer at Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Season 44 “Survivor” finalist. In her current role at HP, she manages a team of engineers that create AI and Data Science solutions. She loves working in a growing and disruptive area of technology because it touches everyone in some way and is continually transforming how we live. Her favorite part of what she does is her diverse team who allow her to continuously teach and learn.
With such a positive attitude, it’s no surprise that she succeeded on the hit CBS TV show “Survivor,” making it to the final four. In a game where you have to learn how to survive on a tropical island with strangers and compete in challenges, Heidi’s positive outlook and outgoing personality went a long way. She also credits her background in STEAM to her success and discussed it frequently throughout her time on the show. Heidi is originally from Puerto Rico and came to America knowing very little English. She was recently quoted in an article from Parade saying, “I want to represent Latinas out there, Latinas working in STEM, and all those people who may have an accent, may sound different, and look different.”
Read more about Heidi and her experiences below.
FIRST Staff: How do you use STEAM skills in your everyday work/life?
Heidi: STEAM is everything in my life. My husband and I are both engineers, so even in our free time we like to do projects with our kids. We love it and we breathe it and I think my kids are now influenced by it because they love the field too. If you stop for a moment and look around, no matter where you are, you will see that STEAM has transformed the way we live. Our phones, the tv, the workplace, the house appliances/devices - it is all around. If you learn to appreciate it, you realize that there is so much beauty in the innovation of people while using science, technology, engineering, math, and art!
FIRST Staff: What is the hardest part of your job?
Heidi: I love the fast pace but sometimes that is the hardest part too. The field of AI and Data Science is constantly changing and growing, so we have to make sure we move at a faster pace, which is very hard but also exciting.
FIRST Staff: Can you share your thoughts on the impact of your personal/professional work in STEAM?
Heidi: In my many years of engineering and management, I learned to explore the field of patenting innovative ideas. I have over 40 filed patents and mentor many people about innovation. I like to say that my daily job is innovation. I am constantly trying to find solutions and “thinking outside the box.” When participating in “Survivor,” my background in engineering and experience in innovation helped me strongly with surviving on the island with pretty much nothing but my clothes.
FIRST Staff: Who is a “Person of STEAM” who inspires you?
Heidi: Many people have inspired me, including my husband. He is a very technical engineer and is teaching me a lot. As a young engineer, and even before I became an inventor myself, I used to say I wanted to be Benjamin Franklin because he was an inventor, a scientist, a writer and even a politician. If someone like him could do it all, I felt like I could too. The joke of wanting to be like Benjamin Franklin inspired me to pursue inventing and filing patents.
FIRST Staff: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Heidi: The sky is the limit and be your true self! Also, fail fast and gracefully, use those experiences as learning and do not make the same mistakes twice if possible.
FIRST Staff: Do you have a message you want to share for students who are participating in FIRST today?
Heidi: Dream big! Also, do not compare yourself to other people. Find your own voice and your own path and enjoy the journey because that is what life is all about!
Are you a person of STEAM? Share your story with #PeopleofSTEAM on social media or send us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.