May 14, 2021
A Search for Adventure Brings Engineer Cynthia Matos-Montañez Full Circle
Cynthia Matos-Montañez, Thermo King Engineer in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, doesn't need to go far to hike and enjoy the views of Pico Rodadero in Yauco, Puerto Rico.
Like most teenagers, Cynthia Matos-Montañez was ready to spread her wings after graduating from high school. She just decided to fly a little further, leaving Caguas, her hometown in Puerto Rico, to attend Penn State in University Park, Pennsylvania in 1994.
“I felt adventurous and wanted to try new things,” said Cynthia. “I was excited to meet people from all over the states and world, learn new cultures, and experience ‘firsts’ like living in dorms, expanding my English, and becoming independent.”
Fast-forward 26 years and Cynthia has found her way back home to the island that helped shape her into the confident person she is today, and now nourishes her adventurous spirit with a challenging engineering career at Thermo King's Arecibo, Puerto Rico location and amazing outdoor activities that feature the rain forest and beaches as a backdrop.
What inspired you to leave the island and pursue a chemical engineering degree at Penn State?
My mom grew up in Manhattan and moved back to Puerto Rico in her early 20s. Her experience inspired me to chase my dreams – I wanted to be a pioneer, see new places and meet new people. I chose Penn State because I knew from a young age that I wanted to go into engineering. Math and science were always my favorite subjects, and my high school was a big proponent of STEM. I was hooked.
Any barriers or challenges that you had to overcome at the University?
No doubt, it was a struggle at first. While I knew English from studying on the island, it was not the same. It took some practice and time for me to stop worrying about my words or how I sounded. Self-doubts would creep in, and I had to work hard for my degree through the language barriers and different culture – but I stuck with it and never wavered from my decision to choose engineering.
How did you end up in the Quality engineering side of the profession?
It was really be accident with my first job offer after college being in Quality, but I learned quickly that it was a good fit. I started in the continuous improvement/Lean side of things and have loved it ever since. Throughout my 22 years as an engineer, I’ve been able to manage teams, work in testing and reliability, study quality data, prepare contract manufacturers for new projects, conduct quality audits and more. I love to travel, and my work has taken me all over the world to meet with various team members, suppliers, and companies – it’s much easier to support processes that you can see in-person.
What enticed you about working for our company?
Two things – my desire to continue learning new things and the company’s commitment to diversity, parity, and sustainability. My first jobs kept me on the Eastern side of the U.S. and when I saw an opportunity to join Trane at its Pueblo plant in 2018 as a senior quality engineer, I had to go for it – to learn HVAC, explore beautiful Colorado and open additional opportunities within the larger organizational structure of Trane Technologies.
Did you think those additional opportunities would ever lead you back to Arecibo?
It was not my plan initially, but it sure worked out great. When the position opened at Thermo King Arecibo, the timing was right, and I was excited to get back to the island and learn the transport side of the business. While some things have changed in Puerto Rico during the past 25+ years, many things remain the same – most importantly the welcoming culture and beautiful landscape.
Thermo King offers a great employment opportunity here and my role as Quality Assurance Engineer manager is quite unique as my team and I touch many aspects of various projects. We ensure that specific parts are vetted, validated, and pass all quality controls – from suppliers who are located all over the world, to installation in our units. I also enjoy working with people across all departments, functions and levels – from line operators to management. It’s very team- and detail-oriented, as well as dynamic; we work together to problem-solve. Mostly, it is very rewarding as our goal is to provide the best quality product to our customers.
What advice would you give young women today who are exploring a career in Engineering?
First, don’t be afraid to try new things – even if different from your family or friends. Seek opportunities in high school that are engineering-related like STEM or extracurriculars. Ask questions and trust your instincts. Also, remember that while good grades are important, they are not the only factor in reaching your dreams. Don’t assume you won’t qualify for a college or job – or anything! Women, and even more so, minority women, tend to think they are not qualified or are afraid to put themselves out there because rejection is taken to heart. I say go for it! Let your uniqueness shine and advocate for yourself.
Women, and even more so, minority women, tend to think they are not qualified or are afraid to put themselves out there because rejection is taken to heart. I say go for it! Let your uniqueness shine and advocate for yourself.
A mentor is also very important. While school gives you the foundation on how to think and solve problems, a mentor can help guide you in exploring career options and answering questions. This is very helpful for undergraduates and throughout your career.
What advice would you give your younger self?
All of the above! I think if more of us women change our inner voices, we will keep growing our numbers in the engineering field AND the number of women in leadership roles.
What is your favorite part of being in Arecibo?
There are many. I love the warm, inviting people and culture, and of course, the weather! I am an outdoor person, so I spend my weekends camping in the rain forest, kayaking, enjoying the beaches, and hiking – being outside helps me recharge.
Interested in joining our team? Find all of our current job opportunities and apply on our careers page.
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