When Veronica Perez Herrera learned the Society of Women Engineers(SWE) WE Local conference was going to be held in Tampa, Florida, she knew she had to be a part of it. But what she didn’t know, was in what capacity.
“I submitted my name to lead a small workshop, but they were very impressed with my abstract and asked if I was interested in being a keynote speaker,” said Perez Herrera, who graduated from Florida Polytechnic University in 2018 as part of the inaugural class, with a degree in mechanical engineering
“It took me by surprise,” she added.
Perez Herrera didn’t think twice and accepted the challenge, becoming the first Florida Poly graduate to be a keynote at a SWE conference. The opportunity would allow her to have the attention of all of the attendees for at least half an hour, and she was determined to make every minute worth.
“I wanted to inspire others with my message. Growing up I didn’t have anyone to look up to and follow as a role model,” said Perez Herrera, from Plant City, Florida. “I want students and women in general, to know that they can do it. It’s not scary, you just have to work hard.”
Perez Herrera is currently an engineer for the firm RK&K in Lakeland, Florida, where she works on roadway and drainage design projects for the Florida Department of Transportation, Polk County, and the City of Lakeland. However, she said her path to success hasn’t been easy.
“I’m a first generation college student, a minority, a woman, and come from a low income household,” said Perez Herrera, whose parents came from Mexico when she was 9. “I had a lot of challenges growing up, and going to college seemed impossible for me at the beginning.”
But Perez Herrera always remained persistent and confident in her ability to make it far. And once at Florida Poly, she began sharing that sense of courage and self-assurance with other students and potential students. She did so by helping to establish a Women in STEM club at the University, that later became a SWE collegiate section. As president of the club, her priority was to create an inclusive culture on campus that would empower and mentor female students.
She was also elected president of the Student Government Association for two terms. It was another opportunity to develop her leadership and mentoring skills, which she continues using now that she’s a rising professional.
“I think I have an instinct for helping others. I just want to inspire the new generation of females in STEM.”
Assistant Director of Communications