Growing up as the oldest daughter in a Mexican American household it was my traditional duty to help manage the household and there was never much time for me to indulge in the things I wanted to do; leaving for college gave me the opportunity to do so. There is no guidebook on how to be a first-generation student, or how to navigate a new city you just moved to by yourself but I quickly got to work trying to figure it out. I knew I needed to find individuals I could relate to if I was going to survive and my engineering program. Luckily, I found that sense of community I was looking for in a Hispanic engineering organization whose objectives were to create community and to give back to it through selfless service. It was in this organization that I developed my passion for helping others and learned how I could use my education as an engineer to better the community around me.
Upon graduating from Texas A&M with my degree in Engineering Technology I realized I had a big choice to make; join corporate American like the remainder of my classmates or commit to career of helping others. Considering the platform, you are reading this on, I’m sure it’s easy to guess which path I chose.
I started my career with a San Antonio area non-profit as a STEM Program and Curriculum Coordinator, where I worked on the frontlines of informal education both creating curriculum and teaching it. It was in this position, specifically in teaching in our free after school program, that a heart for service brought a whole new meaning to my life: Becoming the role model I never had.
* Side Note: Without going too much into demographic statistics, Latinas make up less than 2% of individuals with engineering degrees. Therefore, paving a way (even one as unconventional as mine) for the generation that follows became and continues to be of extremely high importance to me.
Up until this point in my life I did not see myself as a creative I was strictly a left-brain thinker. However, as I created and taught different curriculum to build a stronger curiosity for STEM in my students, I realized that in fact to be an educator in any capacity, creativity was a requirement.
A Change in Career
After some time, I felt I had reached my potential in my position, and I went on to seek a new journey that would allow me to utilize my newfound creativity in tandem with my technical engineering skills. This journey led me to becoming an Interactive Exhibit Designer and Fabricator. From building out the intricate details of complex interactives to rendering out entire museum galleries, I began to embrace my role in the world of using my skill set and passion to better the lives of those around me in an indirect way. It was in this role that I truly developed a passion for design.
As time went on and I familiarized myself more with the museum industry, I became conflicted. On one hand I loved designing these larger-than-life spaces that sparked creativity and happiness in its guests, but on the other I knew the population I was serving in this position was not as in need of resources as the demographic I had previously served. I felt limited in the impact I was making in the world and wanted a larger canvas that was more accessible to those with fewer resources. However, I was hesitant to leave my field. I was great at my job, it constantly challenged me, and on top of that who would want to hire an engineer with such a strange skillset and work history, I didn’t see corporate America latching onto an engineer/activist/educator/creator or whatever I was. It was because of this internal conflict that the economic shut-down that followed COVID-19 became my blessing in disguise. Museums across the nation were struggling to stay afloat and consequently many people in my industry were indefinitely furloughed, including myself.
At first, I was terrified, I had no idea what industry I would fall into next, I just knew that interactive exhibit design would not be an option for some time. After coming to terms with the end of that career I was able to start searching for what was next, I wasn’t quite sure what that was, but I knew I would recognize it when I saw it.
Unemployment was an interesting time in my life, had never thought I would be in that position, but I decided to embrace the opportunity to take my time finding a job that was right for me. I knew I could do anything I set my mind to, all I needed was the opportunity, the platform, and coworkers who cared about the future of this world as much as I did. As I hunted for jobs, I made sure to carefully read mission and value statements, and if they didn’t align with the future I wanted for myself I kept on scrolling. I read over a hundred mission statements, and not one got me as excited as this one: “T. Donovan Creative is design firm that supports non-profits…”. I knew this was a mission for me, I was sold on T.DC and was overjoyed … for all about 30 seconds. As I continued to read through the job description for the Design Team Lead, I realized I was very much underqualified and quite frankly in a completely different career field, my background was in engineering, not interior design. My heart sank a bit, but hope arose when I read the final line of the job description “Note to our applicants: If you believe you are a good candidate for this position despite missing some of these skills or experience, please apply and include a cover letter explaining your perspective so that we can fully evaluate your candidacy.” I wouldn’t have described myself as missing “some” of these skills, more like missing most of these skills, but the stars felt aligned, and I knew I wanted this opportunity. I had no idea what a commercial interior designer did, but I knew I would work my butt off to figure it out and master it.
* Side Note: I would like to mention that while writing this blog post I pulled up my old Indeed account to find my original application and initial emails with my now team and it is making me very emotional, seeing both mine and the company’s growth in the last year is very humbling.
T. Donovan Creative: Serving those who serve the world
Long story short, our fearless leader, Heather Plank, saw the same potential in me that I saw in myself and took a chance on an “engineer/activist/educator/creator or whatever I was” to join into her firm as a Junior Interior Designer.
In the year and 3 months since I have joined the team, we have grown our team, brought in interns, rebranded the company, created and implemented a new project management system for our unique business model, and so much more. Every member of our team is aligned on growing and strengthening our business and the businesses of the non-profits we service. I have grown into even more of a multi-skilled individual and just an all-around problem solver. Being so entrenched into the process of running a startup business, troubleshooting workflow systems, and managing client project budgets has trained me to have a head for business.
My journey and a peak into what I do at T.DC are owed their own individual blog, but for now know that I have been able to utilize and grow every one of my skill sets in this position, have made an impact in numerous communities with my design work, and have found balance and happiness between my work and professional life.
I can happily say that I have found and helped build a company who shares my same core values:
A Head for Business
A Heart for Service
A Passion for Design