Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon is President and CEO of NMITE (New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering). A Mexican national and mechanical engineering graduate, Elena was formerly at Sheffield University as their inaugural Director of Women in Engineering, setting up the whole agenda for the organisation, including leading the creation of the first Women in Engineering student society in the UK which won the best Engineering Society of the Year back in 2018.  Earlier this year Elena was named the overall Woman of the Year at the 10th annual 2020 FCM everywoman in Technology Awards.

A little note from Elena Rodriguez-Falcon

When you are born an only child, in a country like Mexico, into a family where opportunities to be educated and to succeed were limited, having parents who encouraged me to dream, to imagine a better future and to achieve was the greatest gift in life……

My childhood was not an unhappy one, but it was more about focusing on learning than playing; on developing skills to be resilient, independent, forward-looking and, to a degree, ambitious. 

As I grew up, I put those skills into practice and decided to study engineering. A degree, I thought, that would give me the ability to have a better life than my parents had been able to have. More importantly, a discipline that would allow me to change lives and a career that was considered ‘not for women’.  I wanted to prove this theory wrong.

Engineering opened many doors for me. In the first instance, I was able to work in the industry, doing jobs that women had not done before in Mexico, I then went on to travel the world and settle in the UK, where engineering again allowed me to find my true vocation; education. 

Succeeding in a ‘man’s world’ is always a challenge and to BEYOUROWN woman and stay true to yourself requires application of the lessons that you have gathered through your life. Some which have served me particularly well, including having the confidence to make mistakes, to experiment, to try new things and to learn from successes, however small, but more importantly, to learn from what has gone wrong and avoid making those same mistakes again.

Being an educator in engineering has been the highlight of my career. It has given me the amazing opportunity to work with aspiring engineers to bring about change, particularly for vulnerable people, something I dreamt about since I was a child. 

Now, as I am leading the creation of an aspiring new Higher Education Institution, I realise that every skill I have developed; every mistake I have made; every mentor I have had; every student I have learnt with and, every challenge I have encountered, have made me my own woman.

But the journey is far from over and whilst the direction of travel is still as I imagined it to be many years ago, if life-lessons serve me right, I suspect that next time I write to you I will be telling you that I have never stopped learning and that I never will.

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