September 15 kicks off SAME’s month-long celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15. We are proud to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of Hispanic Americans in the military and the A/E/C industry. Throughout the month, we will be presenting stories and profiles of our members and sharing their many achievements.
Read on to hear from SAME members about what their career journeys have been like, the professional accomplishments they are the most proud of, and advice they would share with other members of the profession. Over on our social media, we’ll be collecting these stories and more! Plus, we will have video presentations from members who will offer their perspectives on the future what it means to be a Hispanic American in their industry. Also throughout the month, SAME will share Fun Facts, tidbits and an historical look back from the pages of TME. Follow along with our hashtags to not miss out on any of the fun!
We are honored to have Mercedes Enrique, F.SAME, launch SAME’s Hispanic Heritage Month with a short introductory video. Mercedes left Venezuela to pursue her engineering degree, and later her MBA. Today, Mercedes is the President of CMS Corporation and a proud SAME Fellow. Watch the video below!
Mercedes Enrique, F.SAME
President, CMS Corporation
Mercedes grew up in a STEM-inspired home as the daughter of a pharmacist and a lawyer in Venezuela. Her mother, a pharmacist and entrepreneur, was her earliest role model. Choosing engineering for her college major was an easy decision because of her natural inclination and comfort with STEM subjects. Mercedes has benefitted from strong women role models throughout her career, including influential mentors such as a supervisor while working at an engineering consulting firm, who encouraged her to pursue her MBA. The decision to pursue an MBA changed Mercedes’ career path and led to her biggest professional accomplishment: growing CMS Corporation into a thriving federal construction firm. During this time, she points to her brother, Ernest Enrique, as her greatest role model. Ernest ultimately joined the firm, and now the two work side-by-side as CEO (Ernest) and President (Mercedes). Mercedes credits SAME for the ability to formally mentor other women in the A/E/C industry and is pleased to have played a part in Brandi Smith’s (LDP participant) story.
Yvonne Rivera, P.E., PMP
Project Manager, DEC
Yvonne graduated with a civil engineering degree in 2008 and has since worked in the water and wastewater sector, providing design and construction consulting services to public and private clients in the Houston area. In addition to a rewarding career, she has enjoyed lifting up the next generation through organizations such as SAME, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Family Houston, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Yvonne was the SAME Houston-Galveston Post Young Engineer of the Year in 2015 and is proud to have been the Post President in 2019. She recently received Civil + Structural Engineer Magazine’s Rising Star Award. “Keep an open mind when solving problems, find a mentor who cares about your success, and lift up those who are following your footsteps.”
Gerald Morris, PMP, LEED AP, CCM, F.SAME
Federal Program Manager, Michael Baker International
Gerald served in the Navy, Army, and Florida National Guard prior to becoming the Federal Program Manager at Michael Baker International. Gerald’s career path began while he was out of work in 2004, when he began working with an 8a Contractor who was recruiting local workers to support Operation Blue Roof following the devastation of Hurricane Ivan. Gerald likens his journey to a roller coaster, but, he adds, “with every twist and turn, I came out stronger and in a better situation.” Each company and position had lasting effects on his professional trajectory. “Twenty years ago,” he says, “this career path was not even on the radar, but God put me in the right places at the right times.” His advice to those in the profession, or thinking of entering it, is to always listen and continue to learn–continue to grow every day and give back by encouraging and mentoring others in order to grow our industry and community.
Reniere “Ed” Majano, Ph.D., P.E.
Branch Leader / Senior Vice President, Schnabel Engineering
Although Ed came from a family of health professionals, he wanted to be an engineer since he was in sixth grade. His professional journey has taken him all over the world, including working in post-war zones as a USACE resident engineer. His career began as a junior staff engineer, doing anything necessary to meet a deadline. After earning an M.S. in Environmental Engineering, and later, a Ph.D. in Civil-Geotechnical Engineering, Ed worked with different companies, and although the organizations’ cultures were slightly different, the objective was still the same: to protect the public welfare through professional engineering. His impressive career is marked with many milestones, including being awarded medals for meritorious civilian services in Iraq and Afghanistan from the Secretary of Defense, Department of the Army, and NATO; and receiving a Certificate of Recognition for Exemplary Engineering services from the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia. His advice to future and current engineers is to stay curious, stay well informed of new technology, improve your communications skills, and strive to understand the business of engineering.
Chief Strategy Officer, Prairie Band, LLC
Guided by his passion for making a positive impact on his community, Mario worked as a teacher early in his career. That same drive to make a difference eventually led him into the non-profit world where he served as an executive for Junior Achievement. Later, Mario became a partner in a marketing and communications firm, which sharpened his talent to convey ideas and strategies across diverse audiences. The recession caused Mario and his brother to pivot the direction of the firm into the world of government contracting and the A/E/C industry. Despite the difficult economic times, the company thrived. Mario is very proud of working with his brother to build a successful company that created jobs and opportunities for his community. Mario advises newcomers to the industry to be adaptable, embrace change, create strong networks, and no matter how experienced you are, never stop learning.
Ray Ramos, P.E.
Tired of corporate life, Ray started his own firm, Raymond, in 1992. In the beginning, his intent was to keep the firm small, but now, as CEO 31 years later, Raymond has 9 offices and nearly 100 employees. Ray attributes his success to understanding that failure, if put in the proper perspective, is the best of lessons. While he sees failure as an inevitable result of pushing the boundaries of knowledge, understanding that failure can be a valuable lesson. Ray urges his colleagues and rising engineers to be prepared for change, noting that what you learned in college is obsolete within five years. Keeping up to date with the rapidly changing A/E/C industries can be difficult. “Learn how to get out of your ‘box,’” Ray adds, “either work at growing your career and life, or you will wake up one day and wonder why life has passed you by.”
Rene Cortez, P.E., P.G.
Client Account Manager, Jacobs
Rene entered the A/E/C industry as an engineer and geologist employed by a Hispanic-owned small business in 1998. Twenty six years later, Rene is proud of his rewarding career that has presented him with fulfilling opportunities to support the warfighter, guide his professional growth, and introduced him to SAME. Accepting roles of increasing responsibility over the span of his career, Rene has stepped into pivotal roles with industry leading firms, where his influence was felt on four continents and over 20 installations. Rene considers it a privilege to be an integral part of their military programs, but he notes that he is most proud of the opportunity to mentor talent and lead diverse and devoted teams of professionals in support of complex warfighter missions worldwide. Rene notes that SAME and its members have remained a constant positive influence and support system. “Give more than you receive. It takes the whole team. Listen closely to mentors and teammates. Learning is a never-ending process,” Cortez advises up and coming professionals. “Own the errors, learn the lesson. Stay hungry for knowledge.”
National Buildings Solutions Leader, MBP
Carlos is a LEED accredited architect and is passionate about the reuse and revitalization of existing buildings and sustainable design practices. Carlos trained as an architect in Mexico and in the U.S. and began his full-time architectural career in 1997. Early in his journey, Carlos notes one of his proudest accomplishments working for The Trust for the Conservation of Historic Downtown, in Mexico City. As an architectural intern, Carlos was responsible for historic research, survey, and cataloging of 3,000 buildings. The Trust functioned as an intermediary between the Mexican government and the private sector and sought to provide renovation and construction analysis to investors to preserve and maintain the structures for years to come. Later, his talents would be called on again to help preserve another historic city. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans, causing $125 billion in damages. Carlos became the Historic Preservation Liaison for the city, where he developed strategies to repair and preserve the unique historical character of this landmark city.
Rear Adm. Benjamin Montoya, USN (Ret.)
Rear Adm. Montoya was a distinguished naval officer and engineer who not only made significant contributions to the United States Navy and the engineering profession, he was also an influential role model for Hispanic Americans and a trailblazer for diversity in the military.
Appointed to the Naval Academy in 1958, he was later commissioned as an ensign in the Civil Engineer Corps, which helped launch his distinguished and storied 30-year long career. He served two tours in Vietnam supervising Seabees in missions including building the key base in Da Nang and, later, the construction of the Marine base at Chu Lai. His Naval engineering career sent him to posts around the world and across the United States. The culmination of his experience reached its highest point in 1987 when he was appointed Commanding Officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), responsible for the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of all Navy facilities worldwide, the first Hispanic to serve as NAVFAC commander. He held this position until 1989, eventually reaching the rank of Rear Admiral. Even after his retirement in 1989, he continued to add to his impressive legacy. He served on the NASA Advisory Council, the Naval Academy Board of Visitors, and was a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
Rear Adm. Montoya was a proud and influential advocate for the engineering profession. He co-founded the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards (HENAAC), and as a member of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) he served as its first Hispanic president from 1985 to 1986. While at SAME he was instrumental in establishing the SAME Foundation. His work with SAME, and his influence as a mentor, played a critical role in increasing the visibility and participation of Hispanic engineers in the profession and leaves a lasting and enduring legacy of diversity and inclusion throughout the engineering community.
Spotlight on Our Members
SAME’s multidisciplined membership spans the uniformed government, government civilian, private industry, academia, nonprofit, and student sectors. Through our uniquely joint environment, Society members collaborate and drive solutions for some of the toughest engineering challenges facing the A/E/C industry and our national security. Learn more about the benefits of SAME membership.
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