Interview with Maria Ceja

By Awanto Margaret - December 19, 2018

With over 13 years of Industry experience in technology, Maria Ceja, talks about how to handle the constant changing pace in the tech industry and how to juggle being an engineer and a mother of two.

Maria moved to Washington State from Mexico at age 2. She obtained her Undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in Seattle and was awarded a GEM Fellowship to study in UCLA, where she obtained a Master’s degree in Material Science. Currently, she works at Intel on Product Compliance of Intel Products where she ensures compliance with company policies related to RoHS, REACH, CE, and other regulatory requirements regarding materials and product declarations.

What’s it like to be a minority in tech?
So this is a really difficult question for me because from the age of two when I moved to the U.S, I grew up with other minorities throughout grade school including my college years. So when people ask me what it's like to be a minority, I guess I have never thought about it in that way because I always had something like a little crew; I never felt really left out. But then later, when I got my first full-time job at Intel, I learned that I don’t know everything. I work for a tech company but I am not a very tech-savvy person, so the way I learn and develop my technical skills is by collaborating with others who work with me and have different ideas.  I love that I get to learn a lot, I get to see things from different perspectives, and it’s allowed me to grow my technical knowledge.  But above all, I have learnt to stay humble.  I don’t know everything and collaborating on projects with other gives me the satisfaction to learn and to help others.  I don’t think of myself as a minority but rather of the great things we can accomplish if we work in a diverse team.

What advice will you give to someone just starting out in the Tech Industry?
Like other tech companies, there is a lot of change at Intel. Sometimes, it might mean your role gets redefined, or maybe a new manager, new peers, or a change in career. There are so many moving parts that when you think change has stopped, it only means something is about to change. So my advice to people starting out in the tech Industry is Be Ready for Change! Use it as an advantage and do not think of it as a negative thing, but as an opportunity to learn something new. An opportunity to re-invent yourself and increase your technical breadth. 

How do you survive in a rapidly changing environment like the Tech Industry?
I started my Intel career in October it's been many years working in the Tech Industry. One thing I notice to be common among the minority community is asking the difficult questions. We are afraid to ask about our job performance, ask how we can get promoted to the next grade level, ask If we can get moved to a different role that brings out the best in us.  Another piece of advice is to keep up with the trends and “read the tea leaves”.  What are the signs of what will happen in the future? Pay attention to what the experts in your fields are saying, to the rumors at work because in my experience, when a shift or change happens the buzz was already taking place. And how do you survive? By embracing change, adapting, and constantly learning.

How do you juggle being a mom and having a full-time job? 
*Laughs* we all want a better work-life balance and that means something different to everyone.  To me, work-life integration means my family and social life is not interrupted by my job.  What I do is I can disconnect from my job at the end of the day and focus my attention on my family.  My husband 
who doesn’t work for a tech company understands the challenges of my job and has always been supportive. He helps get the children ready for school in the mornings, he offer to pick-up the kids, and will often prepare the meals for the entire family.  We split the tasks to get things done. I always remind myself to slow down and enjoy the moment.

Parting words
For starters know that your priorities will change. Different phases of your life will have different priorities. When I started my career at Intel, my priority was my job. I was dedicated 100%, working long hours, taking my work home, working on my weekends.  And that came with promotion and recognition, my hard work spoke for itself.  Today, I think I have chosen a career that is accommodatory of my growing family and the needs of my children.  I want to do my best at work and also give my family the attention and love they deserve. That is part of life... That in itself is CHANGE!

It was super exciting being able to meet and talk to Maria in person. She is my first in-person interview. I hope you enjoyed the conversation and can learn a thing or two from her experience. As usual, please leave a comment if you have any more questions. 

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