This is a part of a series of profiles for Engineers Week, Feb.16-22, 2020.
The days of being the unicorn in the room are over for Dania Colón. That’s how she felt in the early years of her career as an electrical engineer, and before that her time studying to become one as well.
Female electrical engineers were still a rarity in 1990s, drawing double-takes and doubts from male counterparts, Colón recalls. But that was then and this is now, when a particular gender is no longer added before engineer. Colón is just another math- and problem-solving-loving engineer.
“It’s equal,” says Colón, who joined OUC in June 2019 as Manager of Standards and Compliance, a regulatory oversight role. “You don’t see the sexism anymore. You’re seen as a peer now. There is a lot of respect and a lot of good smart professional women out there. You see more and more. It’s changing.”
Colón was drawn to engineering when a graduate of the all-girls high school she attended in Puerto Rico visited her class and encouraged students to think about becoming engineers. “‘There are not that many women in this career path,’ ” she says the alumna told the class. “‘They need more women.’ ”
“I’ve always been good at math,” says Colón. “I love math.”
But we’re not talking checkbook-balancing math. She enjoyed figuring out complex algebraic equations.
Solving problems, making something — a process or function, perhaps ― run better and more efficiently . . . that’s what engineers do with their analytical and logical minds.
Working at the government-owned electric utility in Puerto Rico in the early ’90s, Colón earned her engineering stripes – and the respect of her male colleagues – when she automated a form used by field technicians, eliminating the paper and carbon system they had used. That breakthrough led to other improvements she made using nascent computer technology.
Later, after her career path took her to Florida, she segued into the world of compliance and regulations, including the federal rules all electric utilities must abide by. To say there is a lot of technical language involved would be an understatement, but Colón says her electrical engineering background comes in handy as she keeps tabs on regulations that impact the electric industry.
Colón is part of a six-member team at OUC that seeks to ensure all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed when it comes to complying with the North American Electric Reliability Corp. Standards. In short, NERC regulates, enforces, monitors and manages the physical and logical security of systems managing the electrical power of grids.
“There is a lot of management involved,” she says. “You have to be able to work with a number of different departments to get them all on the same page. I really enjoy that.”