Jose Luis Jacobo Jr. – Boeing
Growing up in a low-income neighborhood in East Los Angeles, Jose Luis Jacobo Jr. remembers struggling with English in school (Spanish being his first language). Surprisingly, his next fluency would come in mathematics, numbers being a “universal language”—and one he easily understood.
Nurtured by a supportive family and network of mentors, his abilities in science, technology, engineering and math proved to be his pass to higher education and helped him earn undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from UC Irvine and UCLA, respectively. Internships at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Michigan, and subsequent opportunities around the country, followed.
But one job offer stood apart from all the others: a position at Boeing in Southern California. Joining the aerospace and defense manufacturer in 2015, enabled him to stay connected to his close-knit family—mother Rosalina Martinez, father Jose Jacobo and sister Ana Gabriela Jacobo. An added perk would be traveling around the world—32 countries, so far.
“The aerospace industry was a good direction to go in and helped me evolve as a person,” Jacobo says. “Experiencing such diversity at the company and working with our customers globally, shaped my overall perspective. It made me realize we are all part of the human race and are solving life’s problems together.”
To be able to solve such technical problems, Jacobo says wherever he went he soaked up STEM knowledge like a sponge, learning about everything from powertrain engineering and environmental processes to mechanical engineering with a special interest in combustion.
Representing Boeing, his travels include Sweden, Russia, South Korea, Egypt and, most recently, Ethiopia—typically working with airlines in each country. In these exotic, far-off ports-of-call Boeing supports major repairs on-site as well as retrofits, evaluations of operating and pressure loads, and even design modifications on airplanes. Jacobo is certified as both a structural analyst and structural services engineer, bouncing back and forth to support whatever is needed for Boeing’s clients.
“We have a good relationship with multiple airlines and continue to address the needs of the industry through continual open communication. It’s not just about improving things; we can evaluate anything and make recommendations to make things even better,” he says.
Standing out in the crowd
It’s that attention to detail and delivery of services that got Jacobo noticed by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at its 2019 National Convention in Phoenix. At its STAR Awards Gala in October, he earned the prestigious national Promising Engineer Award, with his family in attendance.
It was a proud moment, says Jacobo, who remembers his father—a security guard—working two jobs so his son would have time to do his homework to get ahead, and his mother working as a photographer.
“I saw the sacrifices my parents made for me, working countless hours, to put me in a position of opportunity. It drove me to excel so their sacrifices would not be in vain,” he says.
His family’s commitment to excellence and education is in alignment with SHPE. Founded in 1974, the 13,000-member organization raises awareness, provides access, and prepares Hispanic students and professionals to become leaders in the STEM field.
“Our mission is to empower Hispanics in STEM, and that includes the next generation of Hispanic engineers—people like Jose,” says Raquel Tamez, SHPE’s CEO. “There’s a reason we decided to honor Jose, and it’s because he embodies everything SHPE is about: dedication, determination, resiliency. He’s going to do great things, and we’re proud to have him in the SHPE Familia.”
Jacobo is particularly indebted to the organization. He says he never met a Hispanic engineer until he was in college. Now he sees a role for himself to mentor by sharing his experiences in support of other Latinos in his field.
“SHPE provided me with a window of opportunity. Sometimes it was hard to see myself in an engineering position because I never saw anyone who looked like me doing the job, but they helped me visualize a future for myself,” he says.
SHPE also taught him soft skills such as communication, time management and assertiveness.
“We need to continue the pipeline to support minorities excelling in engineering as a whole,” notes Jacobo, now a lifetime SHPE member. “A lot of people thrive in these positions, and perhaps seeing my story will resonate with others and they can see an engineering career is possible. I want to be a part of that progression.”
If Jacobo has a pearl of wisdom to share, it is that persistence and determination are key to a successful professional journey.
“A goal set is a goal met,” he says. “Discipline is crucial.”
But even more important is to identify one’s passion in life; that is the energizing ingredient that helps to weather the days of struggle that are invariably part of the process, he adds.
“That’s where having a positive attitude comes in,” Jacobo explains. “A big realization for me was that you can give 100 percent effort and there will always be room for improvement. I’ve learned from my failures—I just apply my new knowledge to future opportunities and continue to keep an open mind. Learning never stops. If you can recognize challenges and still picture yourself in a position you want by looking forward, you can continue to thrive.”
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