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News May 10, 2022

A Mentor Moment with Madeline Almodovar

National Science Foundation Portfolio Project Manager and Environmental Scientist Madeline Almodovar shares her career story, how she’s overcome obstacles to get where she is today, and advice for advancement in this Mentor Moment.

Jacobs Women’s Network (JWN), one of our eight Jacobs Employee Networks, is shining the spotlight on various career paths in Jacobs through the voices of talented JWN members around the globe in a new series for Jacobs.com called Mentor Moments. Originally published for the monthly “Women’s Network Wednesday” newsletter, featured members are spotlighted each month for their efforts to foster an inclusive environment and represent the strength and diversity of the network.

In this Mentor Moment for Jacobs.com, we meet National Science Foundation Portfolio Project Manager and Environmental Scientist Madeline Almodovar:

How did you start off your career?

As a military spouse, I moved from Puerto Rico to California after finishing my B.S. in Industrial Biotechnology at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez in 2005. CH2M HILL (as a subcontractor under JT3, now JT4) was the environmental management support contractor at the Air Force Flight Test Center (Edwards AFB), where I accepted a position in the air quality team. I was responsible for the air emissions inventory and Title V permitting and reporting for the entire base, as well as maintaining permitting and compliance for the flightline and corrosion control operations (affected by the Aerospace NESHAP). It was a growth experience, where I learned strict compliance with federal, state, and county regulations, as well as on-site client support for three years.

How long have you been working for Jacobs?

I have been working for Jacobs for 16 years.

Why is having a mentor so valuable and who do you look to for inspiration and mentorship?

I have had many mentors since the beginning of my career. Having a mentor means that you are humble enough to know that everyone knows something that you don’t know, it means being smart to learn from others. Most of these mentors have offered their knowledge to me voluntarily, without me asking, and I have appreciated that the most. I have also asked for mentoring which has also been valuable, even for an hour of someone’s time, you can gain a wealth of knowledge by reaching out to others you admire. I look for people that have reached the expertise I am looking for, especially leaders and innovators, regardless of their tenure in the company.

What experience would you say has shaped your leadership style the most?

Throughout my education years, I was always inclined to lead groups, such as student associations and organizations with a clear cause (mostly scientific, educational, or environmental). Once in the professional world, I have been inclined to learn and lead through networking, and knowledge sharing. I was one of the founding members of Enlace, the company’s Latino/Hispanic Employee Network, which gave me the opportunity to once again employ my leadership skills as a benefit to the organization I am part of. I enjoy creating workable systems and making good use of our talents and different skillsets and experiences.

What qualities, attributes, or skills do you believe are necessary to be an effective leader?

I believe that a leader needs to be humble, be open to their team’s input, innovative to keep making necessary changes to maintain market leadership, and supportive of their team(s).

What training, tools and/or resources do you believe were critical in preparing you for this role?

Training has been important in my technical development. My background in industrial biotechnology and business administration prepared me to look at everything with a detailed lens, but at the same time, helped me consider the overall perspective, how does the process affect the outcome, how do we optimize our time, energy, and resources to achieve a steady state for our clients, not just a one-time win. I love on-the-job training, so I took challenging assignments early in my career, while at the same time, learning about the organization by being one of the founding members of Enlace, our Hispanic/Latino employee network where I was in charge of running the day-to-day operations and establishing reliable and effective global communications. This was all at the same time as I was a military spouse, and a mom of a one-year old and a newborn. I believe we are capable of so much more than we believe we can do, so I always strive to challenge myself, we can always learn as we go.

What significant obstacle have you had to overcome as a woman in order to get to where you are today?

My most significant obstacle that I’ve had to overcome is myself and the way a young entrepreneur/leader Latina woman has been looked at in the engineering world, basically internal and external barriers. My internal barrier was basically overcoming a culture shock, coming to the mainland U.S. from Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean, to living in California, then Alabama, then Florida. On top of that, observing how the professional world was working around me, where people were in a constant struggle to stand out as an individual/expert. Later in my career, I had more flexibility to work in multidisciplinary roles, but starting out, I had to adapt to fit a specific role for the long term. Externally, I felt that being a young Latina mom, and the fact that I was a military spouse and moving every few years, even misconceptions, kept me away from opportunities that I was more than qualified for. I heard comments like “she is going to leave, she is too busy, she is not coachable (I wasn’t aware), she is too young, etc.” I had to learn to become deaf and even understand the thought behind those voices and continue doing a good job. I had the reassurance from my clients who were satisfied by my work, but inside I felt like I would have wanted to feel more appreciated by my team. Well, here I still am 16 years into my career, and I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish despite the obstacles. Over time, I learned to respect people’s perspectives and moments in time, and I’ve come to appreciate everyone for what they have to offer me, and what I can offer them. I’ve formed many meaningful and satisfying working relationships over time, and I appreciate all my experiences that have led me to where I am today.

What advice would you give other women to get ready for their next promotion or advance?

The advice I would give other women as they continue to advance in their careers is to be themselves no matter what, do not diminish yourself to fit into any box. Also, do not give up on your dreams, the universe always arranges itself if you have a clear desire in life. Everything is possible, and it is possible to be a woman in the engineering world, to have a family, kids, ambitions, hobbies and anything else in between. I wish you success!

About the interviewee

Madeline Almodovar

Jacobs’ National Science Foundation Portfolio Project Manager and Environmental Scientist Madeline Almodovar has over 16 years of experience; she is a cross-cultural, multi-lingual and interdisciplinary team manager and leader. She performs a wide range of services including environmental, health, safety and sustainability (EHS&S) auditing, compliance, data management and resilience strategies. Madeline leads integration analysis and software solution selections and implementations for EHS&S record keeping and reporting. She works with her clients to tailor air quality and other media permitting and compliance solutions.

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