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Career Quick Look
Salary: $50,840* Education:
Years in Field: 21 2-year certificate in Electronic Technologies; two-year certificate in Machine Tool Technology
City/State: Albuquerque, NM View Victoria Maestas's Resume

"Some of these guys will put up a front. They might seem like they know it already - but they know as much as you do," Victoria says. As women, she says "we need to learn to show our confidence!"

"Every time I got laid off," Victoria says, "I came back to the Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute and I kept up with the latest technologies. So when things turned around the employers would notice, and it really paid off."

Getting Started: Victoria graduated high school in Albuquerque, and as a young wife and mother she wanted to find work that would help support her family. "I knew I needed to do something, and bring in some money," she says. Her uncle was studying electronics, and she knew it required solid math skills.

"In high school I had a lot of math," she says, "so I figured I could probably do it. Then once I got into the program itself, I started really enjoying it." She completed the Electronic Technologies program in two years, and started her first job in 1980.

Education: After high school, Victoria entered the Electronic Technologies program at the Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute - known as TVI - and received her certificate in two years. (These days, she works as a technician and instructor at TVI, which now offers an Associate of Applied Science degree). She'd taken math to Algebra, and having this math background was helpful in getting started. Once they got into the practical, hands-on exploration of how electronics works, she was hooked. "That's when I really knew I would like it," she says.

Victoria believes a continuing education is always helpful in any technical field. In 1989 she went back and earned a machining certificate, which proved valuable when the electronics industry was experiencing a mid-1980s slump. "Especially if you get laid off," she says. "It's always good to go back to school."

Greatest Professional Achievement: "I think my greatest achievement is working here at TVI," Victoria says. "Students know who I am, they can ask me questions, and I can give them the benefit of my experience." She is especially proud of her work in helping to establish the Women in Technologies group at the school this year. They hold monthly meetings, host speakers from various professional organizations, and offer a chance for students to discuss their own questions and challenges. "It's turned out great," Victoria says. "And it's a good feeling, being able to tell female students what to expect and how they can make their careers better."

Barriers: The electronics industry has gone through many changes during Victoria's tenure, and she's been laid off more than once, during times of recession. Her solution was to try and stay adaptable, and learn new skills whenever possible. During one lay-off she earned her machining certificate and worked as an apprentice in a machine shop for two years, before becoming an inspector.

"Every time I got laid off," she says, "I came back to TVI and I kept up with the latest technologies. So when things turned around the employers would notice, and it really paid off."

Working with Men:
"I've never really had much of a problem working with men," Victoria says. "If anything, I think I put pressure on myself to exceed expectations. And sometimes that's made things stressful."

Advice for Women:
"Believe you can do it and you will do it," Victoria says. "Bosses look to the people who have more confidence - they want someone who says 'I can do it.'" Along with confidence, a commitment to learning and performing the best job you can is important. "Work very hard, be focused, and you'll be equal with the men," she says.

Not only are women involved on more advanced projects these days, Victoria says the work atmosphere has changed dramatically from when she started - when it was still common to see posters of women hung on a shop wall. "It is a lot better," she says. "Now we don't have to put up with that." Still, she emphasizes the importance of standing up for yourself and communicating if something makes you uncomfortable. "They need to know that," she says. "Let them know where you stand right away."

Typical Workday/Environment:
In her position as an electronics technician at TVI, Victoria sets up the students' electronics labs and provides the hands on portion of the classes. She shows students how to read schematics and how to follow electronic signals through a particular system or piece of equipment. "I train the students in how to use oscilloscopes, volt meters, generators and other types of equipment used for troubleshooting," she says. "I'm the one that puts 'problems' in the oscilloscope, so the students can come in and learn to troubleshoot."

"I like helping students," she says. "I know so much more now than I did at 20, and it's great to be able to pass that along."

Career Ladder: "You start off as a technician, working with the equipment," Victoria explains, helping set up in a laboratory or industrial setting. Depending on your interests, you can go back to school for engineering, and learn to design electronic equipment. Or, she says, "you could work your way up to being a supervisor - where you're in charge of a room full of technicians." In this role, she says, you would be coordinating the workflow of the other technicians; ordering equipment and helping them get set up. Salaries for an electronics technician who has been through an associate's program start around $18-20/hour and can run as high as $50,000 a year in a specialized field like semi-conductors. Most jobs include benefits and possible overtime for things like working a split shift.

She also recommends teaching, as a great way to share your expertise and experience. "It feels so good and gratifying," Victoria says.

Professional Associations: Victoria is a member of the Women in Technologies group at TVI and the Technologies Union Representative for the Instructional Technicians.

Hobbies: When she's not working, Victoria says she loves to read. "Stephen King is my favorite," she says. "I like scary movies and I like scary books!" She's also an outdoor enthusiast, and enjoys camping and spending time in New Mexico's beautiful countryside with her family - her husband of 23 years, two daughters and three grandsons. "We do a lot of things together," she says. "I'm so grateful for them."

*Annual salary number is not the role model's actual salary. Salary for Electronic Technician based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition


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