Polytechnic is Communicating

Engineering student Nicole Quintero wants to defy the stereotypes that society has about engineers. 

First, she is a woman.
Second, she was a theater geek in high school.
And third, she seeks out opportunities to talk to new people.

Quintero is studying industrial engineering, which involves understanding engineering processes and helping employees and equipment operate more efficiently. In her four years at Cal Poly Pomona, she has secured multiple internships, including one at Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center. Last summer, she was at a Nestle factory in Bloomington, Illinois, and this summer, she’ll be with PepsiCo in California.

From her first internship, Quintero decided that she wanted to become a manager and lead engineering teams. To do that, she realized that she needed to learn to communicate effectively.

“It wasn’t until my first internship that I got a feel of what I wanted to do. I was inspired to be a manager who would be there for the people, for the team. I knew that I could be someone who could listen to others and interact with them,” says Quintero.

“Cal Poly Pomona definitely helps you out with that, especially in classes when you have to team up. A lot of the time, I like taking on the role of the leader. It’s learning about how to interact with people and how to get your point across because everyone is different.”

To gain more opportunities to interact with people, she became an Outreach Ambassador — they’re the students who visit high schools to talk about the university in addition to giving campus tours to prospective Broncos. Two years later, Quintero took a lead position to train new Outreach Ambassadors.

Quintero says she proudly represents the 25,000 Cal Poly Pomona students on school visits and is excited to be part of someone’s college decision-making process. 

“I never visited any colleges in high school, which is one of the things that I regret,” she says. “One way I can give back to people is by providing helpful tips I wish someone would’ve given me when I was their age.”

Communications skills — or what corporate recruiters call “soft skills” — have been key to Quintero’s success.

When she was a freshman, Quintero initiated a conversation during a Society of Women Engineers meeting on campus with the guest speaker, who was representing INROADS, an international organization committed to preparing minority youth for corporate and community leadership.

“I just approached her because I was curious about getting to know her, and I wanted to learn more about the organization,” Quintero says. “After our conversation, she told me, ‘Apply and I will help you find an internship for the summer.’”

The following summer, she was interning at Kaiser’s warehouse supply chain in the South Bay.

This past fall, Quintero stopped by the Career Fair in the University Quad and talked with a handful of recruiters. The next day, she was called in for a follow-up interview on campus. The day after her interview, she was offered a full-time, four-month co-op position with Bimbo Bakeries, which owns major brands such as Sara Lee, Oroweat and Ball Park. Quintero wasn’t sure about putting her studies on hold and leaving her family for two quarters, but the recruiter convinced her to take the chance.

For the first five months of 2018, Quintero has been living in Portland and working at Bimbo. Her job includes working alongside the bakery’s production supervisor and conducting time studies on the employees and machinery. The company also sent her to Philadelphia for two weeks of leadership training.

“I consider myself an introvert, and most people don’t believe me when I tell them that,” she says, laughing. “My advice to anyone is to take opportunities that are presented in your life because you’ll never know how far they’ll take you.”