There is a lot of buzz about the rover landing on Mars for the first time. However, the people behind the successful rover initiative are also gaining traction, particularly the project director for NASA’s Mars rover initiative Columbian Diana Trujillo. Trukillo prior to becoming a Nasa Director was a Cleaning Lady.
She has been in the news lately for her inspiring story of how she went from a cleaning lady who did meager jobs like carpet cleaning to successfully leading NASA’s Mars rover project.
Diana was raised in a traditional Latin American family where the woman’s role is nurturing the home and taking care of the husband. Her mother was a promising medical student who dropped out when she met her husband. Like many other married women in Colombia, she was a housewife and a household cleaning lady. When her parents got divorced, they were left with nothing.
She remembered those hard times quite well. “My mom and I don’t even have food. We used to have half a boiled egg each for lunch and that was it. One day, while I was lying in the grass, I looked up in the sky thinking that there should be something out there,” said Diana.
With only 300 dollars in her pocket and no grasp of the English language, she traveled to the US to try her luck at 17. She landed in Miami and began working odd jobs to survive, one of which was a cleaning lady. She handled jobs from the bathroom cleaning to window cleaning.
While doing these cleaning jobs, she did not think of them as demeaning. Instead, she saw them as opportunities, and as long as she had them she could buy food and has a house to sleep in. Diana mentioned that her work as a cleaning lady made her into what she is today and how she sees life differently.
This tenacity is borne out of her insights on how the women in her family gave up a lot. She wanted to show them that by not giving up on her dream. So, Diana persevered. Her job as a cleaning lady not only helped her survive, she was also able to pursue her studies, majoring in aerospace engineering.
A Cleaning Lady Turned into NASA Director
She remembered standing in the long line to declare her major and noticing that there were only a few Latinos and even women who were on her line. She experienced self-doubt at that moment but she marched on.
Diana is indeed one of the few, handful Latino women who are in the scientific community. There are only 8% of Latinos who are working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and only 2% of them are women.
Now, with the success of the Mars rover initiative with Diana as the Flight Director for NASA, she dedicated her success to her tenacity and perseverance. She has spoken of her humble beginning as a cleaning lady with fondness.
She is truly an inspiration for women out there, who think they will never get out of their house cleaning or window cleaning jobs because a Latina cleaning lady has made it possible.
Trukillo is such an inspiring woman. She’s the perfect depiction of working hard and never stop working on your dreams. Do not ever let society tells what you can and cannot do. Just hold on to your dreams and each day, work on achieving it.
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