ftb diana trujillo

Overcoming the Odds: From a Cleaning Lady to NASA Director

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. Before becoming a NASA director, Trujillo was a Cleaning Lady.

She has been in the news lately for her inspiring story of going from a cleaning lady who did meagre jobs like carpet cleaning to successfully leading NASA’s Mars rover project.

Diana was raised in a traditional Latin American family where the woman nurtures the home and cares for 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 cleaner. When her parents 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 there should be something out there,” said Diana.

With only 300 dollars in her pocket and no grasp of English, she travelled to the US at 17 to try her luck. She landed in Miami and began working odd jobs to survive, one of which was as a cleaning lady. She handled jobs from bathroom cleaning to window cleaning.

While doing these cleaning jobs, she did not consider them demeaning. Instead, she saw them as opportunities, and as long as she had them, she could buy food and have 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, but 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 only a few Latinos and even women were in her line. She experienced self-doubt at that moment, but she marched on.

Diana is indeed one of the few Latino women in the scientific community. Only 8% of Latinos work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and only 2% are women.

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 inspires women who think they will never get out of their house or window cleaning jobs because a Latina cleaning lady has made it possible.

Trujillo is such an inspiring woman. She perfectly depicts working hard and never stopping working on your dreams. Never let society tell you what you can and cannot do. Hold on to your dreams and work on achieving them each day.

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Last Updated on March 15, 2024

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