Alumnus Reflects on Experiences in Equal Opportunity in Engineering Program

September 22, 2020

omar gomez

When he’s not serving as a technical sales consultant at Halliburton, Omar Gomez (B.S. Petroleum Engineering 2012) is an advocate for STEM education, mentoring younger generations interested in pursuing an engineering career. As an active member of the Cockrell School’s Equal Opportunity in Engineering Program (EOE) during his time as a Texas Engineering student, Gomez shared with us his experiences in EOE and how the program positively impacted his life and set him up for success.

What inspired you to pursue engineering? How did you become involved in EOE?

I was good at math and science in high school. I actually wanted to be a lawyer at first, but my counselors encouraged me to look into engineering. I started researching the various branches of engineering and the more I read, the more I felt compelled to pursue it as a career.

I was very fortunate to have heard about EOE during my freshman orientation. EOE strategically markets to incoming freshman and transfer students who they feel, based upon their backgrounds, may benefit from the wide variety of EOE services, programs and experiences. I’m so glad I decided to join! EOE made such a positive impact on my engineering experience.

What initially drew you to EOE?

The staff was incredible. They were genuinely committed to helping me and my peers excel as a student. They also offered great resources, like First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs). My FIG made all of the difference in the world. EOE also has such a strong mentor system and is interconnected with other organizations like the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Pi Sigma Pi and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). It’s truly like walking into an ecosystem of support.

What was your experience like as a student in the Cockrell School?

In addition to being involved as a member in EOE, I also worked part time in the EOE office, so I loved welcoming anybody who walked in the door. Also, the events EOE offered – particularly the leadership empowerment weekend and FIGs – were incredible and life-changing.

How did your involvement in EOE impact your student experience?

The FIG resources helped me to excel academically. It can be overwhelming when you enter such a big, prestigious school. Classes are hard, but I learned it was okay to ask for help. When you can connect with like-minded individuals, like I was able to with the EOE community, you feel less alone. You realize you’re not the only one struggling. It motivated me and helped me to stay on top of everything I had on my plate.

There’s nothing like the inclusive, welcoming community in EOE. It was my home away from home.

How has your engineering education from UT Austin impacted your career?

The professional development training I received at UT has helped me grow as a person and a leader. How to lead teams, how to organize, how to execute — all of those skills are crucial to being an effective manager in your company. And I honed my public speaking skills through my involvement in SHPE. Interacting with people, leading meetings and knowing how to talk to people are all soft skills that are transferable and so necessary for success.

What is your favorite thing about the work you get to do in your current role?

I love interacting with people. Every day is different. Knowing how to tackle a challenge or problem and then having a team behind you and knowing exactly how to lead that team really goes a long way. There are a lot of managers who don’t know how to talk to people or connect with them.

What are some ways you are involved in diversity and inclusion efforts?

I am involved in SHPE Austin, where I provide professional development resources to other members, work to bring in seasoned professionals who can share their experiences with younger generations and serve as a mentor to younger generations. I do a lot of outreach for STEM advocacy and STEM enrichment programs. SHPE Austin partners with the Austin Independent School District, so I will either go to schools directly and speak about STEM, help to host programs that promote STEM education or bring students to a corporate office so they can visualize themselves in our roles one day.

What advice would you share with an incoming student?

Don’t be afraid to tackle new challenges. Make sure to talk to people. Meet new people. Go outside of your bubble.

As we reflect on the progress and impact EOE has made in the last 50 years, what it your hope for EOE’s next 50 years?

I hope they continue to build upon what they’ve already created and to come up with creative, innovative ways to keep attracting and retaining quality, minority talent.

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