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Denisse Delos Santos: A drive for engineering excellence

Women in Engineering Day is June 23, and SRP is celebrating by sharing a story about one of its rotational engineers who is also a member of Females in Technology, one of 10 Employee Resource Groups at the company. 

Delos Santos was always interested in engineering, but her route to becoming an engineer was circuitous.

“I was fascinated by engineering work because my dad – who always wanted to be an engineer – couldn’t afford to. He was always tinkering with power and electricity in our home. He was my role model.”

She drew inspiration from her surroundings too. Delos Santos hails from the Philippines, which she describes as a developing country.

“We had a lack of power all of the time. We were upper-middle class then but still exposed to those situations, so I wanted to fix the system.”

Finding inspiration in hardship

Engineering, she decided, was a great way to help that cause. She moved with her family to the United States in 2006 at the age of nine and had to learn a whole different culture and language.

“There were hardships, but I got through it,” she said.

She worked hard – so hard, in fact, that she was accepted into Grand Canyon University (GCU) with an intent to learn electrical engineering.

“It was still in the back of my mind to help my country,” she said. “Learning electrical engineering was a way to go because … it’s the root of everything.”

Charting new waters

She was active at GCU, appearing in a commercial and helping students in high school and college with algebra, writing and more. These experiences would help her gain enough confidence to go for a prestigious internship.

“As a tutor, I was getting comfortable socializing in different groups and settings,” she said. “Spring semester of my junior year, I applied for all sorts of internships. I applied in semiconductor roles at first. But I realized my inspiration was still power.”

So she looked to SRP.

“I thought I would just ‘shoot my shot’,” she said, laughing, “I live on the west side, and my interview was in the East Valley. I even went to church after and asked for a sign.”

She was nervous because she was a green card holder and wasn’t sure if being a non-citizen would hurt her chances.

Delos Santos had nothing to worry about. She got the call right away. She had landed an engineering internship with SRP’s Metering Department.

A team’s support, a difficult choice

After a very positive experience as an intern, she encountered her next hurdle. GCU was not yet ABET accredited, which is a degree requirement for full-time engineering roles at SRP.

“Senior year came, and I was so excited to become a full seated engineering employee. But I was part of GCU’s first engineering graduating class and so they technically didn’t yet have the ABET accreditation.”

Thankfully, she had colleagues in her corner.

“My boss did everything he could to try and get me the opportunity; they even made an engineering technician position for me,” she said. “At the same time, I got another offer for a full-time engineering position, but I turned it down. My heart was set on SRP because I felt I was destined to be there.”

While it was a sacrifice to step into the technician role while the accreditation came in, the now full-time rotational engineer says it was worth it.

“[The experience] shows how SRP invests in their employees, sees potential. I wasn’t just a number or a name. I felt like family and I felt valued,” said Delos Santos.

Driving toward the future

In the two years since, she’s grown and learned through the experiences, even the challenging ones, and realized that opportunities to grow a skill set in engineering are nearly endless.

“I like networking. To know a lot of people, to expand my knowledge in different departments of the company,” she said. “I’m here to learn. I shadowed a substation engineer and I loved it. I went to Pine, Sugar Loaf and Gila power stations to see the different sites.”

Her continued growth, she says, can serve as inspiration for other women considering engineering roles. Her advice:

“Don’t think, just do it! I think it’s good for women to go into engineering because you don’t see a lot of it. It gives you a boost of self-esteem, because it makes you think you can do the same thing other guys are doing. It broadens your horizons. Helps you see more of the world.”

Design your career

Further your skills and get hands-on experience through SRP’s Rotational Engineering Program. Learn more about applying to this two year-program today.

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