For many people, they feel like they had to carve out their own path in life. Chris Cindy Cordova just calls that her average workday as she has persevered through anything that was thrown at her in life. We want to share her story and help others see where she started in life and her incredible journey that brought her to where she is today.
As all good stories go, we start at the beginning as Chris Cindy Cordova overcame adversity from the very start.
Chris was born and raised in South Central LA on the border of Watson Compton. For most of her childhood, Chris was around black and brown kids She was accepted into a gifted program at a school that was better than those around her. As a sacrifice for better education, she had to spend hours commuting to get around the people she felt best around.
Both of her parents came to America from El Salvador during the civil war that ravaged the nation. Her parents met in LA and had to work hard to provide for their family. At the age of 5, Chris’s father passed away and left her and her three siblings in a rough state as their mother could not provide much support. The entire family was traumatized after their father took his own life and created struggles that every family member processed differently.
In many ways, such a hard childhood made Chris realize that she had to make her parents proud. Seeing everything that her mother went through to provide when her dad died inspired Chris to make no excuses in education. A network of incredibly supportive teachers who helped push Chris towards success opened her eyes to the world of engineering that she would eventually learn to love.
Studying at Stanford
After years of hard work and dedication, Chris eventually found her way to Stanford. What really pushed her to get to Stanford was her experience with non-profit teams that showed her how to move forward with a college education. In particular, her experience with Campaign Rock led her to meet a director who took her to tour Stanford. After visiting the campus, Chris knew she had to go there.
Getting to Stanford was just part of the journey, but Chris still had to find a degree she was passionate about. With a love for space and past memories with her father surrounding model planes, the world of aerospace engineering called to Chris. She learned to love it through sample classes and really getting an understanding of what a career in engineering could look like for her. Aerospace engineering is such a unique career path that really resonated with Chris and helped her to get onto a path that would shape her future journey.
Career as Aerospace Engineer
With her specialization in propulsion and jet technologies, Chris found herself working for Honeywell on many contract-based projects. She worked with a wide array of jet engine designs to try and make them more efficient and to experiment with alternative technologies. What really captivated Chris was putting together these incredible engines that to her even seemed like magic.
Outside of Honeywell directly, Chris even worked with SpaceX and NASA to help develop some of the smaller components on their vessels. In everything she did, Chris was helping to revolutionize the future of propulsion technology. What made Chris especially unique in her position is that she was the only Hispanic Aeronautical Engineer she knew or worked with.
In an industry like Aerospace engineering, being a Hispanic Woman is completely out of the norm. Chris was often the only woman in a given room and was the only Hispanic person in a room at any given time. Many times at her job, Chris felt that she was an outsider and often doubted whether she should be there. Her desire to keep pushing forward and finding the people who wanted to help her succeed allowed Chris to thrive in an industry where she could rarely relate to anyone.
Going to Business School
While working in the Aerospace industry, Chris made many great connections and learned invaluable information. As she gained experience with time, Chris moved up to a management position where she started to really see the business aspects of engineering. Something that really hit Chris hard was learning how risk-averse the aerospace industry was. This meant that innovation was feared when lives were on the line if something didn’t work.
No matter how great an idea was, Chris felt it was impossible to get the industry or a company to stand behind it. Chris realized that things just weren’t clicking right in her position. What Chris needed to improve as a leader was to take a step back from the entire industry to really learn how to encourage innovation. This is when she realized an MBA would be the perfect way to get that new knowledge at Haas.
Where Chris felt she could learn the most was by looking at startups and how they use innovation to grow. These small companies are able to innovate without boundaries that larger companies face, and that really excited Chris. Haas was the natural place for Chris to go as it had the innovative mindset students and teachers that she could really learn from. However, she was determined to take part in a full-time program to really get as much value out of Haas as possible. Dedicating herself to complete leadership, Chris was able to use her new perspective to change any business she worked with going forward.
Balancing Between a Career Woman and Mother
Aside from helping to get representation in new fields and helping to manage various projects, Chris is also a mother. With three kids, pursuing a full-time business degree during the Covid-19 pandemic takes a special kind of willpower. Having her first child during her time at Stanford, Chris has always had to manage being a student and a mother throughout her life. Using her mother as an Example, Chris wants to set an example for her children that they can do anything they set their minds to if they put in the work and really want to achieve.
Another area that Chris takes pride in is her Latino heritage. She carries it with her everywhere she goes and wants to make sure her children feel informed about their culture. During Covid-19, Chris has been able to really sit down with her children and help them understand some of the hardships that may lay ahead of them based on their background.
Being a member of the Latino community, Chris has had to deal with many hardships since the 2016 election. In particular, her eldest daughter had to grow up trying to understand what was happening to her people throughout the country. The impact on her daughter was substantial as she started to feel like her family was less than that of others and required Chris to step in as a mother to try and explain everything going on. With such hard times falling on her community and those around her, Chris had to manage immense amounts of pressure to help keep her family safe during a pandemic and to help teach them about some harsh realities facing the world.
Chris has an incredible story to tell, and we hope you learned from her experiences of pushing through adversity and making a real difference. From parents who could barely make enough to pay for food to creating her new family with so many experiences in her belt, Chris has shown us that anything is possible when you work hard enough. Hear the full podcast episode with Chris Cindy Cordova here to hear more insights about her journey through life.
From designing jet engines to learning how to lead, Chris has shown us how to embrace our experiences to make life what we want it to be. By embracing who we are and being proud of it, we can hopefully help others do the same.
How do you manage a balance between family, work, and a crazy world? We’d love to her your input and listen to your story to help our community grow together.