Paula Garcia Todd: ‘I Engineer Representation’

August 23, 2022

“I Engineer” highlights excellence across the Penn State College of Engineering, as well as how the college is made stronger by the diversity of perspectives, experiences and backgrounds of those in the engineering community.

Paula Garcia Todd, global strategic manager of pharma solutions for International Flavors & Fragrances, earned her bachelor and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Penn State in 2003. Since then, she has championed engineering students as a mentor and a member of the Penn State Center for Outreach and Inclusion’s Advisory Board. She has also participated in several Penn State events, including as a panelist for the Engineering Equity Summit. In 2019, she was selected as an IF/THEN ambassador for the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. In 2020, she was named Woman of the Year in Engineering  by Women in Technology and she received a Million Women Mentors Trailblazer Award.

In this video from Lyda Hill Philanthropies’ IF/THEN Initiative — an effort that highlights positive and successful female role models and aims to create a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers. Paula Garcia Todd discusses her path to engineering and her passion for introducing STEM to young children.

Why did you become an engineer? What does engineering mean to you? 

I was lucky to be born into a family of engineers. I was never encouraged to think about what I wanted to be when I grew up, but rather what problems I wanted to solve. I had too weak of a stomach to study medicine, but I always had a passion for helping sick people. Engineering has allowed me to do just that, helping people in the most profound way in my work in the pharmaceutical field. To me, engineering is a pathway for not just solving meaningful problems in our world but also impacting others and improving lives through science and math.

What are you aiming to achieve? Why is it important? 

In my day job, my goal is to contribute to the pharmaceutical field by developing drug delivery technologies that ensure the medicine you take is the most effective, so you can get healthy quickly. In my spare time, I work hard to introduce STEM to young children, especially students that are underrepresented in engineering. I want to light that spark of curiosity at a young age, so that it carries through their education and hopefully guides them to consider careers in STEM fields. Diversity of thought and experience is the true driver of innovation — we need these diverse voices to help us solve the most challenging problems we face in our society.

What advice do you have for those considering a career in engineering? 

Just because something feels hard, it doesn’t mean you weren’t meant to do it. When something is hard, that’s where real learning takes place. You will encounter topics that are challenging to comprehend at first, and that is normal. It takes persistence to work through those problems multiple times until you really get a concept. In school and in your career, you will face difficult problems, and you will learn and grow the most by working through them.

How have your perspectives, experiences and background shaped you and your career as an engineer?

I was born in South America, which blessed me with the opportunity to live in different cultures and carry a more global view wherever I go. It also doesn’t hurt to know another language, especially with the international travel required in my job! I would say that my leadership style has been more collaborative and empathetic, which has been beneficial for my business team. My solid engineering background and my constant desire to learn have carried me through various types of jobs in my career, so work has never felt boring!

What or who inspires you to contribute to building representation in STEM?  

My children inspire me the most. I forge pathways in my industry and open doors for kids who never had a Hispanic or female role model so that we continue to build opportunities for generations to come. I want to make it easier for my children and their peers, especially those children who simply needed a relatable role model, to feel unprohibited in considering a career in engineering.


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Garcia Todd was featured in the #IfThenSheCan exhibit displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C, in honor of Women's History Month. The exhibit comprised 120 life-size, 3D-printed statutes of women innovators in STEM fields. CREDIT: IF/THEN Collection

“I forge pathways in my industry and open doors for kids who never had a Hispanic or female role model so that we continue to build opportunities for generations to come.”

— Paula Garcia Todd