Engineer steps outside comfort zone

Redstone Rocket
Published Feb. 18, 2016
Tiffany Torres is a value engineering officer with the
Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support
Center, Huntsville.

Tiffany Torres is a value engineering officer with the Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville.

How does an introvert find herself in a job where a key role is advising others on how to improve their projects? For Tiffany Torres, it wasn’t a straight line to her current professional role at the Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville.

“I was never interested in engineering, I was more into books,” Torres said. “Engineering wasn’t on my radar until I was a junior in high school. My math teacher took me to the side one day and mentioned that there was a summer program at Auburn (University) and asked me if I was interested.”

Torres spent a week in Auburn, and after the experience started dreaming of a job at NASA.

“The one engineering program that I did not want to do was industrial because it seemed so boring – and that is the one that I ended up doing!” she said.

Torres a native of Miami, Florida, would go on to attend the University of Miami. While at UM, she joined ROTC and planned a military career in the Air Force, until a heart murmur grounded her aspirations to work in missile defense. Or so she thought.

After graduation, Torres accepted a position with SMDC, where she would spend four years in the command’s internship program. While an intern the first two years, Torres had the opportunity to work in many different capacities but was not sure that SMDC was ultimately where she was meant to spend her professional career. While browsing government jobs online, Torres came across a job announcement for her current position.

“When I read the description, it was very much in line with my degree,” Torres said. “Value engineers study and look for ways to improve (projects).”

Torres was hired in 2008, and in the past eight years has assisted program managers, as well as led studies, training and discussions – which have been a hurdle for someone who “hates public speaking,” she said. Earlier in her career, Torres said that she struggled with stage fright and having the spotlight turn to her.

“My biggest challenge is myself,” she said. “I felt like I was pressured to be more assertive in meetings and that is not my personality type. I felt like I was pressured to fit into a certain mold.”

Today, Torres said that she has found a way to be true to herself, while building a confidence in front of large groups that has come with experience. Part of that confidence she said, comes from a genuine love for her job.

“I enjoy the work … I enjoy the fact that my position that has to touch every program in the building – I love to find out what everyone is working on. We really are a diverse group here that does such different work and I really enjoy learning about everyone’s program,” Torres said.

When not at the Corps, Torres is the mom to four – two toddlers and a baby on the way. Sadly, her oldest son Julius passed away in 2010. With a bustling household of children under the age of five, Torres and her husband made the decision for him to be a stay-at-home dad. But even with her husband as primary caregiver, life is still understandably busy, juggling the roles of engineer and mom. Torres credits the Corps as providing a family-friendly atmosphere, with little travel and flexibility in her job role. She tries to maintain a work/life balance by turning off her Blackberry when she is home to better focus on her family.

“I feel very fortunate to be here,” she said. “But it is still always hard to leave them.”

Even though Torres said that engineering is still a male-dominated profession, she encourages young women today to change that. And what better place to pursue engineering as a career than the Rocket City?

“There are a lot of engineers in this town,” she said. “Don’t be afraid if it is a male-dominated profession. Don’t let fear hold you back. If you are really interested in engineering, go for it. It is a very rewarding profession. I have no regrets.”