No Excuses – Developing a Love for Math in Tweens #CelebrateEDU

Disclaimer: This post is part of the sponsored #CelebrateEdu series in collaboration with Ford Motor Company.  To learn more about #CelebrateEdu, please click here.

Katherine, Patricia and the Ford C-Max

Katherine, Patricia and the Ford C-Max

I remember being shocked in high school when I discovered that I really enjoyed my precalculus class.  I understood the concepts, enjoyed working out the problems and even started tutoring some of my other classmates.  For a second, I thought about pursuing a math or science career and then I remembered I wasn’t good at math.

It wasn’t that I was particularly bad at math.  I always had B’s but in English I had A’s.  Then somewhere along the way, someone had told me to just try my hardest but not to worry too much about excelling in Math because I was clearly better in English.  So, I gave up on my idea to pursue a career in STEM because it was a little harder than English.

Fast forward to my fourth grade daughter struggling with fractions.  My answer to her, “Don’t worry, Maddy.  You’re just better at English.”  Woah! What did I just say?  And why did I just say that?  I was doing the same thing to her that was done to me.  I was giving her an out.  I was creating an excuse instead of motivating her to push through it.

I was reminded of this during my interview with  Ford Motor Company’s C-Max Marketing Manager Patricia Piedrahita.  Not because this was something she could relate to but because it was something she couldn’t relate to.   We discussed the need to break through traditional gender roles and much more.  Here’s the interview:

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Chicago to Colombian parents.  I have a degree in engineering from the University of Illinois and a MBA in marketing and strategy.  And most importantly, I’m a mom to two almost-tween boys.

Why did you decide to pursue a degree in engineering?

I was always good at Math and Science and I love a challenge to engineering was perfect for me.

You are bilingual and seem to have a strong connection to your heritage, what did your parents do to encourage this or did they encourage it?

Although we ate traditional Colombian food, spoke Spanish at home and celebrate the traditional holidays, my parents didn’t encourage me to learn Spanish.  It was during a yearly trip to Colombia that I became frustrated because I couldn’t speak with my cousins.  So when I came home, I begged my Cuban godfather to teach me Spanish.  He would bring me books and comics to help me expand my vocabulary.

Are you teaching your children Spanish now?

Oh yes, my kids are actually trilingual.  My husband is Italian so we speak Spanish, Italian and English at home.

How did your parents encourage your interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)?

I was the only child and the son my father never had.  At a very early age, my dad told me that he wanted me to be a strong, independent woman who could take care of herself.  So at the age of 8, he taught me how to change the oil in the car.  My mom was also a big influence.  Whenever anything in the house would break, she’d take it apart and see if she could fix it.

What do you love most about your job?

I’ve been with Ford for almost 20 years and I truly enjoy it.  They’ve given me great opportunities and the flexibility to be a mom and a marketer.  I’m very excited especially right now as I was with Ford during the development of the Fusion Hybrid and am now overseeing the marketing of the C-Max.

Speaking of the C-Max, what is your favorite feature about this car?

I really like that the C-Max doesn’t make compromises.  It comfortably fits five with plenty of cargo space and leg room.


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