Once struggled in Math, Filipino student now works for NASA as engineer

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Josephine Santiago-Bond had a hard time when she was in college because she struggled in Mathematics. Little did she know that years later her hard work would pay off with a position at NASA!

In an interview with SPOT, Josephine admitted that working as an engineer at NASA never came across her mind when she was young. In fact, she did not have any specific dream in mind growing up.

“As a child, I always knew I would go to college, get a job, try to earn enough to afford the things I need and want, but I had not envisioned a particular profession,” she said.

Credit: Josephine Santiago-Bond

Born in the US, Josephine whose parents came from the Philippines said that both her parents and her sisters work as doctors. However, their professions never inspired her to follow the same path.

Credit: Josephine Santiago-Bond

“I would answer phone calls and have to ask the caller ‘Which Dr. Santiago?’ because my parents and later, both my sisters, were doctors of some sort.”

“Their curiosity and work ethic most likely rubbed off on me, but their professions did not speak to me,” she added.

Later in college, she took Electronics and Communications Engineering course at the University of the Philippines. It was a tough period for her as she struggled in Mathematics.

“I had to crawl my way through some of the courses, but I wasn’t going to give up on [Electronics and Communications Engineering] because of a few bad grades.”

Credit: Josephine Santiago-Bond

“In between my fair share of socializing, I practiced solving math and engineering problems until I was either confident enough to take the test or ran out of review time. There were lots of sleepless nights, but strong friendships were formed, and my persistence eventually paid off,” she continued.

After her graduation, Josephine moved to the US to further her Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from South Dakota State University.

It was in 2003, a few years later that she earned a pot for a summer job at the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

“I had zero knowledge about space shuttles, and did not even know that there was an International Space Station orbiting above us. I was just happy to take a break from South Dakota,” she said.

Luckily for Josephine, the summer job turned into a graduate cooperative internship which led to a full-time job opportunity at the space center. Now, she works for NASA as one of their engineers!

Credit: Josephine Santiago-Bond

Even though she once struggled at the college, Josephine said that she now understood that she has to take full responsibility for her own learning and development.

“I see myself like Dorothy Vaughan who, upon learning of the installation of electronic computers, taught herself programming and trained her co-workers.”

“I proactively look for gaps that I can fill, I am responsible for continuing my professional development, and try to elevate others around me through mentorship,” she said.

Credit: Josephine Santiago-Bond

At the end of the interview, she reminded that it was still important to dream big but be prepared to get out of comfort zone.

“Dream many big dreams, and explore challenging opportunities along the way. Push your limits, get out of your comfort zone, and pick tasks that are harder than what you’re used to. Go for growth.”

Credit: Josephine Santiago-Bond

“Do things that you’re not already good at. Realistically expect that not all of your dreams will come true, at least not the first time you try, but give each try your best anyway.”

“Regularly assess your strengths, sharpen the saw, and find positive ways to use your strengths to achieve the next step toward your dream.”

Credit: SPOT

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