Engineering Alumni Spotlight: Elena Herrera
Since graduating with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Wayne State in 2006, Elena Herrera has embarked on a career at 3M, a global powerhouse in consumer goods and safety equipment that employs more than 93,000 people in 70 countries. Herrera has been all over the midwestern United States in her time with the company, but settled in as a senior application engineer nearly 10 years ago at the 3M Automotive Innovation Center in Livonia, Michigan, just 25 minutes west of her alma mater.
Can you please describe your career path?
I began my engineering career with 3M in 2006 as part of the Optimized Operations (O2) development program in Cynthiana, Kentucky, where I worked on quality improvement and lean projects before moving to Cottage Grove, Minnesota to work on lead time and unit cost reduction projects. I relocated to the Menomonie, Wisconsin plant where I was a quality/product engineer for four years. In 2011, I moved back to Michigan for my current position at 3M as a senior application engineer. I provide technical product support to automotive OEM's and related tier suppliers. The focus of my position is to provide bonding and joining solutions for various components and substrates on the vehicle.
Describe the ways you’ve stayed connected to Wayne State since graduation.
I stayed connected with WSU through the Industry Mentor Program. For the past four years, I have mentored a student from the chemical engineering program each semester. I have also participated in the speed mentoring program.
With what other organizations do you volunteer?
As part of 3M, I lead lean-in circles for our organization. I also actively volunteer with Focus Hope and Forgotten Harvest.
Why did you choose to attend Wayne State?
I attended WSU because it offered a solid chemical engineering program and also a full four-year Presidential Scholarship to me.
List any student organizations or teams you were part of at Wayne State.
I was part of AIChE student organization.
How did your education at Wayne State prepare you for what you are doing today?
All the programs and classes are focused on one ultimate goal, which is to teach students to problem solve and apply troubleshooting skills in the work space. It also focuses on diversity and inclusion and teaches how entry level engineers can cope in the new work environment.
What is the most important thing you learned at Wayne State?
That I should never stop learning and always have an open growth mindset. Every day I learn something new that will help me grow in my career.
What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their experience at Wayne State?
I would suggest to be involved with organizations and peer teams at WSU, to be open to learning new skills and increase networking.