Noramay Cadena knows the importance of having good role models in your life. To show her what life would be like if she didn’t attend college, her mother took Cadena with her to work in a factory. Another of her early role models was an alumnus of her high school, the first in his family to go to college, who encouraged her to look at attending MIT.
After being accepted she was hesitant at first to go, as she had a given birth to her daughter at the age of 17, but with the support of the school and understanding classmates she was able to attend classes and be a single mother. She strived to give her daughter the most normal childhood possible and graduated with a BS in mechanical engineering.
The pair returned to California and Cadena began working as test engineer at Boeing. A few years later in order to learn more about the business aspects of engineering she earned a MS in systems engineering and an MBA, both from MIT. She continued to work at Boeing taking on more leadership positions in her projects. In an interview she stated that while she loved her job in aerospace it was discouraging to sit at meetings and realize that she was the only Latina in the room.
So with that in mind, in 2013, she and four other Latina MIT alumnae founded Latinas in STEM. These women were all the first in their families to attend college and knew the importance of being a strong voice to their community in order to inspire and empower others to pursue careers in STEM.
In May of 2015 she was a co-founder of Make in LA, which is billed as Los Angeles’ first hardware accelerator. Cadena’s role as general manager of Make In LA is focused on developing principle leaders with solid products and business foundations as well as on developing partnerships that support the cities entrepreneurship ecosystem.
And while she is a role model to many through her work, her daughter has always considered Cadena her biggest role model.
Written by Angela Goad