Rodriquez, Environmental Multimedia Advisor ExxonMobil Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Manufacturing Facility, Gregory, Texas

Sandy Rodriquez, Environmental Multimedia Advisor ExxonMobil Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Manufacturing Facility, Gregory, Texas

Sandy Rodriguez originally went to college thinking marine biology would be a good fit for her since she liked science and animals. While she did well in her classes, it wasn’t as much fun as she thought that it would be, and she began losing interest. In college, she was working at the South Texas Botanical Gardens as a parrot trainer and interning at the San Antonio Zoo in their bird department. She had a conversation with her college advisor about how she felt stuck in a major that she wasn’t sure was right for her. Her advisor assured her that it was normal to feel this way and encouraged her to consider environmental science. The classes in the degree program are broader and encompass oceanography, meteorology, environmental biology – and she loved them all!

During her junior year, Rodriguez applied for a grant that allows minority undergrads the opportunity to receive research grants and then partner with a professor that allows the student to work under them. She was accepted into that program and worked alongside Dr. Toshiaki Shinoda for two years doing oceanography research. While she did learn a lot during her time in the program, she decided that research wasn’t for her and started looking to other classes to fill her schedule.

She was attending Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) and found that it offered a Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) college credit class. She signed up for it not knowing that it was also an industry certification. This was Rodriguez’s first exposure to industry and she had an amazing instructor named Tony Wood, whom she developed a great relationship with. (He was even a guest at her wedding!) She signed up for all his other industry classes consisting of Oil Spill Response and Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Techniques.

Rodriquez, Environmental Multimedia Advisor ExxonMobil Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Manufacturing Facility, Gregory, Texas

She fell in love with industry and then heard that Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) offers an internship program for college students. She applied and got a summer position at its headquarters in Austin, Texas.

When it came time for graduation, Rodriguez began applying for every job opening that she qualified for and even some that she didn’t. She heard of a construction company called Kiewit who was building a chemical plant near Corpus Christi, Texas, and they were looking for an environmental advisor. She got that job and worked for three years in construction and absolutely loved it.

Knowing that once construction was complete, she would more than likely be moved to another project in another location, she started making connections with what ended up being the right people at ExxonMobil and, after construction ended, she was able to stay on as part of the manufacturing environmental team and knows that it’s exactly where she is meant to be!

When asked if she has ever felt out of place being a woman in a male-dominated industry, Rodriguez says that even while working on the construction side with a 10:1 ratio of men to women, the people that she met along her way wanted her to be successful, so they truly took her under their wing and treated her like family. She does say that sometimes her age has made her feel a bit out of place, [and] that it’s an interesting dynamic telling a 50-something year old foreman what he can and can’t do. She’s had her share of pushback in those situations but says that she learned very quickly how to have a backbone and stand firm. Both in construction and now, she often walks into a meeting and is the only female in the room, but she gives everyone the same respect that she expects at the table and always feels it’s returned.

Rodriquez, Environmental Multimedia Advisor ExxonMobil Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Manufacturing Facility, Gregory, Texas

Rodriguez knows that she wouldn’t be where she is today without the guidance and encouragement of several mentors along her way including Tony Wood, the professor that started it all. She also says that Danika Reddick was the best first boss anyone could ever have and was instrumental in her development while working for Kiewit.

Rodriguez also says that her friend, Krystal White, helped her make the jump from construction to manufacturing. She heard an ad on the radio about a fundraiser for Foster Angels of South Texas and contacted White to see how Kiewit could support the event. She and White spent a lot of time talking and coordinating Kiewit’s participation in the fundraiser and at the end White asked her what her plans and career goals were. White was able to connect her with Total Safety where she joined their team as a contractor at Gulf Coast Growth Ventures. She eventually transitioned to a direct ExxonMobil employee and says that she will forever be grateful to White for taking a chance on her and helping her connect with the right people.

Rodriguez says that if she could go back and give her 18-year-old self some advice there isn’t much she would change because her journey and all its twists and turns has led her to the place that she knows is right for her. She had to pay her own way through college and remembers working 30-hour weeks while taking 21 semester credit hours and being completely exhausted. But she says that it was all those different experiences that helped her figure out very early what she liked and what she didn’t. Overall, she would advise young women to try everything, work, volunteer and don’t be afraid to take risks!

Rodriguez lives in Portland, Texas with her husband, Brandon, two dogs and a cockatoo. In her spare time, she enjoys playing golf, volunteering and going to farmers’ markets.

Photos courtesy of Sandy Rodriquez.




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Sales Manager - SAMSON Controls

Stephanie Hajducek is a territory sales manager for SAMSON Controls – a market leader in control valves for industrial processes. She has also held positions with other industry leading companies such as Bechtel, ChevronPhillips, Citgo, Steel Dynamics and The Chemours Company.

In January 2022, Hajducek started a nonprofit organization called This One’s for the Gals that helps girls in grades K through 12 with career exploration and workforce development.  Focusing their efforts on the construction, energy and manufacturing industries, TOFTG likes to say that they talk to girls about career pathways that not very many people talk to girls about, from skilled trades to STEM and everything in between.

After almost 20 years out of high school, and with the support of her husband and three children, Hajducek earned her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering technology from The University of Southern Mississippi while working full time. She hopes that by sharing her experiences and lessons learned she can help girls step out of their comfort zone and step into a world of endless possibilities in industry!

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