Wednesday February 09, 2022

A Tribute to the International Day of Women in Science

by Todd Stanford

On this International Day of Women & Girls in Science 2022, we interviewed Fabiola Avila at the Milgard plant in Simi Valley, California to learn more about her career path and what inspires her.

Position: EH&S Safety Specialist

Background: Bachelor’s degree in Biology, with a minor in Environmental Studies. Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering.

Have you ever had a moment at work in which you said to yourself, “Yes, this is why I chose this career!”?  Yes. I've been working a lot with the environmental part of the business recently and I am seeing how businesses in general can have a big impact on the environment. This impact involves water quality, hazardous waste, and air quality so definitely I see the need for businesses to have somebody like myself to make sure that we’re complying with the laws.

Was there one person in your life who really inspired you to work in science? 

I would say one of my college professors who ended up being a mentor. She was my instructor for a global warming class at UCLA. There was much debate about global warming and climate change and what we could do to stop it. That’s really where my interest in the environment flourished.

What do you like most about working at Milgard? What could be improved? 

Anytime I’ve tried to professionally grow—take courses, get mentors—I’ve never heard the word no at Milgard. My boss and my team really care about my professional growth. I’ve taken courses to learn more about air pollution and stormwater concerns. I’m going to be enrolling in a class for Southern California air quality, which is awesome. Giving us the tools to do the right thing shows me how much the company cares. During our EHS conference last fall there was a whole segment about the environment led by Milgard’s Dave Buffelen. He asked if any of the attendees were really interested in the environment because the company wanted to help in our development. I reached out and he’s been sending me courses that would benefit me and the company as well. Having the opportunity to learn and to grow is what I like most. The only improvement I can think of is having more team members know about the environmental piece and not just the safety part of our work. That would help us all.

What advice do you have for girls and young women who are thinking of a career in science? 

It can be challenging but don’t let that hold you back. In my classes at UCLA and in my environmental engineering master’s courses it was 98% men, which can be a little intimidating. You can feel like maybe you don’t fit in because you look around and nobody looks like you. Being Hispanic also contributed to that as well. But I would say that it is definitely rewarding and I feel like a lot of times being in a minority group we want to make a change and being in a science field, you can do that, because they are impactful careers.

If you weren’t working in science, what do you think you’d be doing? 

I think I’d be a lawyer because I like debates and logic. I really like the law, I think that’s why I’m drawn to environmental regulations and compliance. Maybe I’ll look more into environmental law as my career progresses. That would be cool.

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