A Conversation with Jessica Haidar

Studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Florida

Currently employed at a Power Company

When did you first know you wanted to be an engineer?

Becoming an engineer was always at the front of my mind. My mother is an engineer, and I’ve always enjoyed math and science. The point at which my interest was solidified was when I took a physics class in high school, which I really enjoyed. 

 How did you choose the specific type of engineering? 

I knew I wanted to become an electrical engineer after learning about electricity and magnetism in physics. Also, when I was in high school, I saw a documentary on Nicholas Tesla; his work and inventions sparked an interest in electricity for me.

 What was the biggest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?

I came to the United States from Cuba when I was in 7th grade. Although I only spoke Spanish at the time, language was not my only barrier. It was difficult to find guidance and we lived well below the poverty line. Looking back, having those obstacles only made me work harder. I had to work a part time job for the majority of my college career, and therefore had to learn how to manage my time. I think the reason I overcame those obstacles was because I was very focused on what I wanted, and I knew it was only a matter of time for me to achieve it. 


What specifically did you do to keep pushing yourself? Did you ever want to give up?  Can you discuss more of your struggle? 

It would have been easy for me to just be a victim of circumstance, but for me failure was not an option. I broke my leg during my third year of college, and I was advised to drop all my classes that semester, since it would take surgery and many therapy sessions for me to walk again. I only dropped one class that semester, because it had a lab component, and I had to be physically present to complete the class. To stay motivated, I kept working towards my goals, no matter what life would throw at me. The thought of becoming an engineer helped me overcome the challenges life presented.

 What do you do today?

I am a Protection and Controls (P&C) Engineer at a Power company in Florida.  As a P&C Engineer, I design substation layouts which are turned into drawings for the field engineers to assemble a new or update an existing substation.

 Do you currently volunteer in the community?

I recently participated in an event called the “Bake-off Competition” to raise money for local non-profits which support our local community. Additionally, I volunteered when the local Girl Scouts chapter brought girls of all ages to the power company, where they had the opportunity to participate in engineering challenges. It was a great way to introduce young girls to engineering and see what we do at a power company.

What message would you like to share with anyone considering an engineering degree?

If you are considering engineering, you should definitely do internships with different companies as soon as possible. There are many engineering internships you could apply to, even in the first year of college. This will give you a greater understanding of what your day to day life will be like in that company after you graduate. Not only are most engineering internships paid, but it will give you real life experience in engineering and in that company.

Shavonti Archer, Founder of Systematic Motivation, LLC 

 An Engineer, Mentor and Advocate for Diversity


 Shavonti Archer is a skilled engineer by trade, advocating for diversity  within the engineering community. She founded Systematic Motivation, LLC in 2018, a company- based foundation whose primary focus is creating more opportunities for minority students to explore their interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs and encourage their desire to pursue a career in STEM.  Born and raised in Locust Grove, Georgia where she attended Luella High School, Archer quickly discovered her love for engineering as a 10th grade student. She was instantly captivated by videos of solar and wind farms.

 In 2013, Shavonti Archer graduated from Georgia Southern University to attain her Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering. During her tenure at GSU, she became a member of The Society of Women Engineers and would later become president of the organization. She was instrumental in launching Society of African American Sisterhood (SAAS) on GSU’s campus.  She served as an orientation leader, a Habitat for Humanity volunteer and managed to complete an internship with Rayonier Performance Fibers and one of the largest engineering companies to date, General Electric.  

 In conjunction with her current role as a transmission and distribution engineer for a local utility company, Shavonti’s involvement with engineering organizations such as The Society of Women Engineers has allowed to present and share her knowledge at over 100 speaking engagements, connecting with both adults and children. At her most recent speaking engagement, Shavonti spoke to the young women of EmpowHER in West Palm Beach, FL. She shared her journey to becoming an engineer and what motivated her to stay committed. 

 Shavonti is a thought leader with a passion for giving back. Systematic Motivation, LLC further supports the idea that engineers are not limited to a certain look or color. Though the industry is dominated by those who are not minorities, there is still room for pioneers from other communities. Systematic Motivation’s aspires to level the playing field and broaden the horizons for all students. 

Salvatore Vecchio, born in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, was raised in the Italian Street Festival of OLMC Church, and began his "festival life," as a baby.  When Sal was 4 years old his dad opened Vecs Video, a small, boutique, VHS rental store.  Sal quickly learned to operate the Epson 386 computer, to check tapes in and out, and it was not a rare sight to see “Sally Boy” alone running the store!  

In 1992 Sal moved to Boca Raton with his family, and in 2000, he moved to Orlando to attend college.  At UCF,  Sal studied Electrical Engineering and Communications.  He transferred to FullSail University where he graduated at the top of his class, with a degree in Recording Arts.  He holds music certifications for AVID Pro Tools Operator Music & Post Production, Solid State Logic Live Sound Engineer.  

Sal worked at the famous Transcontinental Recording Studios on projects like Eminem’s Album Encore.  He worked as the Live Sound Engineer for Nick and Aaron Carter, Brooke Hogan, Sean Paul. While in Orlando, Sal was also Chief Engineer of Bushi & Bashi Recording Studios and G-Force Recording Studios.  

In 2005 Sal moved back down to South Florida when most of the major studios closed and started working for a custom home theater installation company.  Within a few years, he founded a custom installation company, Vecs Tech.  Sal completed the Crestron Digital Media Engineer certifications and residential system designer certification.

He has designed the low voltage infrastructure for multi million dollar projects like the Seagate Yacht Club and Seaside Estates.  Sal is also one of the best technicians in the world, he was even flown out of state to fix Trumps infamous 737 while he was campaigning to become president!  

While his business was doing well something was missing, Sal realized he needed to get back to his musical roots.  He DJ’ed at multiple clubs around Orlando but put away the turntables when he moved back down.  With the help of his amazing wife Ana, Sal found another outlet for his music, yoga and fitness events.  With the love and support of the local community Sal dived head first back into the music industry, DJ-ing at festivals and events around the area.  This year he was even flown around the world to South Korea to run sound for Ultra Music Fest Korea’s Live Stage!