December 7, 2023
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Eileen Vélez-Vega (above), secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Transportation and Public Works, recently filmed a TEDx River Oaks video distilling the life lessons she’s gained during her nearly 20-year civil engineering career.

[Above image via TEDx River Oaks]

In the video, she explains how lessons learned as a child and her training as a civil engineer helped to prepare her for life’s challenges, including what she calls the “inconvenience” of cancer.

Raised in Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico, Vélez-Vega received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and a Masters in Engineering from Mississippi State University.

She interned at the Walt Disney World college program in Florida and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

Eileen Vélez Vega

[Editor’s note: The Atlantic magazine also profiled Vélez-Vega in 2016 about her civil engineering career.]

Vélez-Vega also worked for four years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a civil engineer and then for the North Carolina-based Kimley-Horn design and planning firm from 2006 until she returned to Puerto Rico in 2014, when she became Kimley-Horn’s vice president of business development on the island.

Vélez-Vega – who specializes in the design and construction for commercial and general aviation airports, as well as multidisciplinary projects and business development – became the first female secretary of the Puerto Rico’s Department of Transportation and Public Works in 2020.