For as long as she can remember, Erika Murguia has loved math—and her passion inspired her to pursue multiple degrees on the topic, and eventually a career in data science.
“I chose industrial engineering as my major because it’s a degree that allows you to enter many professional fields,” she says. “In college I became interested in mathematical programming and statistics, and after my bachelor’s degree, I pursued a master’s and then a PhD in industrial engineering, specializing in production systems and operations research.”
In 2013, she joined Cummins as a supply chain strategy analytics manager and has since worked her way up to become the Director of Quality Analytics, Data Science, and Innovation.
Here, she shares what it’s like being a Latina working in tech, the skills she uses to balance her career and family, and how Cummins invests in employee growth.
What led to your job at Cummins, and how did you know the company would be a good fit for you?
I relocated to the Columbus area when my husband received a full-time job offer after doing an internship at Cummins. I was working at the time in a consulting company and was traveling heavily for my projects. As I saw my husband grow at his job and the company, I grew more and more interested in being part of it.
What are you responsible for in your role?
I am responsible for leading a group of data scientists and data engineers who focus on proof-of-concept projects for quality. We develop machine learning models that will then become self-standing analytics products to be used by internal stakeholders.
How has the company helped you grow and develop throughout your tenure?
Since joining Cummins, I’ve been promoted twice and made one lateral move. The lateral move was necessary, as I was moving from an individual contributor role to a manager role and needed to exercise skills that I hadn’t had the chance to demonstrate yet at Cummins.
There have been a lot of investments in resources in the data science and IT areas for employees to stay updated in their fields, including access to many livestreamed bootcamps.
How did your previous roles at Cummins prepare you for your current role?
Being part of the supply chain strategy team allowed me to experience solving very complex and fuzzy problems. It also provided the opportunity to use my advanced analytics skills to solve company-wide problems dealing with network optimization, working capital, and inventory optimization.
Tell us about your involvement with Great Minds in STEM and how this has impacted Cummins’ recruiting efforts?
I started getting involved in GMiS—formerly known as the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation (HENAAC)—in 2017 when I received a HENAAC Award. Throughout the nomination process I interacted with the nominating team and the diversity recruiting team at Cummins. I then attended the 2018 GMiS conference as a volunteer and in 2019 became an executive co-sponsor, a role I still have today. Being part of GMiS gives Cummins visibility to great Latino talent that we otherwise would not have access to.
What challenges did you face as a Hispanic woman pursuing a career in tech, and how did you overcome them?
Mostly isolation. Hispanic women are severely underrepresented in data science and analytics roles, and it was hard for me to envision a future with role models that look like me. At Cummins, I was fortunate enough to be paired with a Latina as a mentor. During our time as mentor and mentee, she shared her wisdom and ways to advocate for myself and other women. Since then I have made very intentional efforts to mentor young Latinas in STEM fields inside and outside the company to share my journey.
In what ways does Cummins approach and champion diversity and inclusion among its employees?
The company encourages employees to join employee resource groups (ERGs) and take advantage of all the programs the ERGs offer. They invest in the company’s DE&I strategy and offer programs like “Bold, Inclusive Conversations About Race” to employees so that everyone feels more comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.
What skills or lessons has being a mom of twins taught you that you apply to your career?
Time optimization and task prioritization are the skills that I treasure the most, and although I’d always tried to keep these skills in mind, it wasn’t until I had the twins that I was forced to practice them 24/7. It is impossible to do everything in my work hours, so I always assess whether something needs to be truly done, or whether it can be done more efficiently (better and faster). I am very conscious of keeping my work time bound so I can enjoy family time.
What have been the keys to your success as a woman (and mom!) in a leadership role?
Mostly strategy, planning, hard work, patience, and resilience. Strategy for establishing long-term goals, both for my career and my family. Planning the short-term activities that build up to long-term goals. Hard work because no matter how great I am at strategizing and planning, I have to actually execute my plans. Patience and resilience are also necessary because good things take time, and probabilistically we are bound to fail at some point in our lives. Building those skills has been the best investment of my life.
What advice do you have for women who want to pursue a career in an industry where they are often underrepresented?
Find a role model, a personal champion, or a friend at work. I have had one or a combination of them at different points in my career. Their feedback has allowed me to get better at defining a plan to achieve my career goals. Sometimes those role models might not be present in your current company, and I’d encourage women to network and find them outside if needed. Remember that from time to time it will be difficult, but with a little bit of patience, space to think through your problems, and coaching, you can develop a solution.