Starting up the ladder
Arango finds community in Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers
Iñaki Arango wanted a change after his freshman year at Rice University in Texas. He was interested in science and technology, but also start-ups and entrepreneurship, and before starting college had interned at Romulus Capital in Boston.
“My boss at Romulus, he’d gone to Harvard too, and he told me about how many of his college friends started companies, often with the same people they stayed up with until 3 a.m. doing problem sets at school,” Arango said.
That helped convince Arango to transfer here a year later, and his entrepreneurial interests drew him to extracurricular activities like the Harvard Quantitative Traders Club, which mentors students interested in finance. He’s now a third-year dual-concentrator in computer science and statistics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).
What Arango couldn’t predict when he arrived was the other major extracurricular in his life: the Harvard Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Arango, who grew up in Argentina, wasn’t aware of SHPE as a national organization before coming to campus. Once he learned about the organization’s mission of promoting Hispanic and Latinx representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), he joined the Harvard chapter’s board. After one semester, he successfully ran for his current role as chapter president.
“SHPE is a really good community,” he said. “In general, STEM fields are harder to get into for people from underrepresented backgrounds, especially low-income communities. I thought that participating with SHPE on campus would be a good way to meet other Hispanic people in STEM, helping push the mission as I got to know similar people on campus.”
Arango’s STEM interests come from a combination of hobbies and pressure from his high school teachers in Argentina. He was much more interested in the humanities and thought he’d one day become a lawyer, but his high school biology teacher convinced him to join his school’s Biology Olympiad team. The next year, his physics teacher got him to join the Science Olympiad team.
Between his blossoming computer science skills and the Information and Communication Technologies educational track he was on in high school, Arango was able to start several companies before going to college. One company that’s still ongoing is Recyco, a platform that connects users with various recycling services in Argentina. That includes helping individuals locate recycling centers or schedule pick-ups, as well as connecting manufacturers looking to increase the recycled material in their products with suppliers.
“Most of my assistance was on the technology side, doing the architecture for the software, thinking through modern user experience patterns,” he said. “We want to create a market where companies can indicate how much recycled plastic they want to use, press a couple buttons and be connected with a vendor.”
Because Latinx Heritage Month falls during peak recruiting season, most of SHPE’s recent programming has been professionally oriented. A SpaceX recruiter recently came to review resumes and chat about career opportunities there, and SHPE followed that with another recruiting event with Bloomberg. The club is also preparing to send its upper-level students to the national SHPE conference in November in Salt Lake City.
“Last year, more than half the people that we sponsored to attend the national SHPE conference got a job offer there,” Arango said. “We usually take students from the junior and senior classes because they have a more immediate need to find a job. We’ll be letting this year’s attendees know very soon.”
Matt Goisman | email@example.com