Perez builds bright future at Panama Canal
Since Andrea Llamas Perez was a little girl, she has enjoyed the idea of a challenge.
“My dad, an architect, used to bring me to the construction sites he worked on,” Perez said. “I loved seeing how every day created new tasks and obstacles. One of the things I like about civil engineering is that there is always a challenge. I like the feeling of not having a routine.”
A native of Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico, Perez moved to the United States to attend Lamar, which she discovered when her aunt notified her of Lamar’s highly ranked engineering school.
“When I started Lamar, I knew I wanted to have a deeper understanding of engineering,” Perez said. “My first year at Lamar, I sought construction management, but then decided I wanted to do civil engineering instead.”
Perez, who graduated in the spring of 2013, is pursuing a master of engineering with a concentration in civil engineering after receiving a scholarship from the dean of her department.
“After graduating, I debated on whether I should return to Mexico, where my family is, or stay in the United States,” Perez said. “However, the dean of civil engineering offered me a scholarship to return for my master’s degree which persuaded me to further my education at Lamar.”
This summer, Perez had the opportunity to participate in an internship at the Panama Canal expansion project, otherwise known as the Third Set of Locks Project.
“I graduated on May 18 and two days later started working in Panama,” Perez said. “When I got there, everything was unreal because I had the perfect job, and the perfect team. I was so impressed to see how they were constructing the canal.”
Perez first learned about this opportunity in an email saying that Jorge Quijano, CEO from the Panama Canal, was coming to Lamar to give a presentation about the Panama Canal expansion.
“One of my main goals in coming to the United States and Lamar is that I wanted to be involved in a construction project that was known worldwide. At the end of my senior year, I didn't know where to work or what to do, but when I saw the email, I thought this is my opportunity,” Perez said. “It was a combination of everything I wanted. I researched the topic to find out everything I could about what was going on with the project.”
Following the presentation, Perez asked Quijano if there was an opportunity available to work on the Panama Canal expansion project.
“I was so happy and excited,” Perez said. “I felt related to Mr. Quijano because he also graduated from Lamar. He told me I just needed a recommendation letter from my department.”
After talking with Robert Yuan, the chair of civil engineering, Perez applied for the engineering internship.
“The dean was so supportive,” Perez said. “He encouraged me to work at the Panama Canal expansion project and offered to help in any way he could.”
For three months, Perez worked in the construction management unit with a group of top engineers.
“I learned how to work in teams since the jobs we had to complete in the internship were based on teamwork,” Perez said. “I got so close to the team while I was there, they were like family.”
Perez said the team greatly influenced her, particularly her supervisor, Lilibeth R. de López.
“She was so inspiring,” Perez said. “Not only did she have so much energy, but she took care of me while I was there, even picking me up from the apartment I was staying. Leading by example, she taught us teamwork and how to work hard.”
While in Panama, Perez received an opportunity to have dinner in the embassy, and got to meet the president of Panama.
“When I was in Panama, I wanted to enjoy the experience and take advantage of all the possibilities I had, so I went to an important dinner for July 14th, Bastille Day,” Perez said. “When I got to the dinner, I found out that the president was there. Not only did I get to meet him, but I got to talk with him as well. It was so exciting.”
During her stay in Panama, Perez found a way to volunteer in the community.
“When I was there, the Panama Canal Authority organized an event where they give kids who have never been able to come to Panama City the opportunity to do so,” Perez said. “I was able to help these kids see the city and the canal.”
Perez said her Panama Canal internship has created a bigger challenge for the future.
“Coming from a phenomenal experience, I am now looking forward to bigger projects,” Perez said. “The Panama Canal internship has fueled my hunger. After working in project management, I know that is what I want to do.”
In her time at Lamar, Perez participated in many student organizations. Perez was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Honor Society of Civil Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and Sigma Delta Pi, the Spanish Honor Society.
“In the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, I was able to embrace my heritage and was introduced to people from different universities that have big dreams,” Perez said. “It was a good networking experience and allowed me to step out of the box.”
Perez feels that her experiences with Lamar’s civil engineering department have truly prepared her for a successful career.
“Lamar has definitely gotten me ready for a real job with pressures,” Perez said. “I admire how the teachers here don’t treat the students as just a number. The teachers believe in you and give you the tools to succeed.”
Before graduating, Perez hopes to take advantage of additional Lamar opportunities.
“I want to keep learning more for my master’s, work on research, do a thesis, and establish more networking,” Perez said.
After graduation, Perez plans to further her education and learning experiences.
“Right now, I want to prepare myself and succeed in the projects that I encounter,” Perez said. “I wish to do another master’s, and then apply to construction companies abroad. After that, I want to work for my parents' consultant company in Mexico.”
Attending Lamar has provided Perez immeasurable opportunities and helped her grow as an individual.
“Before coming to Lamar, I didn't realize my potential,” Perez said. “Now, I am more independent and am ready to take on challenges. Through my networking at Lamar, I have received valuable experiences that have made me more outgoing professionally. Lamar believes in my accomplishments, and instilled confidence within me.”