Tuesday Transformation - Mario Cummins

Electrical Engineer, NASA Kennedy Space Center

Who is Mario Cummins?

I was born and raised in Barbados. I went off to university in Huntsville Alabama where I gained a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and later on completed a Masters in Engineering and Technology Management. I met my wife Shaina in college and we recently had our first child Raiyne. I enjoy regular activities such as audio books, netflix, water sports, weight lifting, atv-ing and eating out at nice restaurants. In the future I would like to start a non profit organization where I financially help and mentor motivated youth in Barbados that are living in challenging environments.

What developed your interest in Engineering?

I knew I wanted to be an Electrical Engineer from the age of 12 and I was focused on it from then. My interest was sparked from working with the sound system at my church. I was curious to understand how these electrical systems worked and how I could design one.

What was your first job?

My first job was an internship at an electrical motor rewinding business in Barbados. The business was called Johnsons Electrical Ltd. I am still grateful to the owner for giving me a shot because Barbados was going through a tough time economically at that period. In order to get that job, I opened the phone book and cold called every company that dealt with anything electrical. I was fortunate to find one that gave me a shot.

A Barbadian working at NASA, what an accomplishment! Tell us about that journey.

Thank you, the journey for me started as a risk because I was working at a permanent job with full benefits. However, I was recruited to temporarily help NASA with extra work they had for a few months. I had no benefits such as health insurance or 401k (retirement plan) for the contract and I could possibly be unemployed after the contract time was over. However, I saw the great opportunity and took the risk. I proceeded to make the most of the opportunity and worked extremely hard to make myself one of the elite engineers on the contract. After 6 months, I was given the opportunity to interview for a permanent position, which I was grateful to receive. I currently work as an Electrical Controls Engineer and I am in charge of designing and developing the HMI and PLC code for the SLS Rocket Environment Control System.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing a career similar to yours?

I would strongly suggest after getting the educational requirements, internships or apprenticeships are key. When I first got my internship I didn't care about salary or anything because I knew it was an investment to put on my resume. Experience is one of the first things employers look for.

Who and/or what do you credit your success to?

I would credit my success to my supportive parents, encouraging teachers/professors at the SDA Secondary and the universities I attended. I also gained motivation from reading about successful engineers in the technology industry such as Robert Smith, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Peter Thiel. Lastly but most importantly, I credit every success to God. The key for me is that I do everything I possibly can on my human side, then I depend on God to move mountains through His supernatural power. If you could tell your 15 year old self something, what would it be?

I would tell myself that effort, perseverance, the right attitude and an obsessive passion are more important than talent and natural ability. The reason I say this is because of my personal experience. I don't think I'm smarter than anyone, the only thing I have is a little wisdom and an overwhelming desire to maximize my potential. Therefore, I would tell any student not to feel discouraged if you are exuding more effort than your pairs but aren't achieving similar or better results. The critical asset to have is extreme effort, which will ultimately propel you to the heights of success after you graduate from school and enter into the real world.

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