When she was a young, single mother, Theresa Padilla wanted to work in an industry that gave her the opportunity to provide for herself and her son. Although her English skills were limited at the time, she could understand numbers, procedures, and manufacturing and engineering terminology.
She started working at aerospace connector specialist Rakar Inc. in Oxnard, Calif., as a press operator in 1980 and enjoyed it from the first component she made.
Padilla is the first-time CEO of Rakar and the first woman in upper management in the company's history.
"The first thing I did was to change the culture to a collaborative hub of ideas and process implementation that allowed our company to become more competitive and efficient," she said. "People spend many hours away from their homes to be here; I want to ensure they feel valued, listened to and empowered to implement productive positive change that will provide increased service to our clients and vendors."
Padilla was nominated by Rakar Executive Vice President Diego Padilla, who is Theresa Padilla's son.
Theresa Padilla said her biggest life accomplishment has been becoming a mother. Her second has been acquiring the company that she worked at for nearly 40 years. Her third-greatest achievement was receiving an honorary Ph.D. from Universidad de España y México in Mexico City.
The best advice she would pass along to others considering a career in the industry is to "work hard, be honest with yourself and others, ask questions, be open and learn from the best people around you."
Padilla's father, Francisco, taught her to never stop working, to always find joy in work and to assist others.
"I feel that I have broken several molds from gender, age, to socioeconomic status. But my personal mold that I am breaking is fear," she said. "I am learning to not be afraid. To trust myself and my incredible team. To trust that my clients will continue to recognize my company's efforts."