We are pleased to profile Rotarian, Erica Lee Garcia. Erica joined the Rotary Club of Kitchener just over a year ago. An engineer, she leads her own consulting and professional services firm and is a heavily involved with Engineers Without Borders.
Why did you join Rotary?
I was invited by my aunt Patricia Dimeck; she spoke so highly of the international projects she’d volunteered on that I was motivated to check out what it was all about.
There was a Rotary club in my hometown (Walkerton) so I knew about Rotary exchange students and the musical festival, but it never really occurred to me join myself. But the giving back element of Rotary seemed a natural continuation of the volunteering I’d been doing since childhood, and I loved the idea of knitting that experience into my life here in KW.
How would you describe your “Rotary path”?
It’s a short but exciting one: I joined just over a year ago, and just about immediately became a counsellor to Jessica, our club’s inbound exchange student from Taiwan. I attended a few district events and met some great young Rotarians whom I have agreed to mentor.
I also helped to give away a Mercedes as part of the club’s fundraising car draw. That was so much fun!
I am now helping the PR committee boost all our membership and fundraising initiatives and contributing to the Club’s first PR handbook.
How does Rotary align with your own values?
I always look for opportunities to give of myself and to contribute to the world I want to see. I aspire to be creative with my professional skills and how they can be applied outside the box toward furthering the changes that I believe in. I also look to cultivate a community with like-minded individuals wherever I can; you get more done and it’s more fun than trying to go it alone!
Rotary fits in perfectly with this.
What have been a defining moment in your life?
After working nearly a decade as an engineer in manufacturing and mining, I quit a well-paying job that didn’t align with my values in 2009 and went traveling. I ended up volunteering in Ecuador and Argentina on various non-profit helping initiatives that utilized my skills as a manufacturing engineer and change agent in very unexpected ways.
When I came home I started doing freelance consulting to help businesses reduce their costs by improving their business processes always toward the goal of bettering the work experience for people. Then I started a mentoring and coaching service for young engineering students and recent grads to give them the benefit of some of my experience and help them find their way.
While speaking at an Engineers Without Borders Canada conference at Queen’s University (my alma mater) I was approached by that organization to partner on speaking to kids about engineering in new and creative ways.
Deciding to become an entrepreneur was without a doubt the most important turning point of my life so far. I enjoy the social aspect of Rotary since I work by myself a lot and that can get lonely! Also, I enjoy the chance to network and learn from experienced and accomplished professionals in many different industries in my Rotary club.
Watching Jessica give her year-end presentation at our club meeting was a wonderful experience for me; she was so happy and animated as she spoke of her year in Canada and showed us photos of all her exciting excursions and activities. I felt really proud of her and glad that I had the chance to support her.
As we speak she is making her way across Canada with several fellow inbound Rotary exchange students and having a blast! When I was a teenager I met Mirjam, a Rotary exchange student from Holland who attended my high school. Today I am still in touch with Mirjam who emigrated to Canada as an adult. She lives close by with her husband and young girls, and they love it here, so I know the power of a Rotary exchange to change lives!
Whatever Jessica does in the future, it feels great to have touched a young person’s life and to have had the chance watched her grow.
What are your future Rotary goals, both short‐term and long‐term?
Engineers Without Borders Canada is very well-aligned with Rotary’s international projects, so I dream of further connecting those two wonderful organizations to create some powerful impact overseas. Also, I sing with Grand Harmony, a local chapter of Sweet Adelines International, and I think that a Rotary singing event would be great fun!
If you could tell another woman one thing about Rotary membership, what would it be?
It’s a very professional and welcoming environment. Think about joining up – your contribution will be greatly valued and you will meet lots of great people.
There’s no catch, and lots of great opportunity! I’d welcome the chance to chat with anyone who is considering Rotary membership and not sure if it’s for them.