“You get intimately familiar with what takes you away from home and what brings you back at the end of the day.” — Tommy Saenz
What piqued my interest in STEM was my automotive electrician class in high school. I got to tinker with electronics and cars — not unusual hobbies for a kid from California.
The coolest thing I ever did was convert a car from 150 horsepower to 350 horsepower. We upgraded the turbocharger intercooler system, the cold air intake, the full catback exhaust system, and the sport suspension. We also redid the throttle body and changed the cam gears. Essentially, we took your everyday turbocharged Volkswagen apart and put it back together with newer, bigger, and better parts. The thing with turbocharged cars is they’re fairly easy to modify and trick out. You can play around a lot with them, especially electronically, with computers. We made that car go faster, and it was a lot of fun.
After high school, I went to a very hands-on, engineering school at the U.S. Naval Academy. I chose systems engineering as my major because it exposed me to all of the major engineering disciplines: mechanical, electrical, and computer all rolled up into one.
I used my tech expertise a lot in my years of service as a helicopter pilot. A helicopter is basically a giant hybrid of all kinds of systems: mechanical, electrical, pneumatic. You have to know the basics — the ins and outs of how they work — because that way, you’ll know if something is wrong and how to fix it. All naval aviators go through substantial training on an aircraft’s systems, which helped me fly into that role. Eventually, I became a maintenance officer. I got into the technical side of aviation as well as aircraft maintenance and quality control. I really enjoyed working with the mechanics and electricians on the airframes.
I decided to get my master’s degree at USC when my active duty was coming to an end. I wanted to focus more on my family because I’d been deployed quite a few times. I also knew that getting my master’s degree could give me an edge in my transition.
And, it turns out, USC has very strong ties with Qualcomm (the Viterbi School of Engineering is named after one of the company’s founding fathers, Andrew Viterbi). There’s also a strong veteran contingent here at Qualcomm, which was a consideration when deciding if I should work here.
Now, I’m a Senior IT Project Manager at Qualcomm Incorporated. Basically, I work for the data center team that’s called IT Operational Services. We design, deploy, decommission, maintain, and operate all data centers globally for Qualcomm.
In my day-to-day, I’ll help manage projects, hold meetings, and get cross-functional teams together in a room, knowing that we have a certain schedule, scope, and budget we need to manage. I help point those teams in the right direction and get projects done. It’s funny how much it resembles my time in the military. There, I also had a cross-functional team and a mission to accomplish within a specific timeframe and budget.
My favorite part about working at Qualcomm is the people. They’re great people — very talented, super smart. I also work with quite a few veterans. I’m lucky that I still have that camaraderie in everything that I do.
My military background is one of the things in my life I’m most passionate about. I sit on the QVETS events and partnerships committee, and I actively participate in some external veteran initiatives we support through community outreach. It allows me to spend quality time with other veterans that have worn the uniform. It’s a great internal employee network that definitely makes Qualcomm a cool place to work.
Tommy Saenz has been with Qualcomm for three years as a Senior IT Project Manager for the IT Operations Services Team. He is a U.S. Navy veteran with a B.S. in Systems Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and a M.S. in Systems Architecting and Engineering from the University of Southern California. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his family and friends and the great outdoors.