I Found My Passion After Starting My Career Later in Life — What I’ve Learned Along the Way

Sponsored by Cummins

Maria Wilkins. Photo courtesy of Cummins Inc.

Maria Wilkins. Photo courtesy of Cummins Inc.

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There is no right or wrong way to grow a career — all that matters is that your journey is right for you

Take Maria Wilkins, for example. Wilkins started her career later in life, and this turned out to be a great decision for her. “It gave me the opportunity to raise three amazing, successful, young women who are making this world a better place,” Wilkins tells us. And that’s not all. This pathway “provided me with the exceptional ability to adapt to change, multitask, and the confidence to raise my voice and lend a hand to bring change,” explains Wilkins. “It also gave me the opportunity to have better insight and experience when interacting with the younger generation, as they approach work in different ways.”

Photo courtesy of Cummins Inc.

Now, as a TC&C COE Emissions Compliance FE Technical Advisor at Cummins Inc, Wilkins has found her passion in a role that enables her to work with “great colleagues who are committed to improving our emissions compliance capability,” she says. Wilkins is truly living by her best piece of career advice: finding a job you enjoy and always doing as you say.

Here, Wilkins gives us a closer look at her job as a woman in STEM, her advice for women looking to join her industry or find their passion, her company culture, and more!

To begin, please tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role, how long have you been in this role, and what’s your day-to-day work like?

My day-to-day consists of:

  • Supporting the regulatory corridor and ensuring technical requirements are met by leading the creation or updates of technical documents.

  • Developing and improving workflows and collaboration between PCRA and System Performance teams.

  • Ensuring the review of critical emissions-related features.

  • Providing updated PCRA guidance to engineering teams.

  • Leading specialty work in conjunction with SMEs.

  • Supporting field ad hoc and impromptu SME questions/inquiries. 

What advice do you have for someone new to your industry? 

Learn about the work environment, begin networking, and do not be afraid to ask questions.

How have you found your own passion, purpose, and voice at work, and what advice do you have for others who are looking to do the same?

I’ve found this by reaching out and getting involved in DEI initiatives, as well as by co-leading the GOAL employee resource group (ERG). GOAL is a voluntary, employee-led group that aims to empower the Latino Community to achieve success, all while raising awareness of Latino Culture.

For others, I suggest looking for the high points in your day, thinking about your strengths, writing down the values that are important to you, exploring what you’ve always wanted to do, reaching out to possible mentors, and trying your passion as a side job at first

In addition, a great read is Speak by Tunde Oyeneyin and a great podcast is The Purpose Girl by Carin Rockind.

What about growing a career? What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for women who are moving into or want to move into leadership roles? 

Play to your strengths, seek advice, motivate others, and be authentic.

Photo courtesy of Cummins Inc.

Finally, let’s talk about the culture at Cummins. What’s your favorite aspect of it, and how does your company help you succeed? 

The company is doing an outstanding job of developing a culture of appreciation where employees feel valued for who they are and what they do.

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