Intel Engineer Jorge Torres on Taking Chances and Following His Dreams

Jorge Torres

 

Born in Michigan but raised in El Salvador, Jorge Torres grew up in a family of engineers. There is one image from his childhood that has always stuck with him: the little blue Intel logo on his father’s laptop.

“My brain, at that moment, couldn’t really understand how so much information was captured in such a small chip,” says Jorge. “So I think that’s where this whole thing started.”

He’s referring to his dream of working at Intel.

That little blue logo on his dad’s laptop—and the chip inside—set him on a course toward becoming an engineer, like his father before him. And by 2008, it looked like his dream was going to come true sooner rather than later. He’d been offered a job at Intel shortly after earning his master’s degree. But then almost immediately, the recession hit, and Intel went into a hiring freeze. He was out of a job before he even started.

He had a choice to make: stick it out in the U.S. or return to El Salvador and try to find something there. He decided to stick it out. He found a job at a pulp and paper company in Longview, Washington, knowing Intel was just a stone’s throw away. Something was bound to open up eventually, and he didn’t want to give up on his dream before his career even began.

He was right, of course. A little more than three years later, shortly after Jorge had been promoted to manager of three disciplines, Intel floated him another job offer—this time, for the position of Facilities Automation Engineer—and Jorge was faced with his second big decision very early in his career.

“There’s an expression in Spanish, Más vale ser cola de leon, que cabeza de raton,” says Jorge, “which means, ‘It is better to be the tail of the lion than the head of a mouse.’ I like to think of it from a different perspective. I could stay at my first job and be a leader, or take the opportunity at Intel and be part of something bigger than myself. I chose the tail of the lion.”

Jorge leapt at the opportunity to join his dream company, even though it meant he would have to essentially start over. But deep down, he knew he would be allowed to grow and to challenge himself. And this was what he’d always wanted.

He started his career at Intel in automation facilities, and his natural leadership abilities propelled him into the role of area coordinator. When one of his bosses moved to another team, he got his shot at his “first dream job” as the manager of the team. And though he felt a little out of his league, he’s always loved a good challenge.

“I always say that if I feel too comfortable in a job, I need to try something different that will enable me and our business to continue to grow,” says Jorge. Which is something he has done a number of times throughout his tenure at Intel—moving from one role to the next, and continually developing himself, his teams, and his leadership abilities.

Recently, he moved into the position of Electrical Instrumentation Automation and Electromagnetic Compatibility Area Manager—a title he half-jokingly vows to shorten as one of the first official decisions he makes as a manager. In his role, he leads a group of more than 70 people who are responsible for the around-the-clock electrical power distribution, instrumentation, automation, and electromagnetic compatibility of all of Intel’s Oregon facilities. While this could seem overwhelming to the average person, Jorge knows that enabling the team to reach the best version of themselves is the secret for success.

“I base everything on truthful relationships, active listening, constant learning, and honest communication,” he says. “And to be honest, a lot of that stems from what I’ve learned at Intel. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people here, and every single time I talk to someone, it’s like a lesson learned. It can be a very short conversation, but it’s always something interesting. To me, it’s important that the people I meet and the people I work with every day, that I learn from them.”

A large part of Jorge’s leadership is his commitment to honesty. He doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. And he’s not ashamed to admit he makes mistakes.

“One engineer I’d hired as an intern—who then became a college grad and is now a manager—said to me, ‘One of the things I learned from you is that it’s okay to be vulnerable,’” says Jorge. “And I think to me the lesson is, I’m not perfect, I make a lot of mistakes, so there’s no reason for me to hide it. And when you promote that kind of culture within your team, it’s easy for everyone to really feel comfortable and to learn from their mistakes.”

Even better than learning from one’s mistakes is celebrating his team’s success.

“My job is to connect and inspire people,” says Jorge. “Especially as a leader. So that’s my biggest motivation. Being able to lead my team, see people grow, and see my team succeed. To accomplish great things and maybe even give birth to the next Michael Jordan of facilities.”

 

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