She was the first in her family to venture into the United States for higher education. Now Marisol Coriano, a leader at Rockwell Automation, is using her life experiences to inspire future generations in STEM fields.
FOX6 News caught up with Coriano as she trained with her husband, James, for a half-marathon.
"I'm more competitive with myself. No one is a harder judge than myself," said Coriano.
As the vice president of human resources for Rockwell Automation, Coriano supports close to 9,000 employees. Her days are typically filled with travel, meetings and presentations. She’s also a proud mother and wife.
"I truly decided to go to human resources because it was matching my strengths better -- helping organizations and individuals grow to the highest level of potential they can. I would do it for free, and I am very lucky that they pay me for that," said Coriano.
One of her favorite tasks is encouraging people from all over to consider a career in STEM fields.
"She has a lot of different experiences. She's always very happy," said Alma Lopez, IT associate for Rockwell Automation.
Coriano recalled a time when the path up the corporate ladder wasn't so clear.
"Coming from this little island where we think that that's the center of the universe," said Coriano.
Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Coriano became the first person in her family to pursue higher education in the United States. She left at the age of 28. She wanted more opportunities.
"I'm an industrial engineer and I always wanted to complement it with business. I wanted to become fully bilingual, still with an accent, but still fully bilingual," said Coriano.
Trying to master English was a struggle.
"I would leave work with a headache every single day," said Coriano.
It wasn't until she learned Portuguese that English soon followed.
While chasing her dream, it was her first boss, Luisa Maria Cordon, that helped her move forward.
"One thing that I appreciate about her is that she gave me time to study. Stretching me to expose me. That stretch that she gave me and that confidence was immeasurable," said Coriano of her mentor.
Coriano models that guidance in her current role as she works to inspire the next generation.
"A lot of people in my family didn't go to college. One of the things I really like about (Coriano) is that she's not only involved with her role here at Rockwell, but she's also involved in the community. That's something I want to do as well," said Lopez.
After more than 20 years of global management and cross cultural experience across a variety of industries, human resources remains Coriano’s passion.
"It's a sense of purpose. It's loving what you do and doing it with love," said Coriano.
With the support of her husband James and their family, Coriano continues to move forward.
"He knew before me that I could reach these levels. He's my biggest fan and supporter," said Coriano of her husband James.
Coriano said she has no plans to slow down in what has become her life mission.
"I bring myself. That is who I am -- by giving to others and helping others get the opportunity that I've been very lucky to have," said Coriano.
Coriano will run a half-marathon with her husband in Madison in November, in honor of the 3,000 lives lost in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. She said the island remains very much close to her heart.