Sometimes life is funny and takes you full circle. For Leslie Hielema, that could not be truer – her profession has taken her on a circuitous and interesting path.
After graduating from Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) with a degree in engineering – a decision she said was the most important one of her career – she started her first job at AT&T Bell Laboratories, which advanced into new product development working in Europe. There, she developed battlefield software for the Navy Seals, commercialized technology and taught entrepreneurship before returning to Central Florida to serve as president of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce. And now? Well, she’s back at FIT.
The common thread among these professions was that each one felt like a new adventure and learning challenge, Hielema reflected. Each position combined aspects of her love of business and technology.
Today, she plays an integral role in building and enhancing partnerships and collaboration with companies, organizations and the community for FIT. She is responsible for growing its educational programs, consulting projects, research, economic development initiatives and alumni engagement in the Orlando area and across the region.
While her realm of influence is felt and seen at work, her passion extends beyond what might occur between the hours of 9 to 5. Hielema would tell you that outside of work, her daughter Lia is her passion – in fact, she even describes her as her “personal rock star.”
As an advocate for many, her broader passion is helping young women find their passion and pursue it – despite life’s inevitable roadblocks. She hopes to be a booming voice in a world of drowning doubts. She went on to say, “Do not let anything stop you from going for what you want. You deserve it. And if others do not understand, call on your inner strength to continue down your own path. Learn to listen closely to your heart.
“I feel so strongly that aviation, engineering and science are empowering for women and I am seeking innovative ways to ignite girls’ curiosity and desire to take bold steps into their future,” she said.