Welcome to Refinery29's Why I Do It, a series where we ask inspirational, successful people 29 questions about what fuels them on and off the clock. Because, let's face it: life is about so much more than chasing inbox zero.
On June 4, 2022, Katya Echazarreta became the first Mexican-born woman (and one of the youngest people ever) to fly to space — she's also interned at NASA and worked on five of their missions. Now, at age 27, she's the co-host of Netflix IRL, a YouTube series by Netflix and is pursuing a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins University, all while continuously creating electrical engineering content on social media. Oh, and she was offered a full-time position at NASA upon graduation. Here's why she does it.
What’s the very first thing you do when you wake up? Check my calendar for any morning meetings.
Power nap or power workout? Power nap!
Early bird or night owl? Night owl.
How many unread emails do you have in your inbox right now? 390.
Iced coffee or hot coffee? Iced coffee.
What’s your favorite thing that you keep on your desk or work space? My monitor — the bigger the better.
When was the last time you felt like a success? Every night I am grateful for the life I have created.
What do you do on those days when you don’t feel that confident? I take extra care of myself and focus on doing the things I love.
What’s one thing you do every day, without fail? Hug my dogs, or send them virtual hugs if I am traveling.
What’s something you wish you did every day? Work out.
What’s your favorite piece of advice that you’ve gotten? In order to truly achieve the big things you want in life, you have to know who you are. Only then will other opinions truly not matter.
What’s your least favorite piece of advice that you’ve gotten? To ignore people being disrespectful. It's important to pick your battles, but it's also important to set boundaries.
Who inspires you the most? My mom.
Who, if anyone, do you try to emulate? Carl Sagan.
What’s something people ask you for advice about often? How to join the space industry and/or NASA.
What’s a piece of advice you felt proud to give? How to deal with the stress and pressure of being a "first."
Where do you put your phone while you’re sleeping? On my husband's desk.
What do you do when you feel yourself burning out? It depends. Sometimes I can't stop and I have to try to finish everything so I can rest. If I can, then I take a day off or slow down.
What’s something you consider a secret weapon? My confidence.
Where are you, compared to where you thought you’d be at 12 years old? At 27, I am where 12-year-old me thought I'd be at about 45.
If you could change one thing about your professional life, what would it be? The way my work is constant. I don't have a typical 9-to-5, for me it's 24/7 so self-control is extremely important.
What’s been your biggest pieces of support, helping you get where you are? My family has been my biggest support system. They understand exactly where I'm going and work with me to achieve them.
What do you do to start your workday? I make myself a decaf iced coffee. I decided to quit caffeine (for the most part) after college.
What do you do to end your workday? I have dinner and do an activity that doesn't require much brain power, like watching a movie.
What’s the last song you listened to? Million Years Ago by Adele.
What’s the last photo in your favorites folder on your phone? My husband and I during our recent trip to the mountains.
If you could go back and do one thing differently in your career path, what would it be? Nothing. I think I am exactly where I am because of everything that I have lived through.