Inside Solaris Technologies’ Irving offices sit an abundance of cell towers, engineers, and a lab for solution testing and repair–all working to support the company’s $5 million global telecommunications business. CEO Evelyn Torres’ office, specifically, doubles as a play space for her grandchildren and is decorated with family photographs and the occasional stray fairy-wand toy. But tucked away from all the expected items in her office lies the unexpected: a private pilot’s license.
In 1949, Torres’ parents moved from Puerto Rico to the states, where she became the first in her family to graduate from college. Pioneering her own path, at age 27 she enrolled in flight school at Dallas Executive Airport (formerly known as Red Bird Airport). Torres’ father was already enlisted in the U.S. Air Force when she was born, and her family traveled often by plane, leading to Torres’ interest in aviation. “I always wanted … to see more, and that desire helped mold my own dreams,” she says. “I am carrying [my father’s] legacy in my own way through flying and exploring. I know he would be very proud of me.”
Torres wasn’t the only child in her family to become an adrenaline junkie. Her younger brother started driving racecars when he was just 11 years old, and passed along the hobby to his son, Torres’ nephew. Alongside having the need for speed, Torres had a desire to serve as a pioneer for women in flight. “Flight school was very hard,” she says, adding that women were challenged to find their place in the field. “There was a lot of pressure as the only girl in the school. They were always looking for me to make a mistake.” Torres surpassed expectations and passed the flight exam on her first attempt. “Doing things twice doesn’t exist in my life,” she says. “I am an overachiever.”
Torres has accumulated thousands of hours flying Cessna private aircraft since attaining her pilot’s license in 1990, flying across the world numerous times. She has island-hopped in the Caribbean, flown to Denmark and Russia, and from time to time jet-sets to Austin to grab hamburgers with her friends and family.
Torres has found that telecom and flying airplanes have commonalities. “You can fly to the same place 10 times, and it’s never the same,” she says. “Technology is the same way. You can look at it the same way 10 times, and it looks different each time.” Flying and manufacturing cellular towers both take strong problem-solving skills, which have helped her become an entrepreneur, she adds. They are “both innovative and leading edge.” The skills she gained through piloting came in handy when she established Solaris Technologies in 2010. The private company is an Irving-based manufacturer of telecom towers, including cell towers and transceivers, that employs 30 people.
Similar to her desire to serve as a pioneer for women in flight, Torres also aims to lead the next generation of women in technical jobs. So in 2013, she became a sponsor for the STEM (short for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Education Coalition, whose mission is to work with educators to prepare Texas students for the economy of the future. Through the coalition, she supports and mentors girls in grades five through eight at Wylie Middle School. She has donated lab equipment and served the school’s summer program, helping the students build towers. She also serves the coalition’s mission at the University of Texas at Dallas. “I’m very passionate about encouraging women to move forward in technology fields,” she says of her work with the coalition. Torres hopes to inspire women to “define themselves” and strive to be what they want to be. “I want to be a woman mover and help women [understand] there is space for them,” she says. “Move over, guys! There’s space for us.”
She knows this truth all too well, as someone who blazed her own trail in flight school. Although she’s an avid flyer, Torres has never considered pursuing piloting as a career. Instead, flying serves as a stress reliever for her. She describes being in the air as “nice and quiet” and as a place that allows her to see things from a distance and “get things into focus … When you’re flying, you see everything as opportunity,” she says.
While flying may seem like an unusual way to clear the mind, it aligns with how Torres lives her life: unconventionally. “Everywhere I go it’s an adventure,” she says, “no matter if it’s to Austin for a burger or to the ends of civilization near the Russian border in Finland.”