On day four, mentors and fellows were hosted at Westminster International University for a day of mentorship with students planning for STEM careers of their own. The morning began with lightning talks featuring mentors Laura Messerschmitt and Beth Steinberg, who spoke about how their careers have shifted over time. “Neither of us would have thought this was possible,” said Laura. “But it doesn’t matter if you haven’t defined your plan yet. If you stay in STEM, you’ll find your path.”
The morning breakout sessions that followed were focused on project management, IoT, developing a personal mission statement and design thinking. Mentors and fellows brought students through exercises that fostered introspective thinking, encouraging them to think big and develop ambitious career goals.
Mentor Rebecca Biswas of Juniper Networks opened the afternoon session, chronicling her career in engineering and urging students to take on challenges that have the potential to propel their careers forward. As the only woman in her university program and often the only woman on engineering teams, Rebecca encouraged girls to pursue STEM despite the odds: “We know that girls belong in STEM just as much as boys,” she said. “I now lead a team of 50 engineers that includes many females. The world is changing.”
Mentor Eileen Brewer followed with a panel on careers in STEM, asking the diverse group of panelists questions that demonstrated how career passions can shift over time. Many panelists – now women established in their fields and leaders in their communities in Uzbekistan and the U.S. – changed their career three or four times over multiple industries. “You can change your mind as you go,” Eileen reminded the students.
Guiding students through their future careers
The day ended with speed mentoring sessions where fellows and mentors showed how their interests and careers have shifted over time. Laura Messerschmitt told her group of students that social media and mobile apps, the areas in which she works now, didn’t even exist when she was in school. In her group, mentor Patricia Bovan-Campbell explained that she has always looked at new jobs as very exciting opportunities: “They give you a chance to reinvent yourself,” she explained.
In many groups, students were concerned about balancing professional and personal aspirations. Addressing her group, mentor and executive career coach Shachi Patel reassured students that they still had time to find their passions, stressing that professional goals often require hard work, long hours and sacrifice: “If you want to be the best at something, it is going to take some time – but it’s possible.”
Through sharing their personal journeys, mentors and fellows showed students not just the potential of careers in STEM, but also the ability to change course, find new passions and pursue their curiosities.
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