By Allie S.
On Monday, February 1st, GIRL hosted GIRLs in STEM Day, an event where four women in STEM shared inspiring stories with girls about their experiences in the field and paths to where they are today. The speakers had all taken very different paths in STEM, and many of them emphasized the versatility and wide array of possibilities available with a STEM degree. Many of them also admitted that going into STEM wasn’t their initial career goal. For example, Francisca Alonso is an architect who works in construction and co-founded AV Architects and Builders, where she also is the CEO. She mentioned that she originally wanted to go to law school, but one of her professors in college inspired her to look into architecture school. Like Alonso, Lucia Jarrett aspired to become an attorney, but while earning her first degree, she kept seeing all sorts of ads about technology. She told the girls that she decided to go to a boot camp where she discovered her passion for coding, and now she serves as the Managing Director at Accenture Technology and as the lead for the STEM for HER Board of Directors. Aisha Bowe explained to the girls how she stumbled upon STEM by accident but ended up finding a love of math and science in community college. This love led her to earn two degrees in Aerospace Engineering, and with these degrees, she was able to work for NASA as a rocket scientist for some time before founding STEMBoard and creating STEMLingo with Danielle Regis. Regis studied electrical and computer engineering during her undergraduate years, and though she wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do, she knew that she had a lot of options with it. Now she is going back to school for business because she wants to “learn more about how the world works” and loves how technology and business can intersect.
The women also gave the girls practical tips and advice to think about as they decide what career path they will embark on. Alonso and Bowe shared their experiences of being business owners and initially receiving some pushback from others who questioned their decisions to create their own companies. Even so, Alonso expressed that it was important to be in charge of her own destiny and that “there is nothing more exciting than building something out of nothing.” Bowe echoed this sentiment, adding that there is “no better job, in my opinion, for me than the one I was able to create for myself” and that she is excited to go to work every morning. Some of their greatest advice was to not pay attention to naysayers, to listen to yourself, and to follow your dreams because “things usually have a way of working out.” Meanwhile, Jarett and Regis advised the girls to keep looking for opportunities to network and gain new experiences, such as through internships and volunteering. “There’re so many people that can help you,” Jarret said. “Always reach out. There’s always someone around.” In the same vein, Regis told the story of how she became involved with STEMBoard and wanted Bowe to be her mentor. She described her persistence and her tenacity that got her to where she is today, and stated how “the people you meet can have a big impact on your life.” The speakers also added how important it is to learn positive self-talk and that confidence can go a long way through the successes, failures, and the long road that may be ahead. “Your life is your masterpiece,” Bowe told the girls. “Think of it like a book chapter. You have to edit it ruthlessly, and always do it with yourself and your love and your respect of yourself in mind.”
One of the attendees, Chelsea Waruzi, really enjoyed the event. When asked about her experience attending, she explained that speakers were inspiring and made her feel even more certain about her dream to become a chemical engineer. “For some time, I thought I was ok with just being a chemist studying molecules,” Waruzi wrote, “but after the webinar, I want to create something with chemistry.” She added that seeing these women of color doing what they love and starting their businesses made her feel like she could follow a similar path. Waruzi hopes to attend MIT, and while she loves chemistry, the webinar helped her realize that her interest may change and it’s important to be flexible. “I may fall in love with another field of study when I’m in college or even later in life. It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I love it and I am determined to pursue it.”