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Sharing our STEM Career Stories with Girls

Last Saturday morning, MIND Research Institute colleagues participated in a Gaming, Tech and Computer Hardware Career Panel hosted by our friends at Girls Inc. of Orange County. It was Development Day and girls gathered at Santa Ana College to prepare for their externships.

The Girls Inc. Externship Program prepares today’s girls for tomorrow’s world by providing young women with hands-on career exposure in industries such as engineering, technology, business, and science. This comprehensive college and career readiness program gives girls both hard and soft skills through training days and an 80-hour externship at a local Orange County business. Program topics include networking, professional etiquette, and introduction to diverse careers.

When we arrived at Development Day, young women were gathered in groups discussing workplace scenarios they may encounter in their externships and future careers.

Girls Inc. of Orange County members worked through challenging
workplace scenarios at Development Day.

“You’re working on a team project and one team member has a particularly negative attitude about everything. What would you do?”

As the girls discussed, my colleagues and I exchanged knowing glances and laughed. While we’re lucky to rarely run into this scenario at MIND, we had all encountered similar situations in the past. When we regrouped, the young women blew us away with their thoughtful solutions.

Look out, Boeing, Blizzard, and other externship host organizations - these girls are ready to rock!

When it was time for the career panel to begin, Alesha Arp, User Experience Researcher & Usability Tester, and Shwetha Patil, Database Developer, took the stage. They were joined by Natasha Fierro, who does experiential marketing for Verizon Connect. A moderator from Girls Inc. asked the panelists a variety of questions from how they got started in their field to what their future career ambitions were.

Alesha, Natasha and Shwetha talked about their jobs and career paths.

Alesha and Shwetha introduced themselves and described their jobs to audible gasps. Many of the girls were familiar with ST Math®, MIND’s visual instructional program, and had grown up with JiJi. They were excited to meet women who worked to bring one of their favorite educational games to life.

When asked about challenges in their careers, each panelist wasn’t short on examples. Competitors, change, acquisitions, pay cuts and even the act of being fired were discussed. Despite the obstacles they’d faced, each woman described challenges as a natural part of work. The resounding message being that our failures do not define us.

When you fail, there’s only one place to go - and that’s up.

- Alesha Arp, MIND

As this was an all female panel speaking to a room of young women, the subject of gender-based imbalances in STEM and the workplace inevitably came up. Women hold only 16 percent of the nation's engineering jobs, 21 percent of computer programming jobs, 25 percent of math-related jobs and 38 percent of jobs in chemistry. While women face unique challenges in the workforce, and STEM in particular, our panelists encouraged the audience not to be discouraged by the statistics.  

It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. Everyone is expected to show up and deliver.

- Natasha Fierro, Verizon Connect

One of the final and favorite questions that was asked was, “What skills are needed to be successful in the workplace?” The panelists answers were varied and numerous. They included: flexibility, lifelong learning, organization, responsiveness, responsibility, and creativity.  

Confidence and networking will bring you success in the workplace. Based on your area of interest, get to know what is required in that professional field.

- Shwetha Patil, MIND

No matter what questions were asked, there was never a shortage of advice for the members of Girls Inc. The panelists were excited to pass on what they had learned in their careers and the girls were eager to learn. Despite filling over an hour with questions, answers and anecdotes, girls still approached the panelists at the end of the event to ask even more questions.

Panelists and Girls Inc. members make "strong" poses together in a group photo.

As individuals who are passionate about empowering young women in STEM, participating on the panel was an honor and success for Alesha and Shwetha. At MIND, we’re working to mathematically equip all students to solve the world’s most challenging problems. Alesha and Shwetha believe that girls have a huge role to play in that.

I was so excited to speak to these young women about my role in tech because it doesn’t fit people’s stereotypical idea of what a STEM job is. A combination of people skills, creativity, and intelligence all wrap together in my career. My work is exciting and interactive, and I wanted these girls to see that. The future is technology - we need girls to be there.

- Alesha Arp, MIND

Thank you to Christina Elias and the rest of Girls Inc. of Orange County for including MIND colleagues in their Gaming, Tech and Computer Hardware Career Panel and Development Day. Good luck to all of the young women we met on their externships. Go show the world just how strong, smart, and bold you are!

empower problem solvers

Kelsey Skaggs

About the Author

Kelsey Skaggs was the Communications Manager at MIND Research Institute. She enjoys highlighting the work of colleagues and partners who champion MIND's mission.


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