Geeky Girl Reality

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Geeky Girl Reality helps girls find STEM-related gigs.

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1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Ileana Crudu, and I have always been a fan of STEAM. I am the ambassador of a project called GirlsGoIT, where we empower girls in and through technology.  2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I grew up in a post-soviet country. Back in early 2000, my older sister had a computer, which was extremely rare. I think we were the only family on the street that had a computer at that time. First thing I did to that computer was to disassemble it so I can see how that fan works. I loved to build and disassemble items. Girls my age had barbies and dolls; I had my toolbox. So, I guess I have always known I wanted to study and work in STEAM. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? I have always been a curious person. STEAM does not let allow to get bored. I try to wake up with a smile on my face every single morning. If that does not happen, there is coffee to solve the problem. My dream is to get to that point where girls are not a minority in this field, and STEAM education is accessible to every single kid. Until then, there is no time to rest. So I guess my biggest motivation is my goal of having equal representation, opportunity and pay for women in STEAM.  4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? Whenever I feel stressed, I take a break from work and do something that loses me up. Most of the time, I pun on my Queen playlist and go for a walk.  5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I do not have a role model. I think it is quite dangerous to idolatrize someone. But I try to learn and get inspired by everyone I know. I learnt from my mom to be grateful, from my sister to fight for everything I want, from my college professors that there is more to life than just academia. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? To stop stressing out over minor things. Take a long breath and start thinking about how you can solve a problem. If it seems complicated, think of the problem as a computer science assignment and divide the problem into smaller, simpler problems that are easy to solve. If things don't work out at all, go out and enjoy some coffee. There was no problem from the beginning. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? The Holy Grail of success in any field is NETWORK! Meet people that have the same passions as you and people that are total opposites of you. They are a free source of inspiration. Another tip is to be perseverent. You might not get that internship that you wanted. It's okay. Apply to as many as you need until you get one. Last, do what you love and love what you do. Life is too short to spend it doing things that don't matter to you. 8. How do you measure your success? If the work I do makes a difference for a young woman, that is enough for me. If a girl chooses a career in STEAM after being in our program, I consider it a success. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? You can find everything about GirlsGoIT on our website, https://girlsgoit.org/. You can also check out some youtube videos about our STEM summer camp and testimonial from our girls. You can only check my twitter, @IleanaCrudu , for more information.  10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? You can find me on Twitter and Instagram: @IleanaCrudu
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Maryam Zaringhalam and I’m a biologist by training who now works in science policy and science communication. I wear three broad hats: I’m an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, a Senior Producer for the Story Collider, and a leadership member of 500 Women Scientists. All of that work really boils down to answering this question: how can I help open up science to the public and make more folks feel like they belong and have some ownership over what it is scientists do? 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I entered grad school thinking I wanted to be a professor, leading my own lab. But pretty quickly into my graduate career, I realized I was more interested in bringing people into the experience of what it was like to do science, rather than doing science myself. So I started exploring careers outside of academia that were more public facing through a podcast I started with a few of my friends at school called Science Soapbox. We got to talk to a bunch of really impressive thinkers working at the intersection of science, policy, and advocacy, many of whom had done the science policy fellowship I now hold. I’m still figuring out exactly the direction I want my career to take, but as long as I’m learning, I’m happy! 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? I’m not sure if this is the healthiest thing, but probably Twitter! Scrolling through my timeline first thing in the morning, I see what so many amazing folks are up to that it makes me jump up, ready to join in. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? I struggle a lot with anxiety, and especially negative self talk. Something that really helps calm my thoughts is exercise; I’m a huge fan of group fitness classes and being outside. Doing something physically intensive makes me focus more on what my body is doing and gives me less of a chance to think—and especially to think bad thoughts. It’s kind of like a mental reset. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I don’t have a specific role model, but I’ll share some women who are doing phenomenal work I admire. Liz Neeley and Erin Barker lead the Story Collider team and constantly remind me that it’s possible to lead with compassion and be extremely effective. Then there are the women who have built powerful online communities: Kelly Ramirez-Donders and Jane Zelikova who launched 500 Women Scientists ; Jedidah Isler founded Vanguard STEM ; Giovanna Guerrero Medina and Mónica Feliú-Mójer direct Ciencia Puerto Rico ; Stephani Page launched #BlackAndSTEM ; Christine Liu coordinates The STEM Squad . And I also have to shout out the incredible Jess Wade , who creates a new Wikipedia page a day for women and underrepresented minorities in STEM—and whose boundless energy constantly inspires me. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? Failure is frequent and inevitable, and so learn to embrace and not feel ashamed of it as soon as possible. I struggled a lot with anxiety in high school and through college because I felt very much like I had to stick to a strict schedule and if things didn’t go exactly according to plan, I was a failure. But in science, we’re asking really big questions of the unknown, and so we fail all the time. My big wish for young scientists is that they feel comfortable talking about failure, so they can learn and grow from it. Talking about failure is how we’re better equipped to succeed! Also, I wish that Angela Saini’s Inferior: How science got women wrong and the new research that’s correcting the record had existed when I was younger. I recommend everyone—and especially young women—read it since she systematically debunks every myth that falsely states that women are intrinsically inferior to men. Myth busting is a real power! 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Understand that you belong in science. Grow a network that shares your values and love of science. I’ve found a great community and learned so much through social media. To find great folks, I recommend following @500womensci , @theSTEMSquad , @VanguardSTEM , @500queersci , @cienciaPR , and @realscientists . Asking questions or seeking clarification makes you smart, not dumb. (It took me an eternity to learn this!) 8. How do you measure your success? I wish I had a better answer for this, but it’s a combination of how proud I am of my work and some degree of external validation from mentors and peers. I’m still working on how to better define success for myself so I rely less on the input of others, but I’d be lying if I said it’s not something I look for—especially since my work is so outward facing. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? You can find me on Twitter @webmz_ or see some of my work and appearances at webmz.nyc . 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? I’m on Twitter and Instagram @webmz_ . You can also connect with me on Linkedin , though please include a message!
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Cathy Moya and I work for Microsoft in a Customer Experience Engineering team. My job is to connect our engineers and our customers so we can build the best possible products based on deep, honest feedback. I manage our Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVPs) for System Center Configuration Manager, Microsoft Intune, and Windows for IT. I manage our online suggestion box called UserVoice. And I created an initiative called #WomenITPros to help invite and support women in tech careers that don’t involve coding, because there’s A LOT more to working in tech than being able to code. I’ve had a variety of jobs at Microsoft since 2002 and none of them involved writing code. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? If you had told me 20 years ago this is what I’d be doing with my life I would have laughed. I was a theater major. I love theater, but I realized I didn’t love it in the way I’d need to in order to make a living at it. I also loved tech - I was really good at the one computer class they started my senior year of high school, but no one ever said, “Hey, Cathy, you know you could major in computers instead of theater?” I just didn’t think that was for me. But even back in the 80’s there was a lot of tech in theater - I wrote my plays on early word processors on early PCs, I much preferred using computerized lighting boards when I did lighting design, we were starting to use AutoCAD for other designs. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? My personal mission statement is “helping people understand things better”. The more my job is about that, the more I love it. Right now I help our MVPs understand our products better and they turn around and help our user community. I also connect our MVPs with our engineers so the product team can truly understand what our users need. I am inspired now to tackle a problem I see that contributes to the lack of diversity in tech - if we make it sound like you aren’t welcome in tech unless you know how to code, we’re losing talent that could find other roles in the tech world. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, did an amazing experiment with dogs. To sum it up, they had one group of dogs who could stop a shock by pushing a button with their noses, and a second group of dogs who had to wait for some other dog to stop the shock but couldn’t stop it on their own. In phase 2 of the experiment, the dogs could stop the shock by jumping over a low wall. They found the dogs in the first group quickly learned to jump away from the shock, but the dogs in the second group, the ones who couldn’t stop the shock at first, just stayed there. They “learned” that nothing they could do would change their situation, but they were wrong. When I feel stuck and stressed, I have to look for the things I can change. There’s always something I can change, even if it’s just my attitude about what’s happening to me. If I let myself believe things are hopeless and I can’t change anything, then I will stay stuck. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I don’t have a role model in the sense of “I’m not out there trying to do what they do” or thinking “what would she do in this situation?”, but Dona Sarkar is an inspiration to me. Her passion and energy are amazing. I saw her speak at the Women’s Conference at Microsoft several years ago and I was riveted by every word. I love how she brings together fashion and technology. I love how she is helping others pursue their dreams with her book #do the thing. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? I would love to go back and have myself read Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg years ago. He brings together emotional intelligence and communication skills in a very unique way. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Find what you love and do it, even if it isn’t considered STEM. There is technology in everything, so seek out the technology parts of the thing you love to do and master those. Read the manuals. If the documentation is well-written, you can learn a lot from taking the time to read it through. And working in the ITPro world is a lot of “Read the ‘fine’ manual”, also known as RTFM. If the manuals aren’t good, or aren’t getting you want you need, go online and find other sources - user communities, meet ups, conferences. There’s a lot of info out there. (And if there isn’t, learn it yourself and start creating your own content!) Never be afraid to ask for what you want. There are always people out there willing to help you, if only because they were helped once upon a time. You will have people say no, but you will probably get more yesses than no’s. 8. How do you measure your success? Probably not enough. :-) I tend to dwell more on my failures than measure or celebrate my success. I’m working on savoring my accomplishments. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? I have a FAQ about #WomenITPros at https://aka.ms/womenitpros. You can learn more about the Microsoft MVP program at https://mvp.microsoft.com. You can see the moderation I do on UserVoice at https://microsoftintune.uservoice.com. 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Twitter: @CxPCathy LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cxpcathy/ - if you mention #WomenITpros, I will accept your friend request.
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Bianca Vasquez. I am a college student, currently an intern for Virgin Orbit, & the founder of an international organization, Society of Women in Space Exploration (SWISE). 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I always had an interest in space, but never saw it as a career path. I wasn’t very aware of STEM careers until college and even then, felt that it wasn’t for me. I started learning about the new space industry through the internet, became more interested this exciting world, and decided to pursue it. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? As a founder of an organization, the women involved in our initiative inspire me everyday. They are passionate, motivated, and hard workers. I always want to do my absolute best in order for this organization to grow, be healthy, and benefit everyone involved! As an intern, I am excited to get out of bed every morning knowing I am in such a great position! I get to work on a rocket engine and be around some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met during a significant time in space exploration. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? Stress is inevitable, but I try to convert it into positive energy. I remember I am stressed because I have tons of good work to do on my plate. I have wonderful responsibilities. Time management is definitely something I’ve had to learn to master. The better my time is managed, the less stress I have. While the workload is still the same, it’s at least have it organized! Getting things done feels great! 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I do not have one particular role model- but I do admire a handful of women who are absolutely killing it in their industries! There are certain things about every one of them that I absolutely adore, and I channel those qualities for myself. It’s like putting my favorite things about these women in a blender and creating a smoothie of ultimate awesomeness! I admire Rihanna (a brilliant businesswoman), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (worked her way from the bottom, is incredibly intelligent and strong), & Mae Jemison (courageous and paved the way for women of color in space). 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? I would tell myself to be fearless and unapologetic about who I am, what I know, and my journey. For the longest time, I tried to blend in with the boys so that I would not stand out in STEM. Truth is, as a woman, I will stand out no matter what! Mine as well be yourself! Through fear of being seen as “dumb,” I was afraid of asking questions and being bold. This restricts opportunities for learning and growing. Now, I am not afraid to admit I don’t know something. I ask. I learn. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Meet as many people as you can. Network with purpose. Talk to people because you genuinely want to talk to them, people are interesting! Have friends outside of your industry. While it’s great to have friends who do what you do and understand your world, I found that having friends in other industries (fashion, business, finance, you name it) is incredibly refreshing. Having interests outside of your field is important to keep you well rounded. Learn from others, and let others learn from you! Ask questions, tons of them! People who are passionate about what they do are usually happy to answer questions. Sometimes ideas or concepts seem very difficult to understand and we spend tons of time trying to understand, when someone can explain it simply and quickly! 8. How do you measure your success? I measure success by the feelings I get. When I feel excited, motivated, and have butterflies in my stomach- I know something great is happening. When I feel good, I know I am doing well. If I don’t feel great, I know I can work on some things to change it. The goal is to be happy! Successes, both big and small, make me happy! “Failures” and “mistakes” are just opportunities to become better and have that much more success when I figure the problems out. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? My social media: Instagram: @PinkRocketship Twitter: @PinkRocketship My organization’s website is http://SWISE.org Instagram: @SWISEofficial Twitter: @SWISEofficial Credits to @cherthismoment who took the amazing photo of me in the pink suit. 😍
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? Hi! I’m Molly Janasik and I am a physics major at Michigan State University. I am about to start my sixth and final year and I hope to pursue aerospace engineering upon graduating. I keep busy with my three jobs, full school schedule, dance team, and new school club- the MSU chapter of the Society of Women in Space Exploration. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I was actually an artist my whole life! I never saw myself as a scientist until I took a required intro astrophysics class three years ago at MSU that completely blew my mind. And I have been in love ever since! 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? Curiosity! And the love for making things happen. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? Working out every single day has helped me immensely in curbing stress. I try to find a way to move every single day and stretch, it does wonders for your mood. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? My parents are my biggest role models. They both love getting up every day to go to work, so I have always tried hard to find my passion so I can be as happy as they are when I grow up! 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? To be more open minded! I always shrugged off science as something that just wasn’t “me” since I thought you could only be one thing, and I was a graphic designer at the time. But you can most certainly be anything, and everything at once! I would tell myself to try more things. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Network, network, network! I have had so many opportunities because of people I have connected with in person or on Twitter. Don’t be afraid to send emails or meet up with people you have never met before but would like to- people are so eager to help others in this field! 8. How do you measure your success? By my happiness and my positive impact on others. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? I don’t have a website at the moment, but I post everything on my twitter account ( @astro_molldoll) or my club’s page ( @msuswise )! 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Sure! Twitter: @astro_molldoll Instagram: @astro_molldoll
Shilpa Rumjeet is research administrator at the Centre for Bioprocess Engineering Research (CeBER), at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where she is responsible for the coordination of various projects. Her main project focuses on wastewater generated by biorefineries and the value-added products that can be created from this wastewater if processed appropriately such as biofuels and clean water. She is also involved in many side projects which range from investigating post- mining transformation through the fibrous plant economy to the assessment of the techno-economics of valorisation of vinasse in the sugarcane industry. Rumjeet’s main aim is creating value from waste, “I strongly believe that we need to move towards a bio-economy where the traditional petroleum derived products such as fuel and plastics are substituted with their bio-based and biodegradable counterparts.” Rumjeet believes in a waste free future, “incidentally we must move towards a circular economy where there [is] no waste generated when waste is treated as a resource from which we can extract value. My work revolves around these emerging concepts and I derive immense satisfaction in knowing that I am contributing in the move towards a sustainable future.” Rumjeet has journeyed far to reach her current position. She completed her primary and secondary education in her home country of exotic Mauritius; after which she pursued a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering at University of Cape Town in South Africa from which she graduated with honours in 2012. She then obtained a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering, specialising in Bioprocess Engineering. This was followed by her return to Mauritius where she worked as a bioprocess engineer involved in the production of biogas from wastes at a start-up company. However, her true passion has always been research and when she was offered a job in the research centre of her former postgraduate supervisor, Prof Harrison she gladly accepted and returned to South Africa. From her experience thus far in the engineering field, Rumjeet surmises that “it has been easier to navigate [her] professional life in an academic environment as opposed to an industrial one. Being a female engineer in the field presented more challenges where sometimes you would feel undermined with regards to your male colleagues.” One of the highlights of her career thus far was being selected as one of the 25 winners of 736 applicants from over 100 countries for the annual international competition called Green Talents hosted in Germany in 2018. Green Talents focuses on identifying promising potentials in sustainable development research and enterprise. The participants joined a local 2-week science forum where they had an opportunity to learn about the German sustainable development research landscape. With regards to her opinion of the future of STEM in Africa, Rumjeet is very optimistic, “I think there is a lot of space for the STEM community to grow especially with South Africa’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals...” She is also positive about the progress of African women in STEM, “There is a growing incentive to attract more girls to STEM fuelled by organisations like Women in Engineering, who are doing a marvellous job of providing support to both students as well as budding professionals and entrepreneurs.” Her advice to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field is “sustain your motivation and drive throughout your education/career. Remind yourself that hard work eventually pays off.” Read more about this Geeky Girl, Shilpa Rumjeet in an insightful interview below, which will have you converting words into knowledge in much the same way as she converts waste into value. 1. Describe what your work entails. I am involved in the coordination of various projects in CeBER. My main project revolves around wastewater biorefineries targeting the use of wastewater as a resource for producing value added products such as biofuels, bioproducts and clean water2. My side projects include (i) a community of practice projects to investigate post-mining transformation through the fibrous plant economy3; (ii) the techno-economics assessment of various process options for the valorisation of vinasse in the sugarcane industry. 2. Describe your STEM journey. After the completion of my secondary education in my home country, Mauritius I moved to South Africa to pursue my tertiary education at the University of Cape Town. I enrolled in the Chemical Engineering programme and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering with honours in 2012. I went on to obtain a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering in 2016, specialising in Bioprocess Engineering. I returned to Mauritius and worked as a bioprocess engineer in a start-up company dealing with the production of biogas from wastes. Being driven by research, I accepted a job offer in the research centre of my former postgraduate supervisor, Prof Harrison and returned to South Africa in mid-2017. 3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? I strongly believe that we need to move towards a bio-economy where the traditional petroleum derived products such as fuel and plastics are substituted with their bio-based and biodegradable counterparts. Incidentally we must move towards a circular economy where there are no waste generated when waste is treated as a resource from which we can extract value. My work revolves around these emerging concepts and I derive immense satisfaction in knowing that I am contributing in the move towards a sustainable future. 4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? Personally, I felt it has been easier to navigate my professional life in an academic environment as opposed to an industrial one. Being a female engineer in the field presented more challenges where sometimes you would feel undermined with regards to your male colleagues. It was more tedious to earn respect from your peers. 5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? Sustain your motivation and drive throughout your education/career. Remind yourself that hard work eventually pays off. 6. As a STEM woman in Africa, how do you foresee the growth and progress of STEM on the continent? Is Africa a “land of opportunity”? I think there is a lot of space for the STEM community to grow especially with South Africa’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which requires significant contribution from the scientific communities. There is a growing incentive to attract more girls to STEM fuelled by organisations like Women in Engineering, who are doing a marvellous job of providing support to both students as well as budding professionals and entrepreneurs. 7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? In 2018, I was selected as one of the 25 winners of the annual international competition called Green Talents. This competition aims to identify high potentials in sustainable development. Last year, 25 winners were selected out of 736 applicants from over 100 countries. We participated in a 2-week science forum in Germany where we had the opportunity to learn about the German research landscape on sustainable development. 8. How do you maintain a work-life balance? It is sometimes hard to maintain the work-life balance. I sometimes must make a conscious effort to leave work behind and focus on other things when I get home. However, it is important to maintain a balance for one’s wellbeing, both physically and mentally. 9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you? On a personal level: My mum. I admire her strength and resilience in adverse situations. On the professional side: My boss, Prof Sue Harrison. I admire her dedication to her work. She is passionate and extremely hard-working. 10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found? 1http://www.ceber.uct.ac.za/ 2http://www.futurewater.uct.ac.za/FW-WWBR 3http://www.resilientfutures.uct.ac.za/ https://www.greentalents.de/awardees_awardees2018_shilpa-rumjeet.php Shilpa Rumjeet interviewed by Dhruti Dheda Dhruti Dheda is a Chemical Engineer with a strong interest in media and communication. She is the editor of the Engineers without Borders South Africa Newsletter and the Community Manager – South Africa and Regional Outreach for Geeky Girl Reality. If you wish to collaborate or network, contact her at dhruti@geekyreality.com or find her on twitter  @dhrutidd
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