Confidence is key, say female STEM leaders

Biomedical engineer Michaella Kavanagh (right, with mic) said she somehow made it through college without having to do a lot of presentations and advised female students on the Women in STEM panel to get out of their zone comfort and present as much as they can.

Story of Lana Sweeten-Shults
Pictures of Ralph Freso
GCU News Desk

“Here we are. It’s going to be terrible!”

Michaella Kavanagh knew she was in a professional mess. What happened next was not going to be cute. All of his insecurities were ready to spill on the floor, right in front of his interviewers.

Biomedical engineer BD Peripheral Intervention, early in her career, wanted a job at a startup working in artificial heart valves.

GCU Society of Women Engineers Project Engineer Jessica Padilla, one of three student moderators, posed a question to the panelists.

But when she was a student at Trinity College Dublin, she was not top of her class. She didn’t know everything, as some people seemed to know, and was beginning to doubt herself.

“Am I a good engineer if I CANNOT do all this?” she wondered.

Then she wonders about her youth and her inexperience.

When her investigators asked her to draw a heart valve in SolidWorks, a computer-aided design and engineering application, she knew disaster was imminent.

She didn’t know much about SolidWorks, so she did her best before turning to her interviewers, verbally stating what she would do and assuring them, “This (SolidWorks) is something I can understand . I need time with this. That’s my thought process and that’s what I would do.

After what she thought was a disastrous interview, she tried to convince herself: “I don’t want it anyway.

But then she was offered the job, although she ended up accepting a position at another company.

The big takeaway she shared with Grand Canyon University students at the second annual Women in STEM panel Tuesday in the Engineering Building: “We definitely have times when we don’t believe in ourselves. You must be confident.

That wasn’t the only advice she and four other women engineers, tech professionals and recruiting professionals shared at the event, planned and organized by three GCU student STEM clubs – the GCU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, the Technology Club and HOSA Future Healthcare Professionals. They worked with K12 Educational Development, Strategic Employer Initiatives and Internships and the College of Science, Engineering and Technology to bring the event to campus.

Shelly Tudor (second from right) said she had changed majors twice but knew she had found what she wanted to do when she walked into a computer room on Good Friday and was she only came out on Easter Sunday.

Information systems professional Shelly Tudor told students to “forget the list” when it comes to getting the job you want. If you can’t check off all the requirements in a long list of requirements, that’s okay. You can learn these skills.

“As a hiring manager, I’ve had so many people that I’ve interviewed or hired who had no idea,” but they have that confidence, Tudor said. Some have succeeded; some did not. His advice: “Don’t disqualify yourself. … You are your best advocate. No one can honk your horn as well as you.

Civil engineer Susan Detwilerthe chief operating officer of private consulting firm Dibble, echoed this theme of trust.

“You gotta get that handshake, ladies,” she told the students. “You have to be confident. It has to be firm. It’s the first impression. … Be the first to reach out. The art of the handshake? “It is enormous.”

She also encouraged students to focus on details that might not seem so huge, as shown in Dr. Lois P. FrankelNice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: The Unconscious Mistakes Women Make to Sabotage Their Careers.

“There’s really one aspect that I think women should focus on, and that’s the subtle differences in how you communicate,” Detwiler said. “There are a number of things that women do that are viewed negatively by men. …playing with your hair, fidgeting, maybe formulating a statement in the form of a question, the silly handshake…apologizing excessively, using please and thank you too much in e-mail correspondence.

She also implored the participants to defend themselves. If they hear an inappropriate joke, don’t laugh.

Then she shared those times when she was at a business function and someone asked her, more than once, what she does for her business.

Susan Detwiler, chief operating officer of consulting firm Dibble, advised students to perfect their handshake to make that great first impression.

“Are you in marketing?” they ask.

Early in her career, she thought it was great that someone thought that, because marketing professionals are so creative and fun. But later in her career, she realized how these assumptions destroy women working in technical fields.

She said she was willing to be polite and let people know in a subtle way not to make those kinds of assumptions by saying something like, “No. I am an engineer. YOU must be in marketing.

A big topic of interest for students: how to negotiate your salary.

Panelist Janelle Mathewsco-founder of recruitment firm Gold Search Partners, says do your research.

“You don’t just pull a number off the air,” Mathews said. Consider your level of experience and research the market.

So remember, the shiny number a company puts in front of you isn’t everything, Detwiler added.

Marla Peterson, senior technical manager at Honeywell Aerospace, said when negotiating salary, don’t just look at numbers, but tuition, rotation programs, etc.

Marla Petersona systems engineer who is a senior technical director at Honeywell Aerospace, said he asks companies about tuition reimbursement and rotation programs, in which employees move to different jobs at the same company so they can see where they might fit best.

When students asked panelists what they regretted NOT doing before entering the industry, Kavanagh advised doing an internship because industry is very different from academia.

She added, “When I was in school, I managed to get by doing very few presentations,” and she recalls the first meeting she went to, where she had a small task and spoke for maybe a minute. “I was so nervous thinking about it all day, just getting ready in my head.”

Step out of your comfort zone while you’re still in college and give those presentations? It’s daunting, Kavanagh said, but it’s worth it.

Peterson, who has worked in STEM for 38 years, explained how important it is to seek out mentors. If you can find a female manager to mentor you, that’s great. But, she added, “When I started, I think it was very difficult for men to understand what women do at work besides being an administrative assistant. … But we really have a lot progressed, and you have to see men as your partners…. You want to find men at work who are advocates or sponsors who will mentor you.

Panelists also shared how, when it comes to women in STEM jobs, they have the upper hand. Students should ensure that they interview the company as much as the company interviews them.

Detwiler said, “Especially in today’s industry, you have the choice of where you want to work. It’s a fantastic position.

Adrianna Ruby, member of GCU’s Society of Women Engineers, attends the Women in STEM panel.

She shared her own story of why she chose her company, Dibble, whose recruiters shared with her their dedication to improving the community. This higher cause spoke to his heart.

Pay attention to the company culture and consider the people you will be working with, they pointed out.

“I love chatting in the hallways,” Kavanagh explained, and being friends with her co-workers has made all the difference in her career.

Mathews shared how companies want to know why you want to work for them.

“My clients are so excited about candidates who they think are really choosing them for really intentional reasons,” she said.

Tudor added that technical brilliance is not necessarily the be-all and end-all. If a technically brilliant person doesn’t work well with people, that person probably won’t fit into that company.

Ultimately, “I’m going to come back to trust,” added Detwiler. “We hire a lot of people. Especially for graduates coming out of college, we don’t hire you for what you know from school. … They know you don’t know how to do the job, and that’s normal for a new graduate, but what is important is your potential.

Niya Patterson, chair of the Technology Club’s Girls Who Code committee, was one of the student moderators to pose questions to the panelists.

Senior Biomedical Engineering Trang Phamthe secretary of the Society of Women Engineers of GCU, was the moderator of the event alongside Jessica PadillaSWE project engineer and cybersecurity junior Niya Pattersonchair of the Technology Club’s Girls Who Code committee.

Pham focused on how Monday’s Women in STEM panel was about women supporting women.

“I know there is a lack of female role models in STEM,” she said, noting that the number of women working in STEM fields still lags behind the number of men working. in these industries. “But this event shows that there are (female STEM) role models.”

Junior Mechanical Engineering Major Kaitlan MillerSWE member and co-chair of GCU’s Robotics Club, highlighted what she took away from the panel, which was “definitely the part about trust and how you act in interviews, what you need to ask.”

Detwiler said the industry looked a little different when she entered the industry 24 years ago. This landscape is changing. Women can look up and see faces like hers and other panelists who work in STEM fields.

“I LOVE seeing the energy, enthusiasm and diversity,” Detwiler said. “The future is bright.”

GCU Senior Editor Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


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