STEM careers account for some of the fastest-growing occupations in the US. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the STEM community! For #nationalSTEMday, we're highlighting Rachael, a Mechanical Engineer, from our team. Rachael chatted to us about how she discovered STEM and what she thinks the future of STEM could look like. Read on!
Why I got into STEM
As a kid, I always loved math and science, and I especially enjoyed taking things apart! My love of robotics didn't take off until I went with my older brother to his FIRST robotics competition and was immediately hooked. I joined the team the following year. My female mentors played a huge role in inspiring me to get my first tech internship and apply to tough colleges. I am extremely thankful for everyone who inspired me to become the engineer I am today! Now I try to pay it forward as a mentor of an all-girls VEX robotics team: The Space Cookies (they are affiliated by NASA and Girl Scouts of America, hence the name). My goal is to be that inspiration for girls that need one (as I needed one when I was in high school)! Here is this year's VEX competition.
How I'd describe working in STEM in 3 words:
Too much fun!
The best things about STEM are ...
1. Creative problem solving
2. Making a real global impact
3. Like I said, it's too much fun!
What I think the future of STEM will be like / could look like
Who knows... STEM fields, especially automation-centric ones, greatly depend on both economic and political climates. The progression of society depends on STEM so it won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
What gets me up in the morning
The fact that my job entails a little bit of everything! There is a lot of work to be done and never enough time to do it all... The problems that I solve on a daily basis at Bossa Nova are multi-faceted, complicated, and impactful, which makes them interesting. Work isn't really work if you're doing something you love!
What I'd say to my younger self when I was choosing career options
I chose my University because they offered an Undergraduate Robotics Engineering degree which I double majored in along with Mechanical Engineering. There were times in college that I doubted my decision, especially when many of the people getting job offers had a Robotics/CS background (rather than ME). My advice to my past self would be "don't doubt yourself" - being an Engineer in Robotics is both challenging and rewarding, and provides endless opportunities for professional and personal growth. Most problems (especially in Robotics) can be solved in multiple ways, and my Mechanical background gives me a unique perspective that aids in implementing creative solutions!
Additionally, I wished I had taken advantage of the opportunities presented to me as a woman in STEM. I was originally of the mindset that I didn't need any of that additional help that has recently become available to women in STEM. I thought "the guys can do it, why can't I?" and "I'll let my passion and skills speak for themselves, I don't need any help!" Unfortunately, being a woman in STEM does have its unique challenges and we really do need help sometimes.
BONUS: The biggest reason that women are not as prevalent in STEM...
As a mentor of an all-girls robotics team, I have found that one of the biggest reasons that women steer clear of STEM is their fear of getting it wrong. A huge part of STEM is trial-and-error/iteration as well as making risky decisions and just trying them out. There is a stigma around failure that I think women tend to be more susceptible to - research the "middle school cliff." I was able to develop at a much faster rate when I finally realized that I should be encouraged to fail on the first try! I think that if we remove this barrier for young women in STEM it will go a long way.
Thanks for sharing Rachael!