In Case You Missed It – Real Talk: Careers in STEM 

Posted by

Perspective from Mriganka Maroo, Wasserman Career Ambassador, CAS Class of 2024, Economics Major

I attended the Real Talk Careers in STEM event, which happened on 3rd November 2021. The event was moderated by staff from the  Wasserman Center and featured five diverse panelists working in various STEM fields. The panelists included Carlos Medina, a medical strategist, and scientist at, Jasmine Thomas, the senior director of the Airband Initiative at Microsoft, Corey Harper, the director of industrial IoT at Nexus Integra and GoAigua, Luis Ibanez, a senior software engineer at Google, and Cecily Shillingford, a formulations scientist at Ro. 

The moderator, Wasserman Career Coach Diana Mendez, started with a fundamental question, “how can a student best prepare to enter any STEM industry?” The panelists offered extremely insightful advice, which can be useful to students in all fields. They advised taking as many internships as possible, taking classes outside your major and your comfort zone (ones that give you an edge), getting extremely familiar with the particulars of the industry you want to enter, working on transferable skills, networking, and making connections. 

Networking, which I personally consider the most intimidating part of becoming a professional and joining any industry, was something all panelists stressed often throughout the session and shared tips on how to navigate this. All panelists agreed that the importance of networking lies in finding a mentor, someone who you can trust and who can vouch for you. They pointed out the difference between mentors and coaches, both of whom serve different purposes in your career. While coaches prepare you for your career, mentors are there to guide you, answer questions on things you have doubts about, offer you advice, and vouch for you. The way I understand it is that a coach is often similar to your short term tutor, while your mentor is like the school teacher who taught you years ago, but you still keep in touch with. Lastly, mentors can guide you with respect to all aspects of your career: the search for internships and jobs, preparation, and transitioning from a student to a full-time employee. 

After discussing the best ways to prepare for entry into the field, the panelists were asked about the organizational makeup and facing issues concerning race, ethnicity, and discrimination. While some panelists fit in well with their teams, some were surprised to see the level of engagement with issues from fairly homogeneous teams. All of them resonated with the fact that most industries have a long way to go with respect to DEI. A diverse team and POC in leadership roles are necessary to hire and promote diversity in hiring, and DEI requires hard work from everybody. 

Perspective from Anush Musthyala, Wasserman Career Ambasssador, Tandon Class of 2024, Math Major

Due to their different backgrounds, the panelists had a wide range of diverse experiences in the professional workplace. In terms of handling bias in recruitment, they advised students to advocate for themselves and the value they add. The panelists were finally prompted with the age-old question: one piece of advice/something you wish you were told. Here, they emphasized the importance of standing your ground but also being open to new ideas and feedback.

For example, Corey got job offers outside of New York but did not want to leave. He brought up the point that it’s important to situate yourself between business and your personal life. Even after entering the job, there’s much more to learn. The panelists talked about how important it is to ask for feedback and take feedback; you can only get better by doing so. Be ready to ask questions and always show up willing to learn. Employers love that you are always trying to better yourself.

Besides the interview prep listed above, it’s also important to work on soft skills, such as communication. By doing so, students can clearly explain how their work matches with what the job description is requiring. As a POC, Cicely described a challenging barrier as she felt she had a greater responsibility to empower more POC. By doing so, she talked about how with a lack of support and a draining job, it became very difficult to work towards her goal. With the tokenization of being one of the few POC, she explained that she felt less involved by the company and continued to feel a lack of support.

All real talk events allow students to hear from industry professionals on their experiences with identity in the workplace, find future panels just like this one on Handshake under Events.