Words of wisdom for anyone preparing to enter a STEM field
April 2, 2014
In honor of Women's History Month, Sheila Hint, an environmental engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, offers up some great advice to young women considering a career in Science Technology Engineering or Mathematics (STEM). Ms. Hint is a recipient of the 2013 award for Civil/Environmental Engineering given by the Hispanic Engineer National Achieve Award Conference (HENAAC), and believes there are five things that young women in high school can do NOW to excel in STEM.
1. Focus on math and writing skills
-As students enter college, science seems to get gradually harder, but math gets exponentially harder. If given the chance to take Advanced Placement (AP) math in high school, take advantage of this opportunity. Know that AP math won't guarantee that college math will be easy, but it will give you a good base.
- Writing seems to be underestimated by students but is the one skill you will always need. Writing skills are important when filling out college applications, writing lab reports and papers in college, drafting cover letters and résumés, and for writing professional reports on the job. Focus on improving your writing skills now, as it will definitely give a boost to your academic career as well as be an asset in the future.
2. Learn about and explore the world/Learn a skill
-Strive to understand the world around you. Students that make the effort to understand the world around them will get a better idea of the career paths that are out there. For example, those wanting to pursue a career in medicine should learn about the human body and diseases, their cause and how they can be prevented. For students thinking about a career in accounting or finance, it would be beneficial to learn about the economy of the United States and the world. If interested in a career in engineering, strive to learn about how everyday mechanical systems work. Try to learn a skill that could be useful in your future job -- for example, if you are interested in engineering; learn to how to use tools!
-As a student, volunteering will expose you to a new environment. You will see and hear things you have never experienced before. These experiences can help you explore career paths, as well as continue to motivate you to succeed in college when you are facing difficult challenges. Local volunteering opportunities are available for students interested in different areas of science. For example, for students interested in the medical field, there are opportunities at the Children's Hospital or Roswell Park. Habitat for Humanity and Engineers without Borders are great organizations for students interested in engineering. Volunteering for the Buffalo Riverkeepers is a great experience for students interested in working in an environmental field.
4. As you consider careers to pursue in the future, ask yourself these questions:
- What would I enjoy doing?
- How can I make a difference in the world?
- Do my skill-sets and interests match the job I want to do?
-Don't use money as your sole motivation in selecting a job or career. Salary is only part of the equation. If you focus only on salary, this could lead you to graduate with a degree that can get you a "good-paying job" but you are dissatisfied for the next 30 years because you don't actually enjoy the work.
5. Don't limit yourself
-Do the best you can, and don't let your mind tell you that you can't do something. Don't let your circumstances determine your future. If you grew up in a disadvantaged environment, that doesn't mean that you can't improve yourself and overcome your circumstances. There are many people that overcome their circumstances every day and you can be one of them.
Finally, do not let the fact that you are a woman limit your future! There are tons of opportunities out there. Just do your best and go for them! You will run into road-blocks on the way but just work through them and be strong!"