Confidence, Mentoring Key for Females in Technology

CROPwomenspanelBy Beverly Cooper.  Source: SIGNAL, afcea.org.

Female STEM field leaders offer education, career advice.

Self study, find a mentor, be confident with your knowledge, network and don’t be intimidated. These were some of the recommendations for women offered by female leaders on the Education and Future Technologies Panel at Technet Asia-Pacific. The panel was moderated by Linda Newton, AFCEA Hawaii Educational Foundation.

You have to stay current, or you become stale, said Cindy Moran, president and managing partner, Pikes Way LLC, who acknowledged that the reason she became an executive was because she was tired of being told what to do and not having input. “It wasn’t about power,” she added.

Many critical jobs today don’t require four-year degrees but still require mathematics and technology skills, she reported. College is a great foundation, but so is vocational training. A four-year degree isn’t needed to be a great web designer or technical support person. “We will see more people realizing this as we move forward,” she noted.

People need to understand what careers are out there and make sure youth get involved and learn about these options at an early age, agreed Jodi Ito, information security officer, University of Hawaii. There are many alternatives to how you get into a profession, she added.

Miyi Chung, chief, Capability Delivery Division, Defense Information Systems Agency Pacific (DISA PAC), described a different way of defining STEM, other than the traditional science, technology, engineering and mathematics definition:

S: Seek out competent STEM candidates before kindergarten. Two-year-olds are holding onto smartphones, but do they understand security and how the device came to be. What they have in front of them took engineers, programmers and mathematicians to develop.

T: Teach. Students need to know the value of contributing to national security and the livelihood of next generations. We need to instill in young people that what you do today is not all about financial gain. It is contributing to the national security and country.

E: Engaging and encouraging throughout the educational process. Encourage young ones to get involved in STEM programs and internships.

M: Mentorship is important. Many people bring different perspectives. Collaborate and learn. Be led and driven to job satisfaction.

The panelists all had additional advice for young women entering the STEM fields.

Follow your dreams and passion, and if you don’t make the right choice in school, it is never too late to change. There are intern programs, on-the-job training and ways to retool if you are not happy in your job, advised Moran.

Never be afraid to make mistakes, added Ito. Life is always a learning opportunity. Have the strength and courage and confidence to admit when you are wrong, to learn from it and to move on. Be persistent. A lot of times it just takes a lot of effort and energy and not being afraid to fail, she suggested.

Col. Claire Cuccio, USA, emphasized self study and advised young people to be the smartest person in the room. It is easier to project confidence when you know what you are talking about. Col. Cuccio is the chief of staff, 311th Signal Command.

Never settle for less, Chung said. There is always something better. Strive high. “Do not let testosterone intimidate you either,” she said. Keep your head high, keep confidence, do not be intimidated by gender.