Starting the conversation, changing the game

When considering college options, did you have someone to help guide you? I hope to be a spark for a high school student and engage her in conversation about what college, and life after it, might look like.


Later this month, I’m part of a group of professionals speaking with high school females about career options. This speed-networking event will allow about 35 young girls to meet professional women from a variety of backgrounds and learn a little about what our jobs are and how we got here (education, career transitions, etc.). I have 60 seconds to share my professional background with each student, so I’d better start working on an amazing story about my career and well-though-out plans. Do I tell them I’ve been laid off twice? Do I share that most pursuits in print journalism are poorly paid? What do I say when I’m asked about obtaining two degrees—was it really worth it? (Short answer: yes.)

Afterward, we’ll break out into small groups. The girls will select the group by their level of interest in each professional’s short description and have the opportunity to learn more, ask questions, and generally pick our brains. The group’s organizers do this every 6 months with a different group of high school students from around the Chicago area. Most are underprivileged, from other countries, and may have no idea what a professional career could look like for them down the road.

Had this type of “career day” been available to me, I’m not sure I would have changed my career plans, but I certainly would have had my eyes opened to a whole menagerie of options. Would I have considered fire protection engineering? Would my love of science have guided me toward research or working at a tech company? Would I have become a patent attorney, putting my knowledge of science and love of details into play?

Many of the people I’m going to meet may not have anyone in their family who has gone to college. For me, the question was not whether I’d go to college, but rather what college I should attend. I’m guessing many of these girls do not have anyone in their immediate circle of friends or family who have even asked them that question, so I’m pleased to be part of a group of professionals who can help them think about their options.

Have you participated in events like this, perhaps at your local high school? Or have you spoken with college students who are still trying to determine what path to pursue in engineering? And especially for the women in this audience: What did your career path look like, and how are you navigating it today?

I’ll report back after the event, which I assume will be amazing and eye-opening for everyone. Please share your stories, too. I want to learn about how you’re changing the face of engineering.

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