You may have some down time between now and when classes start, so why not use this time to get your life together?
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Mentorship is an amazing thing. Mentors keep you humble, inspired, motivated, and in-check all at once. Do you have a mentor? Is there someone in your life who you think may be your mentor? Before you text somebody, "are you my mentor?", use the questions below to figure it out:
- Do you talk to them as often as every week but not as often as every day?
- Does this person give you advice without telling you exactly what to do?
- Is this person in a position that you would one day like to find yourself in?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you may just have yourself a mentor. A mentor/mentee relationship can be informal or formal, and isn't a set of rules. I will say that a mentor/mentee relationship should be beneficial to both parties, whether it's through gaining career advice, having someone to talk to, networking opportunities, or receiving general guidance on anything.
If you answered no to any of the above questions, then that's OK; you're officially on the hunt! There are a few ways to find a mentor.
- At work: She might be the woman with the best pumps in the office or she might be the badass negotiator who you always hear great things about. Seek her out, set up some time to meet, ask questions, and have an easy-going conversation. If things click and you begin to meet regularly, then you have found yourself a mentor.
- Online: Glassbreakers is an amazing online tool for women to find mentors. For many of us in school or in industries that are short on women, it's not unusual to find a mentor online. Glassbreakers matches you with a mentor you can chat with (and eventually take it offline) based on industry, interests, and skills.
- Through a friend: This is probably the easiest way to find a mentor. Often, we have friends who have parents, bosses, colleagues, and friends who we look up to. There's nothing wrong with having a mentor who is your age/peer. Sometimes they're easier to approach and access and can give you more relevant advice if they've had similar experiences as you.
Whichever way you approach finding a mentor, I wish you the best in your endeavor!
Today marks the return of the college football season and another day at my awesome new job. The past few weeks could only be appropriately described as a whirlwind. I finished my internship August 5th, flew home to Atlanta on the 6th, was surprised with an incredible feature on my university's website on the 7th, and I graduated on the 8th. The 9th I began moving into my new apartment, I spent the next week furnishing (but mostly decorating) my new place, and caught up with my family. Monday the 17th marked my official start date with IBM, and I was flown up to Armonk, NY to get oriented with the company for a couple of days. The following week was spent in Boston at IBM Security Bootcamp, learning the ins and outs of our organization and respective business unit. Lately, I've been hearing words like "Lucky" and "Fortunate" being used to describe my current situation. Yes, I am lucky and fortunate to be employed after graduation, but there's a lot more to it. There are a few things I held on to during college that I will always keep with me. They're important at any stage of your career and of course they're scalable.
- I never settled: I still won't. Don't settle with one job or internship interview, don't settle for Cs when you could make Bs (or As), don't settle for relationships that don't benefit you, don't settle because you think you can't do better. 10 times out of 10 you probably can.
- I worked hard: it's a cliche, but it's true. I didn't slave every night over stats homework (maybe 1 or 2 nights) and I never really worked true overtime at my internships. I just made the most of the time I was given and took advantage of the opportunities presented to me. I always think ahead (sometimes to a fault) and I am a tad hard on myself. Remember you've earned your spot.
- Good people: This is where I am lucky and fortunate. I have a great circle of friends and family who hold me accountable - as I do them. They congratulate me when it's time and are quick to remind me there's more work to be done. They tell me things I don't want to hear and they lend me an ear when I need it.
I can't give advice on everything, I can only share insights from my experiences and hope they guide you in your journey. I could go on all day about what I did to get where I am and what I'm doing to get to where I'd like to be..but I'll stick with those 3 pillars for now. Work hard, don't settle, and surround yourself with good people and you should be well on your way to something great.
Most of the easily accessible advice regarding switching majors comes from official university blogs and news publications. Where's all the advice from people who've actually been through this tough process? I decided to draw from my personal experience and those of my friends. If you're considering changing your major, look no further. Let me preface this post by saying you are not alone in any uncertainty you may have about your chosen major. I took a brief Facebook poll:
I was wowed by all of the responses! Below are successful student leaders, young professionals, and people who are well into their careers - and happy with their decisions. The responses keep coming, too!
I changed my major during my first semester of school, after realizing that I was way more interested in politics as it pertains to my life, and not actually studying political science. I've played around on computers for my entire life, and I really enjoy gadgets, gizmos, and devices of all kinds. I was also interested in managing things: schedules, tasks, people, you name it. I wasn't so sure about computer science, so I asked around and landed in the Integrated Information Technology program. I've been happy ever since! Oh- and I'm graduating next month (early, not late - phewww)!
The process of changing majors is different for everyone. I'm not promising that it will be easy, but I do want to share as much information as I possibly can in order to help you streamline the process and make a good decision.
That gut feeling you have about changing your major isn't uncommon. How can we honestly expect our 18 year old selves to decide what it is that we want to do for the rest of our adult lives? It's not feasible. And to top it off, high school guidance counselors seem more concerned with getting you to a good school than getting you into the right career field for you.
Don't compare your journey to anyone else's.
In choosing a new major or adding another field of study, consider these things:
- Screw career inventories and how anyone says you should spend your days for the next forty-something years. You know yourself better than anyone else. If online quizzes or outside actors are your primary influence for changing your major, then hold that thought.
- It's OK to change your major for the sake of job security or a higher salary. After the recession hit, our parents (and us) became a little more concerned with us pursuing a career path with job security. If you're looking to get into a field that provides that, make sure it's something you at least see yourself being good at, and hold on to your passions. You can incorporate them later, trust me.
- If you're switching majors to something you're more interested in, then follow your heart. After all, you'll probably pay more attention in class, thus resulting in better grades (and better chances of employment)! See what I did there?
- The earlier the better. Don't waste precious semesters or scholarship money studying something you don't want to study. Don't put this off for fear of throwing off your education - now is the time!
- Your major doesn't always dictate what you will go on to do. In choosing a major, make sure the courses will provide you with an abundance of knowledge to prepare you for internships and jobs while encouraging you to explore more on your own.
- Holler! Call the department that you're looking to switch into. We overlook this, thinking they won't have much advice to give, but they do! I called multiple departments in my search for the perfect major, and the recruitment counselors were transparent and honest about what the programs entailed.
Best of luck!
A lot of prep work was involved in my move to Seattle. I wanted to know what to wear, what to bring, where to eat, and how to act. I'm 2000 miles away from home for the summer, and I want to make the best of each day. It's been 3 weeks now and my transition to my temporary home is smooth as could be. Moving from the relatively small city that is Columbia (and momentarily Atlanta) to the major city that is Seattle was unavoidably overwhelming; I empathize with anyone who experiences that kind of move. Whether you're studying abroad, transferring schools, or living in a new city post-grad, these tips may come in handy for taking on your new city like a pro. 1. Say yes to everything! You'd be surprised where you end up when you just let go and say yes to spontaneity. Of course, I don't recommend doing anything that could get you into trouble ;-)
"There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven't yet met."
3. Yelp! is your best friend. My trick for going through Yelp! reviews is seeing which spots have the most reviews or pictures, but not necessarily the highest reviews.
4. Use Pinterest! Before you make the move (or the trip) and gather up some cool ideas of sights you want to see, restaurants you'd like to eat at, attractions, and things unique to the city.
5. Use a map! No paper map required, but help plan your day and avoid zig-zagging around town by seeing where things are.
6. Just go outside! Take a walk around the block and take in your surroundings.
And of course, I would be remiss not to include some resources for finding events and happenings in your new home :-)
It's become quite evident that my blog has been and always will be a giant compilation of nuggets of wisdom my mother has shared with me but I wouldn't listen to until now. She always instilled a sense of confidence in me, and I didn't appreciate it until I had a moment to myself today. My mom never set boundaries or limits for my goals and accomplishments and she never told me anything was impossible. She facilitated and accommodated and allowed me to pursue what I wished until I scraped my knee and admitted failure or succeeded. Side note: my father did all of the same things alongside my mother I just found it fitting to mention her because I'm about to talk about a women's conference (sorry, pops).
Confidence is key.
This past weekend I attended the Advancing the Careers of Technical Women - Seattle conference as a first-weekend-in-Seattle activity. I was blown away by the wealth of information, and from the perspective of an organizer, by the structure and smoothness of the day. The sessions served to sharpen our technical skills and help us advance our careers.
ACT-W is an annual conference that supports, empowers, and educates women in technology while creating a sense of belonging and community.
I learned how to:
- get out of my own way
- find mentors
- continue my own professional development
- let go of my guilt
- fake it until I make it
- stop qualifying my ideas
- have clear set goals
- take risks
- negotiate my salary
- stand tall
- pick a supportive partner
- be persistent
- admit to not knowing everything
- tackle things I can't grasp
- learn what works for me
- lift up other women
- embrace my own femininity
- be myself
- ask for help
- shine my light on others
- run data science experiments
- unclog the STEM pipeline
- change stereotypes
- internalize my accomplishments
- externalize my impostor
- practice my power pose
- take credit for my contributions
I can't do any of the above without confidence. And you can't do anything without it, either. But the amazing thing is with just a little bit of trust in yourself and your worth you can do everything on this list and more. Confidence is admitting that you don't know everything and you never will. It means not being ashamed to ask for help and understanding that you can't do it alone.
Last year, The Atlantic published an amazing piece, The Confidence Gap, that addressed our (women's) lack of self-assurance, where it comes from, and how it impacts our careers. It breaks my heart to hear about young women not going for positions because they don't feel fully qualified, or young women who miss out on opportunities because they don't feel like they're deserving. Confidence is the difference between filling out an application and submitting one. It's the difference between watching life happen or making it happen. It's the difference between $50k and $70k. I urge you to instill confidence in the young women around you and build yourselves up, because confidence can take you very, very, far.
Don't fill your head with worries, there won't be room for anything else.
So as a youngin with bright ideas and and way too much caffeine in your system you don't want to work for *the man. But I'll let you in on something I learned the hard way; don't work against him. So what to do? Work with him. This is not to say you should be besties with the man, get mani/pedis with the man, and do Sunday brunch with the man. I'm saying get on his good side (if that does indeed exist). If anything, I've learned we are little fish in a big pond, and it's exhausting trying to conquer the rich, powerful, and influential. I've learned you can't beat the system, so you may as well join it. Understanding the inner workings of the system can be to your advantage. Being an outsider won't get you anywhere. I'm not telling you to go undercover and run for City Council just to expose corruption with the privatizaion of municipal water, I'm telling you to genuinely join something in order to benefit the cause you're working for. In a past life, I hated the idea of working for a giant corporation full of layers of bureaucracy, but interning at a Fortune 500 company changed my opinion. I gained mentors, exclusive insights, and knowledge about how to get things done. I used to loathe the idea of working under men who I couldn't relate to, but now I understand how they make decisions and how I can partner with them to get what I want. A lot of my peers may not agree with this approach, and that is completely undestandable. Some people (especially Millenials) are traditional rebels who don't want anything to do with the man and wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole. I get it. What has worked best for me is meeting people half way and slowly incorporating my ideals and contributing. Maybe being level-headed makes me boring, but I would rather it be this way. Let me be clear though: never, under any circumstances, compromise your beliefs. Compromise things, not beliefs. From grassroots-government partnerships, to sponsorships, panels, and coalitions, collaborations with the man can take you and your causes to places you've never been before. I leave you with this: make friends with the man, have coffee with the man, but if you alienate the man, there's definitely no way you're getting anything from him.
*The man is your crazy boss, the person who makes decisions that affect your life, the system. This does not represent all men.
Just the other day I bought what I believed to be a pressed juice blend from a natural grocer who shall not be named (don't worry, Whole Foods - you're safe) and I was expecting the fresh bite of kale. Kale is the realest in the veggie game right now, and I was trying to get my dark, leafy greens on. I got an apple-saucey kind of smoothie instead. I read the label and saw (much to my demise) the juice was a blend of purees and spinach and kale powder concentrate? I'm not even quite sure what that is. Regardless, it was a hot day and I drank it. But I couldn't help but be bothered long after. From food, to friendships, to politics, and everything in between, we sugar coat things. We cover them up, change the wording, and don't get to the core. So why are we so afraid of kale juice? And what the hell am I talking about when I say kale juice? I mean the real stuff. The uncomfortable discussions. The awkward hot topics. The tough questions. I've found that in all things, whether professional or even with my friends, that when we sugar coat things or muddy them up, we don't get to the (beet) root of our problems.
Now you know I wouldn't leave you all hanging without some unsolicited how-to advice. If you think you may be a chronic sugar coater I've got a few tips to combat this common form of BSing.
1) Don't tell people what they want to hear EVER (unless they're paying you 6 figures to do so, do yo thang)
2) Alway ask yourself: am I going to end up having a difficult conversation with this person later? And is it going to suck more later?
3) Some people (and you know who I'm talking about) are just WAY too literal for you to sugar coat things
4) *I'm going to be honest when I say I've already run out of tips. BUT I think you all catch my drift. We can't make progress without having difficult conversations. Feelings might get hurt and disagreements may occur, but do you realize how many times Steve Jobs made the iPhone team rework the phone until it released? You don't even want to know.*
Drink the damn kale juice.
Things must be looking up. During tonight's speech I heard the President of the United States claim we've created 11 million new jobs, insured 11 million people, decreased our dependency on foreign oil to an amount comparable to that of 30 years ago, all the while promising a free community college education to anyone who is willing to work for it. He said we're putting thousands of dollars back into American pockets each year, and that this year the average family is saving around $750 at the pump. He talked a lot about our progress, and didn't forget to shed light on the tough issues we must still face. So that was the State of the Union. But what's the state of my union? Where have I been? Where am I going? Tonight, Obama served as my own personal self-help conference. It's actually funny how his words about the nation's progress were so relevant to my own life. Here are a few words I found to be compelling: "Let's focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us"
"At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious"
"It's not a nice to have, it's a must have"
"Let's stay ahead of the curve"
"We lead best...when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents."
While I'd like to think I can share everything with my blog, that's just not true (yet). Tonight I'm going to assess the State of Tati's Union and make sure I'm following through with my plans and heading in the right direction (or somewhere close to it). I encourage any inspired and lost soul to do the same.
Peace, Love, and Pant Suits
I'm not saying spend every waking moment that you're not in class in a food pantry or go to church every Sunday or donate to every Kickstarter with an enjoyable video pitch or even sign every Change.org petition you get an email about. I want people, I'm talking to you millennials, to do something. Gettting involved at my university and in the surrounding community has been a more enriching experience for me than I can describe. And in the process of getting involved, my academics have soared, my friendships have grown, and I've touched lives around me (given, in small ways). I urge you, impressionable college freshman or scrambling senior with too much time on their hands, to join a club or organization that interests you.
1) Join something that you have a genuine curiosity or interest in, as most organizations welcome new members with all levels of knowledge or at least a decently-BSd application.
2) Go to meetings, actively participate, and ask yourself why you are there.
3) Represent you organization and with pride because as Margaret Mead so eloquently put it, never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
So why am I preaching right now? Too many of us think that we aren't the ones to make change. Ever heard the saying "be the change"? That's what you have to be. For people who are presented with less opportunities than you are, for those who don't have a voice, you can empower yourself with information that can mean the world to someone else.
I leave you with this:
You can do anything good, amigos.
This is my first blog post...ever. Bear with me. Enjoy. It’s November 3rd, the Eve of my favorite day of the year, Election Day. 20 year old wonks much like myself celebrate such a day because it gives us the supreme opportunity to decide which money and power hungry WASP will represent us in Congress. But that is much beside the point. Today, I have also come across such headlines as: ‘The Shortage of Women in STEM Explained’, ‘Empowering Women in STEM Field’, ‘Detroit STEM Conference May Open Doors for Women’, and’ Why Aren’t There More Women in Tech?’ among other nauseating titles I will let you google for yourself. The point I’m trying to make here is that if you want to help women in STEM you’ve got to listen to the women in STEM (like me). I’m not entirely sure my two cents is needed or wanted, but I’d like to put it out there anyway. I’m a 20-year old multiracial woman studying Information Technology at a large university and I have internship and work experience in a woman-owned startup, a non-profit, and a Fortune 500 corporation. I will let you know, and to no surprise, that working in the woman-owned startup was the most enriching of my diverse work experiences. If you would really like to help women succeed in STEM fields, you’ve got to do a few important things:
Knowing the Difference
On a MS Word pie graph, it may look as though your company is “diverse enough”. But this 1:1 men to women ratio means nothing if the women aren’t in management and do not feel included in the big decisions regarding the direction of the organization. Understand that you have to go above and beyond if you want to include every person in your organization, and that it will benefit you in the end if you do so.
Understand the Value Women Bring to the Field
From Ada Lovelace giving birth to computer programming to Lise Meitner articulating the concept of nuclear fission, women have been adding value to STEM if not revolutionizing them for over 100 years. Much like people of all genders, creeds, backgrounds, and cultures, women bring something much different to the table of men in blue suits. Today, women like Ursula Burns of Xerox and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! Are leading the way for women in STEM, and their mammoth organizations are realizing the benefits. Celebrate our differences! Yay!
Hire us because you want to, not because you have to
Forgive me, as it sounds like a commercial tagline, but it is the truth. After you have understood the value that women bring to STEM and you are ready to bring women on board, do just that. Always be genuine, and make us feel wanted and needed. There are times when I have felt out of place as the only female security intern at an organization, and that I was really only there because they needed to fill a quota. When you hire women because you want to, they will quickly find their niche in the organization and do better work. Those diversity groups your company has mean nothing if you just meet for coffee once every quarter.
Make us feel accountable, important, and responsible
This may be just a millennial thing, but I want to feel that what I am doing is meaningful. Do not get me wrong, it is normal that all professionals must do some things they do not want to do for the greater benefit of the organization, but we all need something more. Tack a great responsibility on women, make them feel that their input is make-or-break for the organization, and make them feel personably accountable. While an unhealthy amount of pressure placed on one person can be unfeasible, we must hand the reigns over to women as decision makers. When women are given this great obligation, there is more buy-in and that ultimate sense of belonging.
This piece is for business student who is missing something from his “world-changing” startup (gee, I wonder). This piece if for the middle-aged middle-manager. I will not simply beg and plead for change, but I will fight for it. This is no complaint or manifesto, but simply my two-cents. As an aspiring technology professional, I hate to see young women scared off by The Sacred Brotherhood of STEM. What is de jure in universities, startups, and corporations alike is not always what we see. If thought-leaders in STEM can really drill this attitude into their listeners, we won’t have to see another headline about women in STEM for quite some time. *Sigh of relief*