Thursday, 24 July 2014

Student to Stemette: Webinar #2

Career management roles and responsibilities

Tonight was the second webinar of the programme, and wow..what an experience it was. You can listen to it here, and this is my summary.

Anne-Marie, head Stemette, kicked things off and explained that the three guest speakers taking part in the webinar all came from different areas and would be speaking about career development. These were recruitment, academia and industry giving a great overview of a number of routes that can be taken into STEM careers.

First to speak was Dee Clarke from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where she manages the recruitment of university students and interns. She shared with us hints and tips on how to create and manage a career plan, starting with a great diagram. Step 1 on the plan was asses, she told us it's important to take stock of where you are. Step 2 is the exploratory stage, looking around at what options are available to you, whether it be because of limited opportunities or overwhelming choice of fields to move in to. Dee gave examples of how she set up conversations with people, spoke to her friends and family and used this to 'drill down' to the analysis stage. This is all about 'where do I want to go?', trying to focus on one or two paths in terms of industry and goals. Step 4 is to act, the hardest one! This is all about finding your skill gap and building on what you already know to get yourself up to the next level. Dee next went on to speak about marrying together your passion and interests, and not worrying if the course you are studying doesn't match up with your expectations...that's the beauty of graduate recruitment. Transferable skills are what companies look for when taking on new recruits, and the ability to explain what makes you tick...why you want and deserve this opportunity. She explained getting feedback from people is a great way to find what you need to build on. Thinking about brand is important, you have to realise what you can bring to the table - so know your story, what you enjoy and why you're different.

Next was Dr Sarah Bohndiek from Cambridge University. The first thing she spoke to us about was trying new experiences, getting familiar with the different institutions such as the IOP (Institute of Physics) and reading around the field. Dr Sarah spoke about job shadowing and volunteering as a great way to experience different types of science and careers available, and spoke about work experience giving examples of her own experience at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich which confirmed to her what path she wanted to go down. She told us that internships are a great way to grow your skills, and the Nuffield bursary scheme for research placements for sixth form students. Another way of doing this is to extend your qualifications - learning a programming language shows motivation and organisation, studying for additional mathematics qualifications or writing practise essays shows your commitment and drive. Dr Sarah said "We may often fail...but remember if you don't succeed at first, try and try again" which really stuck with me and made me want to go out and find opportunities to try new things. She also spoke about balance, the work life balance is important especially when developing your career which requires good time management and organisation - its all about realistic goals.

Now it was time for a poll on 'what new evidence will you keep track of in your personal development file?' with the options:

  • feedback you've received
  • details of voluntary work, courses and training
  • show your working out - how did you get to your finished idea
  • notes and reflections on recent achievements
  • project and work plans
The final speaker of the evening was Bee Thakore from ARM Holdings Plc. Growing up around an airfield meant she always had an interest in planes and how things work, although her parents wanted her to follow a different career path. For a year at university, while studying for a degree in aerospace engineering, she worked with Rolls Royce on jet engines before entering the world of planetary robotics and also becoming board director at the Planetary Society. She explained the applications of the robotics work she did, and encouraged us like Dr Sarah did, to learn to program and take on projects with things like arduino and Raspberry Pi. Bee has her own company, which is a consultancy, and helps companies to realise the future of technology, and works on space policy with the eventual goal of landing people on Mars. She spoke about the best ways to make career decisions, always asking yourself 'what excites me about this?', keeping mentors on hand and actively asking them for help can really make the difference when you need advice on your next career move. Like Dee, she spoke about asking for feedback and about how to challenge yourself to make sure you're the best you can be. Bee spoke about volunteer work as a great way to keep areas of interest open, even if you aren't working in the sector and how important it is to seek out new opportunities and keep asking for help.

The webinar then opened for questions and brought together some really fantastic advice from all three ladies. I was bouncing down the stairs afterwards, completely inspired and ready to seek out new opportunities and more determined than ever to get coding under my belt along with being brave enough to tackle new experiences. Thank you Stemettes and guest speakers! 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Student to Stemette: Mentor meeting #1

This morning I had my first face to face meeting with my mentor, and as I live pretty far away from London, this took place over Skype. I was so happy when I found out my mentor was Alexandra Economides, at the launch event, I spent a long time talking to her about the things that we had in common and how she could help me, she was definitely someone I warmed to straight away. Alexandra studied Engineering at Oxford university and has been at Deutsche Bank since January this year.

The first thing we discussed in our meeting was logistics - the frequency of our communications and the form that this would take. Setting out both of our availability from the outset made planning much easier, and we agreed to email at least once a week and organised that our initial few meetings would be via skype before hopefully meeting in person.

After this, Alexandra asked me what I would like to gain from the experience. My answer was some career advice as I'm not entirely sure what I would like to go onto after my degree, some help with applications for jobs or opportunities, and we discussed how she could help me get some work experience. From this we discussed internships, the importance of making contacts and staying in touch with those contacts, coming up with shared goals of creating a CV covering letter, getting interview practise and covering the next steps after my degree.

Our next topic was strengths and weaknesses, thinking about what yours are on the spot is really difficult as I found out (!) but we came up with the following list:


  • Motivated              
  • Organised
  • Communicative
  • Ability to take chances 
  • Social life
The reason for listing these was was time to take a personality test. Gulp. We took the test at the same time, 128 questions, not thinking too hard on the answers just ticking the first box that came to mind and moving on to the next one. The summary of results at the end was pretty intense, but broken down it was explained that scores for each section between 4 and 7 were average, 1-3 and 8-10 more severe. We went through the results, discussing the low scores against the previously listed strength and weaknesses. My low scores came in 'confidence' and 'social ability' - something which Alexandra explained going to events and networking would help to improve, 'worrying' - which can be helped in exam situations for example, by working on things like exam techniques. 

At this point we had been chatting about so many things we were running over time, so to round up our first meeting Alexandra asked me about my possible career paths...I have to admit astronaut was still at the top of the list, but engineering, robots and computer science are also ideas floating around my head as they are practical, hands on careers and would hopefully also bring with them lots of opportunities to travel.

Our final topic was what we were going to prepare and research for next time: to think about and look for events to attend together, what type etc. She also asked me to send over my CV to take a look at, which sounded great to me.

All in all it was a fantastic meeting, I'm really looking forward to working with Alexandra over the coming months and would like to thank Stemettes once more for this amazing opportunity!

Student to Stemette : Mentor matching

Deutsche Bank in London is a huge building which, when you take the right exit out of Liverpool Street station (I did not!), you can see in its full 9 storey glory.

After getting in the huge lift to the eighth floor, we waited in line to get our very snazzy badges and two sheets. The first was a list of mentors and  the second a rating sheet to fill in on how well matched we felt we were to the mentors we met.

Chief Operating Officer at Deutsche Bank, Henry Ritchotte, kicked off the evening by welcoming us both to the bank and to the Born to Be scheme (@dbborntobe ). He went on to tell us about how Deutsche bank is committed to improving female diversity in the work place, they find that "diversity brings us great results". Next he explained that the Born to Be scheme is the youth engagement programme run by the bank, which aims to change the fact that there are almost 1 million young people who are not in any form of training or education. They do this by running a range of different projects to enhance and develop skills that will engage young people and encourage them to do what they can to reach their full potential.

Next he introduced Kim Hammonds, Global Co-Head of Group Technology and Operations. She told us about her background, how she had role models and mentors throughout her degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan and hasn't always followed a straight career path as Anne-Marie mentioned in the first webinar. She worked in the automotive industry at Ford for 16 years, in the technology sector at Dell Corporation and Boeing in the aerospace industry before joining Deutsche where she has been for the past 8 months. She spoke a lots about problem solving as that is the way she uses her STEM background in her current job, a trait she first discovered she had when pushed by her maths professor and also when she moved into her calculus module at university. I thought Kim's talk was very inspiring and listening to her experiences was a great eye opener as to what roles are available and the skills you use in them day to day.

Jaz Rabadia (@JazRabadia) was the last lady to speak. Jaz is Energy Manager at Debenhams, she studied mechanical engineering at City University in London and worked in Sainsbury's as a part time job alongside, this is where her journey started. When it came to writing her dissertation, she was given a title and no idea what to talk about in so many she decided to link it up to her job, do a project on the energy side of Sainsbury's and get paid to write and research! This project was the first step in her career as she was invited to present her findings at the company and won an award for it, Jaz spoke about mentors that she had picked up, even when they didn't mean to be. She advised us to hang on to people that we meet, even in the most unlikely of places, as they can be incredibly useful for advice and guidance. Herself, she passed on some great advice about sharing our experiences on the programme, both good and bad as others will only benefit from hearing about them. She also said "It's not what you do, its how you think", the frame of mind and wanting to make a difference is a  huge part of realising your career. Next she told us to ask questions, you don't find out or progress if you don't ask for advice, and also do your own research -  never take anyone's word for it! Jaz was great and gave some brilliant advice for the position that I myself am currently in, later on I was able to talk more with her and the career advice she gave me was invaluable (and her selfie skills are golden!).

The floor was them opened up for both mentors and mentees to ask questions. The one that stuck with me was when they were asked about sexism, Kim responded that yes she had experienced it multiple times and how she got through it was to sit down and explain her position and that the attitude against her was not acceptable. She explained that sexism in the workplace is an educational experience, and changing the world was what she wanted...not to be afraid of facing these issues head on. Another question asked was about how STEM is used and how much of it in the jobs that the ladies are in now, Kim spoke about how she drives her team nuts with data, always checking and backing everything up with numbers and loves anything in equation form. The last question was about regrets, if they had any and what they would change or tell their student selves. Jaz said she wished she had been more proactive earlier, and planned or questioned what she wanted to do with her life, Kim advised us to enjoy the university experience and really make the most of our time there as she wished she had.

Now it was time for the part we had all been waiting for, time to meet the mentors. Mentees were asked to swivel their chairs 180° to face our potential mentors, we were to speak to each for 3 minutes and find out everything there is to know about their background, current job, how they could help us and tell them what stage we were at, what area of STEM we were interested in and what we were looking for in a mentor. I have no idea how an hour went by so quickly, but the women we spoke to were amazing. They were from a variety of different backgrounds such as engineering, IT, economics and one lady I spoke to had done languages as her degree, but they were all very interested in how they could help us and the opportunities they could offer. They were incredibly open and honest about what they could provide and explained their current roles such as software engineer on the trading floor, handling the data that the bank 'buys' for the traders to work with or managing the technology side of things using a variety of maths and engineering skills. The most valuable piece of advice I got from the evening was "Go for it! Don't look back and regret not doing something.". The hardest part was going through and ranking the mentors we met for suitability as they were all so great! 

After we had spoken to all of the mentors, it was time for the event to close. Anne-Marie, Head Stemette, wrapped things up by thanking both mentors and mentees for coming along and explaining the next steps of the programme. On our way out we were given a goodie bag and a Stemettes t-shirt, which I love so much!

The experience was so inspiring, I came away feeling on top of the world and ready to tackle anything. The next step is finding out who our mentor is and then starting our monthly meets alongside the webinars. 

Thank you to the Stemettes team for organising such a great event, the mentors for giving up their time to come along and volunteer to be part of the programme for the next 4 months and to the other mentees that I met and were so friendly, wishing you every success! I can't wait to see where this experience takes me...but I'm definitely going to work hard to get the most out of the ride!

Student to Stemette : Webinar #1

Making mentoring work for you

The first Student to Stemette (@StudentStemette) webinar took place on the 18th of June at 6pm via Any Meeting. Leading the webinar were Andrew, mentoring stemette and coordinator for the Student to Stemette project, Anne-Marie head stemette and founder of the organisation (@Stemettes) and Andrea Mason from Edit development.

First Anne-Marie started by explaining the overall role of the Stemettes is to 'inspire females into STEM'. They do great work in the form of hackathons, panel events and mentoring schemes such as this, and aim to equip girls with the tools necessary for a successful career. Next she moved on to explain what we could expect from the Student to Stemette programme.

There are two strands to this, the first is mentoring. Mentoring will run for four months, starting from the launch event in London at Deutsche Bank on the 24th of June. At the event there will be business people from all areas of STEM speaking and then the chance to meet and network with potential mentors, find out what they do, why they enjoy their job, challenges they face and what you could learn by working with them. The other strand is webinars, there will be seven which will all be open (so anyone can attend!) and recorded. The webinars will cover a range of topics relevant to getting a job in STEM and how to achieve the best you possibly can.

Through the programme there is also the opportunity for five girls to visit the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, which is taking place in Phoenix between the 8th and 11th of October. The conference will be the perfect chance to put into practice all of the material and skill sets that the monthly mentor meetings will have covered.

We were advised that commitment to the programme is key, it's important to take it seriously as the women mentors have given up their time voluntarily to get involved in the scheme. "Get to know your mentor, take their advice and ACT on it", its important to be flexible on meetings and crucially, stay in touch with your mentor. After each meeting there will be an evaluation form for both the mentor and mentee to fill in, ensuring the programme is working and being productive for both.

Next we moved on to a poll, what qualities are you looking for in a mentor? There were three options:

  • Challenging, dynamic, efficient, conscientious 
  • Enthusiastic, extrovert, confident, cooperative
  • Creative, discerning, dedicated, strategic
Most popular was the first option, but everyone is different and therefore will be looking for certain qualities and skills to help and guide them in the best possible way.

Andrea Mason from EDIT Development was next to speak about how to get the most out of the mentoring relationship. She started by telling us that there are rules to 'live your life by as a mentee', to ensure you can take away from the relationship everything you want to.

The first point was how to set up a personal relationship, it is almost a contract agreement between mentor and mentee therefore you need to know how to communicate, to explain what your goals are and hence get the most out of the experience. Also a big part of thing is willing to be open and honest, it is important to share successes and feel you are able to seek additional support and explain any difficulties you are having in a clear way.

Next she explained how we should respond to opportunity. Take the time and responsibility to respond, after mentor meetings don't come away with too much to do, stick to manageable tasks and finally 'do your homework' -  putting in time and effort will help you to achieve the goals you set. Researching around topics will always help you to up skill, taking up every new training opportunity you get is a key way to gain sponsorship and she explained a sponsor as 'someone who is wearing a t-shirt with your name on' when you are not present, who puts you forward for tasks you are most suited for.

Andrea's final point was 'it takes two to tango',  a mentor will introduce you to the community and network around them, it is vitally important to put in the time and effort to talk to people they may set up meetings for you with, and share the experience. 

At this point, Anne-Marie introduced us to the 'What's in it for me?' part of the webinar. She started with personal development, Student to Stemette is the ideal chance to learn about and reflect on the strengths and weaknesses we have and also for clarity of purpose.

Industry knowledge is one thing our mentors will definitely have and pass on. One thing she said that really stuck with me was "There is no such thing as a career ladder. Career is a is a path" and used the example of Kim Hammond, Global Co-Head of Group Technology & Operations at Deutsche Bank now but also early in her career worked at Ford, so she has industry knowledge and experience. Mentors can pass on any difficulties they have had in the work place and how they got past it and overcame the problems which will be invaluable advice to have.

We were asked to think of and write down (or tweet) our goal for the programme, what we would like to learn and achieve. My goal was 'to gain experience and knowledge of the STEM industry and learn new skills from my mentor', I have no doubt that this will change and evolve as the programme goes on...but I can't wait to get started.

After this, Anne-Marie thanked everyone for joining the webinar and left us with one fantastic sentence "Fingers crossed this is going to change your life...and we'll see you as big Stemettes on the other side".

Thank you to Anne-Marie, Andrew and Andrea for an inspiring and motivating meeting and devising such a great programme!