Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author’s alone.
Next week, my oldest daughter will embark on the next level of her STEM journey — the college level. She has chosen to pursue a major in cybersecurity this fall.
As a STEM parent, I’m filled with mixed emotions related to the recent and very public allegations and admission of the sexist culture that exists within the STEM industry. In response, I asked myself what’s the best advice I can give my daughter?
Three words came to mind: “Flip the script!” Using the word S.C.R.I.P.T. as an acronym, here’s a six-step survival guide as she leaves for college next week.
S — Strategic strides. This summer, my daughter is completing an internship at a local IT firm, SnapIT Solutions. This is the perfect transition from high school to college. Now she must continue making strategic strides, particularly financially (securing internships and freelance gigs) since many STEM jobs are remote and offer very flexible work hours.
C — Challenges are opportunities, not obstacles. During her next two to four years in college, she will develop a heightened level of critical thinking and strategic analysis. Coupled with an already-fierce dose of resilience, she’s geared up to kick butt with no apologies. She’s confident, knows that change is on the horizon and is ready to ride the wave.
R — Risks are not optional; they are required! I remind her that she stands on the shoulder of many former (and current) female risk takers. As more women in STEM are empowered to lift up their voice and “share their world,” it serves as a blueprint for my daughter to blaze her own trail, do it fearlessly, and be a change agent as she raises the bar.
I — Intuition is a girl’s best friend; it’s a secret weapon for success in a STEM career. She should honor it as her internal compass while ordering her steps as a college student, in the workplace, and ultimately while influencing her community and being a role model for future “stemettes”.
P — Pitfalls and potholes have been the protocol of choice for the male-dominated STEM and startup industry. Knowing it will most likely be her right of passage too, nevertheless she must continue to be passionate in her pursuit of a cybersecurity career. Truth is, when all is said and done, we need more fierce females and confident people of color represented in this industry.
T — Turn authentic experiences into awesome opportunities. I challenge my daughter to learn from her experiences (good, bad, and/or ugly) and strategically leverage her circumstances (being the only female or first person of color in a class or workplace). Even at the age of 18, she knows that mental fortitude is massively critical for STEM because at times it will feel as if she is being attacked from all sides. But that’s when she’ll need to depend on her family, mentors, and sponsors for support — that’s why they’re there.
So, go ahead and slay! Define success and seek it without delay. Stay the course in cybersecurity because one thing is for sure, we’ll all be and feel just a little bit safer.