My PLEN journey began when preparation met chance. I had been actively working with individuals who were underrepresented in the STEM fields due to gender, race, and age throughout my graduate career. However, it wasn’t until recently that I began to think how I could merge my PhD degree with what I enjoyed to do after my experimental data was collected. It was relatively quickly after learning about the disconnect between scientists/engineers and the public that the field of STEM policy emerged. Soon after, I began to explore the career possibilities. I had been telling anyone who would listen of my newfound interest in STEM policy. Then it happened; one day, as I co-taught a freshmen DELLC introduction to engineering course, upper-class DELLC women came to discuss their experience as women in engineering. One of the panelists mentioned how she attended a PLEN policy seminar, and I instantly decided I had to attend. After researching the seminar, including fees and target audience, I knew I first needed to fundraise and apply for scholarships to cover the cost and secondly make sure I was prepared to discuss my views on how my current expertise as an engineer could be beneficial in STEM policy.
Prior to attending, my only criteria for a successful seminar was that I wanted to learn whether my extensive years of schooling would be an asset or a hindrance for entering the STEM policy field. While attending the seminar, I learned that everyone in STEM policy in the DC Metro area is highly educated whether it be a PhD, JD, or MS. Therefore, it’s imperative to have a strong network of supporters, coaches, and sponsors that can assist me in entering those spaces where my advanced degree can be appropriately utilized. However, it would be my hard work and interpersonal skills that set me apart to solidify my position in any organization. Now I am even more focused and encouraged by the possibilities of entering STEM policy whether it be on the national stage or the local level. I know not to wait until I make it to Washington to start my career in STEM policy, but to enter the Tri-State area where I am currently planted. Not only did the seminar meet my criteria, but it exceeded my expectations in terms of the plethora of national organizations I visited including but not limited to NASA, The Pentagon and The African American Museum, and the variety of individuals that I met: my fellow students, the panelists, the networking event attendees, as well as Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman from my hometown of Trenton, NJ.