I applied to PLEN’s Women in STEM Policy seminar after receiving an email from John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s ‘Women’s Center for Gender Justice’. The Women’s Center for Gender Justice at John Jay is a force to be reckoned with! Their mission is to advance the knowledge of gender equity and women’s issues through educational programming, counseling, and activism.
I am a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in Computer Science & Information Security with a concentration in cybersecurity and a dual minor in gender studies and law. I have been interested in cyber law and cyber policy well before my undergraduate career. I hope to pursue a career in cyber law so that I can help pioneer cyber policies and litigate cybercrime. When I received the email promoting this seminar – I knew I had to attend. I emailed my professors for letters of recommendations and the ball was rolling. This seminar was just the thing I needed to get a tiny glimpse of what the world has to offer me.
When I received the acceptance, I was extremely excited – two weeks before the seminar and I had already packed my bags. The PLEN team had given me all the necessary information about Washington D.C. – as it was my first time.
On our first day meeting at the office space on Pennsylvania Avenue, I was absolutely awe-struck; I could not believe I was going to share the next couple of days surrounded by such a powerful group of women. My most favorite speaker was Dianna Flett – it was the most remarkable experience to learn what confidence means from an inspirational retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and a combat veteran of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Ms. Flett taught us the power of speaking up and bravery as a woman in the workforce. She described her experiences in the army and how she overcame any issues she had with brilliance and class. I learned the power of holding your ground and never letting your fear show. Most importantly, she taught us humility. This is a woman who has accolades women only dream to have, and her humility was awe-inspiring.
Throughout the course of the seminar we visited a variety of places: National Institute of Health, BlueCross BlueShield Association, the National League of Cities, the Truman National Security Project, IBM, and of course the Capitol. Throughout the course of the seminar, I met an awesome group of women – I made lifelong friends and I also made a mentor in a panel that I least expected. At the Panel for Careers on Capitol Hill, I met Ms. Crystal Tully, the Policy Director & Counsel for Communications and Technology at United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation. I was able to quickly connect with her and she was gracious enough to spend some time having coffee with me the next afternoon so that I could learn more about her role as a Policy Director and get advice on how I can better myself professionally and learn to network. Ms. Tully taught me the value of making mistakes while in a professional setting and how to learn to equip yourself better as you progress. I was honored to have the opportunity to have coffee with Ms. Tully on such a short notice – and I have been emailing her for advice ever since! For anyone who is reading this, you can find a mentor if you search for it.
On the last day of the seminar, I had the honor to meet Ms. Janelle Weidner Romano the Director of the Laboratory for Telecommunications Sciences, NSA. This was an especially interesting encounter. I had the opportunity to share my information with Ms. Romano, and she is now a huge guiding source in my academic and professional career. I took heed of her advice on allowing life to throw curve balls in your direction but to conduct yourself with finesse and stay true to who you are.
The PLEN experience was life changing, to say the very least. I had the honor to be among the female leaders of tomorrow. In the few days that I was at PLEN’s Women in STEM Policy Seminar I was introduced to women who aspired to go into policy, run for office, and be pivotal roles in health care. This seminar reconfirmed my interests in pursuing policy work in the area I am most interested in: cybersecurity. I learned valuable information about networking, interviews, applications and most importantly – teamwork. Overall, PLEN’s Women in STEM Policy Seminar exceeded my expectations ten-fold. For those of you who are interested in attending but may be unsure – do it. This seminar was the best few days of my undergraduate career and I know everything I learned from this seminar will help me throughout my professional career.
Rabia Osman is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science and Information Security from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She attended the Women in STEM Policy seminar during her senior year with a scholarship sponsored by the Hopper Dean Foundation.