PLEN's Women in STEM Policy seminar was a very beneficial experience for me as a sophomore who is unsure of what I want to pursue in my professional career. It allowed me to see the different careers that exist in the STEM field and it was reassuring to hear that many of these powerful women also weren’t sure exactly what they wanted to do when they were younger. In addition to networking and listening to the advice of inspiring women in the STEM field, the PLEN seminar gave me many tools and skills that will enable me to become more successful in my future career. For example, the seminar taught me how important communication is, how to negotiate my salary, and how to be confident and present myself in a professional manner. At the end of the seminar, I felt more empowered and confident knowing that I had more resources, mentors, and friends that I could look towards for help.
I originally heard about this opportunity through PLEN's chapter at my school: St. Lawrence University. I saw that the Women in STEM Policy seminar was coming up and that it would give me a chance to see where STEM policy takes place and who is involved in it. I had no idea what public policy even entailed, but I knew that I was interested in science and math and I wanted to see if public policy could be something that interests me. In addition, I thought it would be a great learning experience on how to present myself in a professional setting. I also thought that it would allow me to gain valuable skills and connections I could utilize in whatever career I choose to pursue.
The STEM seminar that I attended this past January exceeded my expectations. Over the course of five days, I learned a lot about my own personal interests, as well as my strengths and weaknesses. I also learned how science and policy come together and how the combination of the two are so important to the functioning of our society. For example, if a new drug came out, I really only thought about the scientist in the lab that made the development possible. However, after attending this seminar, I realized that it is not only the people in the labs, but policy makers, people in business, marketers, and many more that are crucial to the process. Someone has to decide the laws around the new drug and how it will affect the population, how much the drug should cost, and the best way to market and sell the drugs. This opened my eyes to how many different careers there are that I wasn’t even aware of that are very relevant to the STEM field.
It was also interesting to see the many different paths that people took to get to where they are. There were some professionals that held the same title, but how they got to that position looked very different. It showed me that there is no defined path and that no one knows what their careers are going to look like in the future. You may have to take on jobs that put you out of your comfort zone, that may not be your dream job, or might derail you from your plan.
Trying new things and taking risks to follow your interests can also lead you to find new opportunities. This reassured me to take classes that I am interested in while I am in college and to reach out to people who share the same passions and everything will end up working out. Before, I was worried that I had to follow a very specific track and there was a certain formula to success. I also thought that if I wanted to be a part of healthcare that the only option where I could be successful would be to go to medical school. I now realize that these assumptions are not true and I feel more prepared and have a better understanding of how to enter the workforce after college. There are other options besides medical school such as getting a master’s, a PhD, or taking time off and working first.
While at this seminar, I also enjoyed the chance to travel to multiple locations such as the NIH, the United States Capitol, and APHA which allowed me to see what their work environments were. It was great to see how supportive women are of each other and I know that the people I met are just one phone call or email away. Overall, the biggest takeaway from the Women in STEM Policy seminar is the importance of networking, being confident in yourself, and following your interests because at the end of the day you want to love what you do.
Morgan Ryan attended the Women in STEM Policy seminar. Morgan is currently a student at St. Lawrence University, and she will be graduating in 2020.