Confidence is KEY!

This past month, I had the opportunity to attend another PLEN Seminar, STEM Policy. This was my third PLEN seminar, and second in-person seminar. My first PLEN seminar was the Women in Congress seminar held in March 2019. It was such a thought provoking and transformative experience, that I made sure to attend a second (virtual) PLEN seminar, Women of Color Influencing Washington, last year.

PLEN has had a huge impact on my professional and academic life, and has shaped the way I think about networking with people, how I present myself and how I think about my own professional and academic abilities. These are just a few of the reasons why I keep coming back to PLEN!

I decided to attend the STEM Policy seminar specifically because I felt that this seminar would not only connect me with resources related to graduate school opportunities, but would also provide me with a network of powerful women whom I could call on and learn from as I navigate my career in financial analytics. I am an Economics and International Studies double-major, and a French minor, and hope to eventually pursue an econometrics and policy-related Master’s degree at some point in the future. However, upon graduation, I will be working in the financial analytics field.

Just as I expected, the seminar was mind-blowing, to say the least. My favorite sessions from the seminar were “Networking 101”, hosted by Ally Perleoni, and “Salary Negotiation Tips” by Shelby Olson. The most important thing I learned from Ally Perleoni’s session was how to maintain professional relationships with your connections. I seem to have no problems when it comes to reaching out to people and establishing connections with them. However, I struggle to stay in contact with these connections, especially when I do not have much in common with them other than my career aspirations. Nonetheless, Ally’s session provided me with simple and easy tips to maintain those relationships and to stay in contact so that it is easier to reach out to them again whenever I am in need of their wisdom.

Shelby Olson’s workshop taught me that despite being an undergraduate International Student with very little professional experience or technical skills, I can still negotiate almost any offer I am presented with. As an International Student, it sometimes feels as though there is not much room for negotiation when interacting with potential employers. The reason for this is that many employers prefer not to hire International Students because there may be a need for their company to financially sponsor a visa for the international employee at some point. Hence, once a job is offered, it feels as though we have been granted a huge favor by even getting hired. Therefore, it feels as though asking for, or even attempting to negotiate additional benefits or money with such little experience, whilst having the professional handicap of being an international student may show ingratitude. However, after Shelby Olson’s session, I now understand that there are numerous skills I can speak to and leverage in order to negotiate an offer.

This seminar has boosted my confidence in my own abilities, and the way I present myself to potential employers. It has also provided me with a large network of women professionals in STEM policy fields, as well as fellow young women with similar career aspirations. I am extremely grateful to PLEN, Luther College and Ellie Shaw, who provided me with the financial support to be able to attend this conference. I would encourage all women to attend PLEN conferences as many of the sessions I have attended throughout my college career have stuck with me and continue to shape who I am, and how I show up professionally. Whilst this seminar may have been my last time attending as an undergraduate student, I will certainly stay connected to PLEN and find ways to continually be involved in building the next generation of future women leaders.

Alice Odame is a senior at Luther College majoring in International Affairs and Economics who attended the 2022 STEM Policy Seminar.

Leave a Reply