I found out about the PLEN seminar for the first time this year when Jessica Estes, our college career coach, sent us an email. I didn’t know much about public policy and technology relations. I did a little bit of research about the seminar. I read different students' blogs about how the seminar helped them professionally and personally, which deepened my interest. So I wanted to know more, and I applied. Since I am a computer science major, I decided to attend the STEM Policy Seminar. Thanks to PLEN I was able to get a full scholarship and attend my first ever PLEN seminar in Washington, DC.
Because it was my first time attending a seminar, I was a little bit nervous. But the orientation we had before the seminar helped me to start with a good atmosphere. We had sessions and panel discussions with many highly accomplished women. Hearing about their experiences and career paths was very eye opening in different aspects. One of the things I was amazed about is how self-confidence goes a long way. Always saying yes to new opportunities and exposing yourself is the way to success. Considering women restrict ourselves from these types of opportunities, PLEN focused on preparing women to lead for this reason.
I was highly motivated by a STEM policy panel discussion about technology in government affairs. I didn’t know there were this many roles out there in the government for the technology sector. As an international student I didn’t have the connection I needed to establish my career in the US. But this seminar has opened the doors for me to meet people and build connections.
We had a networking session with Allyson Perleoni. She gave us a lot of advice on how to go out of our comfort zone and network with people easily. All our key speakers noted the power of networking and mentorship. People are happy to help if we reach out. This gave me courage to ask for help. Our session with career coach Shelby Olson laid out salary negotiation step by step. It gave me faith to believe in my skills and to not accept less than I deserve.
From the whole seminar I liked how all speakers demonstrated there is no one way that fit all. Everybody is different and their career path is different as well. If we work on bettering ourselves everyday there is no way that we wouldn’t make it to where we want to be. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to ask the speakers all sorts of questions we wanted.
The PLEN seminar was very informative and changed my perspective. I got insight into different career paths. I feel empowered and have a clearer future on aspects of the career path I want to pursue. I loved my whole experience.
What I shared is just a snippet of the seminar. I encourage everyone who reads this to attend a PLEN seminar. I noticed the ongoing chain: PLEN members and speakers are helping us as other kindhearted women helped them and it’ll be our turn to help others when we achieve our goals.
Mahlet Amare is a junior at Augustana College majoring in Computer Science and International Business who attended the 2022 STEM Policy Seminar.