Hi, could you introduce yourself?
I'm Natalie, I'm a first-year PhD student in Electrical Engineering at the University of Virginia and the creator of SHEengineered.
How did you get into your current field?
I initially wanted to study biomedical engineering because I was interested in prosthetics but I ended up transferring to a university that didn't offer biomedical. I ended up changing majors to electrical engineering because I saw it as a way to still contribute to the biomedical field, just with a different specialty.
What was the impetus behind SHEengineered?
As I went through the grad school application process I started to be frustrated by how little information there is out there about engineering grad school. The lack of visibility made it seem inaccessible. I felt like I found out about grad school, my university, and my fellowship all by accident. I started SHEengineered to make grad school seem more accessible and to make those resources easier to find.
What challenges and obstacles have you overcome building SHEengineered?
I'm still trying to figure out the right mix of what to share and what people want to learn about. I like talking about tangibles like how to put together your elevator pitch for career fairs, but I also like to talk about the mindset part of studying engineering. It has been interesting to see what people are interested in or want to learn.
What are your goals?
Since I just recently started my PhD this is still something I am figuring out. I know I want to work in a research setting focused on medical devices but I learn about new careers almost daily so my goals aren't really set in stone yet.
With SHEengineered, I want to be the go-to person for women who are interested in engineering graduate school and I want to lead more women to pursue graduate degrees in engineering.
Do you have a mentor?
My PhD advisor has been an amazing mentor so far but I am still working to find a female mentor in my field.
Do you mentor anyone?
I mentor a few girls who want to go to grad school both at my university and other universities.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to break into STEM?
If it interests you, go for it. Don't let stereotypes or the fear of it being "too hard" hold you back.
What could tech companies do better to foster and develop female talent?
I think so many companies focus on attracting female candidates but not enough on changing the culture to keep them. Talking about things like unconscious bias and problems women face in the workplace to their male counterparts could play a huge tole in this.
What unique challenges and opportunities present themselves to a woman in STEM?
Women in STEM have so many opportunities for conferences, scholarships and fellowships, research experiences, and more. Every organization is trying to get more women into STEM so the number of opportunities unique to women is incredible.
As a minority group in engineering women face a lot of things like imposter syndrome, unconscious bias, and other issues that can make them feel like they don't belong or question their technical skills. I think a huge way women can help themselves when this happens is by educating themselves about these issues. Simply knowing that imposter syndrome exists has helped me identify it and move past it almost daily.
What’s the best way to keep up to date with what you’re doing?
I post almost daily on my instagram @SHEengineered and blog weekly about my own experiences and other engineering topics at sheengineered.com. My website also has resources and you can join my email list to get opportunities sent to your inbox every month! I host a podcast with my friend where we talk about advanced degrees in STEM: Call Her Doctor
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