Engineering your path forward: A letter to my daughter (and any young woman exploring a future in technology)

This blog is part of our series entitled, The Looking Glass. In this series, women from around Level 3 share their experiences, inspire others, and offer insight into successfully navigating the telecom industry.

You’re now a senior in high school and you are still sorting through your passions, trying to figure out who you want to be and thus what you need to study to get there. You’ve acknowledged your math brain (finally) and I’ll admit I’ve nudged you subtly to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects (remember the circuit building kit?). But I can tell you aren’t sure if that is a fit for you. You’ve seen your younger brother go to computer camp and there was not a girl in the room or leading the class.  What can I tell you about being a girl in engineering, in telecom, that might help you choose what to study?  How can I explain that it is just fine to be the minority and that science and math open many doors?

My take is that technologists tend to regard other people objectively and based on merit.  As creatures with a logical bent, technology ‘geeks’ bank a lot on technical credibility. There are always many ways to solve a problem, but the beauty of engineering is often how to solve it most efficiently, most effectively—whether you’re designing a circuit board, a network, or a business process.  In tech, your work stands on its own.

Did I ever feel singled out? In my first tech job, some 20 years ago, the guys walked on eggshells around me.  They clearly had several rounds of diversity training.  However, I remember one bit of testing. The same gents had me drive a huge Lincoln Continental rental car on my first business trip to Silicon Valley, and then detoured me through the hills of San Francisco on our way. I can still see them snickering while I tried to see over the hood at the top of each hill, but it was fun. Any newbie would have drawn that straw.

I do love tech. I will never have the latest app nor love video games like your brother, but the practical “this makes new things possible” tenet and future of tech is phenomenal.

If you think you will like constantly learning, STEM is the place. There is always a new thing possible around the corner.

 

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Carolyn Reuss

As part of Level 3’s Global Infrastructure Services group in IT, I've been responsible for IT Service Improvement and Change & Release Management. The weekends are about managing my kids’ soccer teams and trying to work in some combination of the great outdoors and great foodie hangouts around North/Metro Denver.

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