Event Recap: The Business in STEM

Written by Doris Wang on Sunday, 24 July 2022. Posted in Event Recap

Graphic by Lily Wei for Girls For Business


On June 28th, 2022, Girls for Business hosted their first ever partner event with student organization STEM to the Sky! ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣The event featured four panelists - Jennifer Perusini, Jean Li, Shavini Fernando, and Ishita Ahuja. The event connected attendees from across 9 U.S. states and 10 countries and explored industry resources for STEM-business oriented students, differentiation between Positional vs Relational leadership, navigating the STEM workforce as a female minority, and the intersection of STEM and business fields.

Jennifer Perusini is a neuroscientist and entrepreneur who graduated with a B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavior at Barnard College and a Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience at UCLA. As a neuroscientist, Jennifer made the groundbreaking discovery of a psychological component to PTSD that can be targeted to both diagnose and treat. Jennifer is the founder and CEO of Neurovation Labs.

Jean Li graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Columbia University and a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Caltech. Jean works as the Managing Vice President in Small Business Card, as well as the Accountable Executive for enterprise Campus Analyst Talent Acquisition, and for SBC Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

Shavini Fernando is the founder and CEO of OxiWear, which reduces patient vulnerability to hypoxic injury through wearable, continuous oxygen monitoring, and low-oxygen alerting. She previously worked as a VR and web designer and developer with more than 15 years of experience in software development and project management.

Ishita Ahuja is an MIS Major and Marketing Minor at UT Austin. She works as a growth intern at Merge API, helping others understand and work with products. Before that, she was a growth product management intern at Shmoody App, working a lot with data analytics. Ishita does a lot of non-profit consulting work. She is a dancer who loves fashion and traveling.

The event began with a Q&A involving the most frequently asked questions in the event RSVP forms. The panelists shared their personal experiences and gave their advice to attendees regarding working in the STEM and business fields. Here are some of the questions that were answered:

Q: What made you choose your educational/career path?

Shavini shared that she got her first computer and although she wanted to pursue a career as a pilot at first, she fell in love with computers. She learned all types of programming on her own with blackbooks in Sri Lanka. Later on, she started entering more courses. At first, there were only three girls in her Computer Science class at the time. From the three, two left, and Shavini recalls the other students waiting for her to drop out as well. However, Shavini became the only girl to graduate the class amidst a group of many other male peers.

Jennifer shared that her personal life influenced her to pursue a career in neuroscience. A series of events in her private life led her to desire figuring out what made the brain act in certain ways.

Jean commented that she remade many of her decisions regarding her life path throughout the years. At first she went down the path of becoming an Organic Chemistry professor and was one year into a five year PhD and spent the next few years trying to figure it out. She ended up with a career at the crossroads of beauty and technology which she felt was very fun but not fulfilling enough, and that was how she ended up as Managing Vice President in Small Business Card. She assured attendees that it’s okay to reconsider your path every few years.

Q: Any advice for young girls seeking positions in leadership positions?

Shavini recalls being disregarded by male counterparts many times in the past, and even now in her role as the sole founder of her startup, she still experiences comments on how she should get a male counterpart, being told she’s not the most suitable for the position. She advises attendees not to let these sorts of things get to them, and to face them as challenges.

 

Afterward, the event moved into its live session, in which panelists answered questions asked live in the Zoom. Here are some of the questions:

Q: What courses are recommended for getting a boost in the form of STEM understanding as someone going into business?

Ishita commented that when going into business, schedules are usually more flexible, and students can decide how many hard skill and soft skill courses they want to take, and brought up a few courses including Finance Accounting, MIS courses, and courses outside one’s school, concluding that students should build their schedule to develop the most suitable skills possible, as in a lot of business interviews there are mathematical questions, and that STEM courses can help to expand one’s brain.

Panelists continued to reflect on how it’s important to develop a thick skin and prove themselves as women in male-dominated fields. Ishita encouraged students to pursue opportunities even if they’re scared of judgment, as those opportunities often prove to be the most fulfilling.

 

Thank you to our four panelists for giving us such valuable advice about working in the STEM and business fields!

About the Author

Doris Wang

Doris Wang

Doris is a Business Features Writer at Girls For Business.

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