Celebrate Women in Engineering

June 23, 2020

June 23 is International Women in Engineering Day.

The Tauber Institute is honored to have had the opportunity to collaborate with many talented women in engineering: award-winning Michigan Engineering faculty members, our dedicated Industry partners, and of course, our brilliant students and alumnae.

Thank you to five Tauber Institute alumnae who shared their experiences as engineers and offered advice for recent graduates entering STEM fields:

Tanu Aggarwal (MSE-IOE '12)
Juul Labs | Sr. Manager, Strategic Program Management
Lauren Fitzpatrick (EGL BSE/MSE IOE '16)
Amazon | Senior Product Manager, Benelux
Samantha Jarema (EGL BSE/MSE IOE '07)
Boeing | Production System Integration Manager
Tasha Mangaldas (MSE-Materials Science '16)
Tesla | Sr. Technical Program Manager
Divya Parambi (MBA & MSE-Manufacturing '11)
PWC | Sr. Associate

How have your experiences as a woman in STEM shaped your leadership style?

By the virtue of its very nature STEM invokes curiosity and forces you to take a more objective approach towards making decisions. Being a woman in STEM, you are able to strike that balance between your left and right brains much to your advantage at work. You are able to question the status quo and celebrate small achievements helping your team be engaged and motivated to do better. In my teams, I’ve focused on developing a culture of learning where you try to fail fast and cheap. Nobody is perfect but we can strive to be!
- Tanu Aggarwal (MSE-IOE '12)
One of the biggest realizations I had was that even though I was strong in my knowledge base, I was always giving in to the people around me. I would apologize for second-guessing facts when I knew they were wrong, or allow other people to speak on my behalf when it was my project being asked about. The biggest change I had to make was to ensure that I learned to keep my positive energy, and not to diminish that just to build someone up. It sounds cliche and simple, but really the only thing I changed was language, saying “thanks for understanding” instead of “sorry” and really requesting someone to give further background or more details when I thought something didn’t feel right, rather than waiting and following up later on. I’ve found that these two small changes have really increased my reputation as a leader and increased the respect that my teammates were giving me.

- Lauren Fitzpatrick (EGL BSE/MSE IOE '16)

I have often come across leaders that are extremely competent in their technical experience and knowledge but lack the ability to read the room, communicate their ideas and drive a team to accomplish goals. Executing on a plan with a team requires social and interpersonal skills to convince and motivate people. I am affected by what people say and how they say it so I make an extra effort to be aware of the effect I have on others, and am constantly tweaking my approach to suit situations and personalities to the best of my abilities.
- Tasha Mangaldas (MSE-Materials Science '16)

How have mentors influenced your career?

Mentors have helped to challenge me and give me the confidence to move into positions that would have otherwise seemed unachievable. The best advice that I have received from a mentor was this - If I feel pretty comfortable and confident moving into a new position, I probably waited too long to make the move.
- Samantha Jarema (EGL BSE/MSE IOE '07)

Mentors have been a big part of my career. Given the variety of industries I worked in, my mentors have always been my sounding board to help me decipher how the opportunity at hand will fit into my career progression. They’ve helped me to not only decide what to do but also rule out the things I do not want to do. Some of them are Tauber veterans who would always go an extra mile in providing you the right information, resources and motivation.
- Tanu Aggarwal (MSE-IOE '12)

My first role at Amazon I had a female manager who was on maternity leave. She came back to the office after my 3 month anniversary and it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. She hit the ground running and seemed to pick up right where she left off. People respected her and she always had an air of being calm and knowing what was going on. Over the few years she managed me, I had a few moments where I thought that I was just not cut out for the fast-paced tech world, and she encouraged me to do research, find a new project, or make one of my own to work on. With her help, I created an entirely new role for myself in the team, and was happier than ever. I have since moved to a new role but I still go back and ask for her advice whenever I have to make a hard career decision because I think she truly had my best interests at heart. I still admire her ability to be a manager and realize sometimes all someone really needs is support to find how they shine; I aspire to be the person she was for me to someone else one day.
- Lauren Fitzpatrick (EGL BSE/MSE IOE '16)

Risibility is one’s “readiness to laugh." The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten [from a mentor] is to never forget the ability to laugh. This skill is especially valuable when working in high paced environments where emotions are running high and situations can and do get tense. I find this to be a very powerful quality as it enables me to get a lighter perspective on the situation and power through challenges without getting bogged down by things that are not going my way, and work on them until they are.
- Tasha Mangaldas (MSE-Materials Science '16)

How do you think men can best support women in the engineering industry?

I think a big one is not making decisions for us because of what they "think" we want... for example, being passed over for a role requiring a lot of travel because [they think] the women might have a family/want to be at home... and giving the women in their group a voice/seat at the table. It isn’t just engineering either, consulting is a terrible offender as well! I think this, and not having to constantly prove yourself because you're a woman in a male-dominated profession are the main things I hope improve for women.
- Divya Parambi (MBA & MSE-Manufacturing '11)

I think that we can all support diverse groups of people in the workplace by encouraging everyone to speak and participate in conversations, and then actively listening and reacting when they do speak. I also think that we could all do a better job of self-reflecting on our personal internal biases and check ourselves on a daily basis. It is often our internal biases that stop us from listening and shut people down.
I hope that future generations of women are able to say what they are thinking without having to worry about “having the wrong tone” or “sounding too aggressive.” I do see this improving, but I do not think that we are where we need to be in all STEM positions. I will also be happy when women are judged on what they wear the same way that men are judged, which is almost not at all!
- Samantha Jarema (EGL BSE/MSE IOE '07)

[Men] do not need to. Both men and women are independent beings and should be able to perform based on their respective abilities. They should support each other as any colleague should.
I am a strong believer in meritocracy. That means people who deserve to succeed should succeed irrespective of what gender they belong to. Yes, women have been traditionally outnumbered by men in most industries but progressive organizations have been making a conscious effort to include diversity in their workforce. STEM women representation in the industry has been better than ever before because of the skills they bring to the table. Utopia will be when we do not have to talk about a world of women specifically.
- Tanu Aggarwal (MSE-IOE '12)

What advice you have for recent engineering graduates?

It is okay to not know what exactly you want to do when you’re a fresh graduate but be open to utilizing every opportunity that comes your way to learn and grow. Create a network of people around you who can provide information on what to expect if you go in a certain direction. Luckily, Tauber provides ample opportunities to make helpful connections early on that you can leverage at any point in your career.
- Tanu Aggarwal (MSE-IOE '12)

When I was graduating, the advice I got that resonated with me was to “get out of my comfort zone”. What my advice givers didn’t say and what I didn’t anticipate was that once you do truly get out of your comfort zone, there is quite a bit of initial discomfort, uncertainty, and insecurity that comes with it. My advice is to also focus on developing your resilience to handle tough situations, uncertainties, and unknowns. Whether it is having a support system in place or a go-to activity to destress (yoga, workout) find what works for you and leverage that. Your attitude during these situations is key. If you’re in a stressful and challenging situation, it’s likely that others around you are too. Bringing a positive outlook, being able to let things go and move on and pulling others up with your resilience could make all the difference!
- Tasha Mangaldas (MSE-Materials Science '16)

[When I experienced a career setback] overcoming it took a lot of perseverance... but more importantly, it was networking - it was reaching out to folks I respected who knew the quality of my work and they put me in touch with folks at their firms which helped me land my next gig and opened up a host of other possibilities.
- Divya Parambi (MBA & MSE-Manufacturing '11)

One thing I would say to recent grads is to not be scared to choose a role that suits you best. There are a lot of opinions I got on the career choices I was making or the companies I was interviewing with but you have to trust your gut. At the end of the day, you have to feel good about where you’re going to work and be happy with the environment. I went to a lot of job interviews that I walked out of dreading working with the folks in the room, whether it just wasn’t a culture fit or the job didn’t excite me. Don’t let other people’s opinions take over your feelings about the right role and fit for you. And this goes even after you get hired too – there have been a few bumps in the road where I’ve had colleagues who aren’t sure I’m qualified to be where I am, but I have to push down that Imposter syndrome voice in my head and remind myself that I worked hard to get here and their actions are only a reflection of their own choices, not my abilities.
- Lauren Fitzpatrick (EGL BSE/MSE IOE '16)

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in your career. You have a lot of time, and if you have a strong work ethic you will find a path to get to where you want to be. A mistake is just a learning opportunity, and at the end of the day you are more likely to regret the things that you did not do, so go for it!
- Samantha Jarema (EGL BSE/MSE IOE '07)