We’ve asked women in STEM to write a letter to their younger self to see what advice they would give. Today’s letter comes from Cristina Has, a Product Manager at Frontiers Media SA.
There are many things you will learn throughout your life. This letter covers only a fraction of that. One thing to remember, however, is this: use the opportunity to learn as much as possible when you’re young. Later on, it will be more difficult to find the time while balancing a myriad of responsibilities. That being said, learn continuously throughout your life, and always have the courage to try new things. The most successful people I know, are those with ample curiosity and the courage that comes from life-long trial and error. Failing is not the opposite of success. It is a stepping stone towards it. The desire to learn something new is a muscle you train and its benefits will serve you for life.
There are three things that I would like you to remember as you grow up:
1. Science, Maths and other technical & engineering topics are not just for boys.
In reality, girls have plenty of talent and amazing results in these fields. However, they are sometimes faced with internal or external bias against a career in STEM. I grew up in an ex-soviet country where there is a strong emphasis on STEM subjects in education from an early age. Maths came really easy to me, and because my parents taught Science, that came easy as well. Still, I distanced myself from learning computer science for way too long, mostly because I felt it was a boys’ field. I did a Master’s degree in Banking and Stock Markets which was absolutely great. However, I ended up gravitating towards technology companies, today working as a Product Manager in software product development. It’s a role I do with great passion and which perfectly matches my business sense of being tech-savvy. I only wish I had strived to polish my knowledge of coding, algorithms and software architecture from a younger age.
2. Having your own career is really important.
Whatever may come in life, between building a family, having kids and taking care of others; having a way to support yourself and your loved ones is key. Find meaningful work, manage your own finances and save enough so that you are able to make decisions for yourself. When travelling for business, I was frequently the only woman in meetings and figuring out childcare was oftentimes something my male counterparts did not have to factor in. It may be difficult at times, but I can assure you, with the right support system, it can be done. Make sure you build that for yourself with friends, family and the right partner.
3. Take risks, get international exposure, travel early in your career and as a young adult.
As a young adult, you should be bold and make use of the many career-enhancing opportunities available. In university, take advantage of the numerous research opportunities accessible to you. Learning how to answer complex questions, whether you choose to stay in academia or not, is an invaluable life skill. Furthermore, your early career is the time to take risks. Take up that paid internship that allows you to build your professional experience in East Asia, Africa or South America. Travel, learn about different cultures and get as much international exposure, as you can. You will hit the ground running in your professional growth and build invaluable experiences.
And remember: always choose to experience life, instead of waiting for it to happen to you. There is too much to do to ever get bored in this lifetime.
This letter was written by Cristina, a Product Manager at Frontiers Media SA.