Growing up, I found myself surrounded by two types of people: those who encouraged me to break the boundaries and those who told me I could not. I followed my passion into the STEM field. While studying and in school, I found myself surrounded by people who were like me. Many of them were strong and passionate women ready to take on a career in a male dominated field. However, when I looked around, it was very hard to believe that the STEM field was truly male dominate because there were so many women at my school. Then I landed my first position out of college.
I was nervous on my first day. I can remember feeling the butterflies in my stomach as I walked through the door into the conference room. No one was there except for the plant manager. I was excited to see a woman in charge. Then more people came into the room. There were twenty-seven people in total at the facility. Only three were minorities, including myself. Only four were woman. I felt lost in a sea of white men. For the first time I realized how few women got into the STEM world. The company had used a lot of stock photos of people that didn’t represent the everyday life. Saying I was uncomfortable was an understatement.
I put my head down and did my work. I interacted with almost everyone in the facility. Every encounter I learned something new; either about the plant or about the people. Many of the other employees had worked at this facility for long periods of time. Some of their tenures spanned from 10 years to 45 years. They were the definition of a work family which made my new role even more intimidating.
Over the next few months, I tried to talk to each individual and get to know them better. I did my best to approach every situation with respect and establish myself. From experience, I could not let intimidation get the better of me. Forging a path in the STEM field would not be easy. The other employees were very encouraging and accepting of me. I had prepared myself for a fight that never came. All I could think was that I was lucky to be surrounded by people who were open and willing to give me a chance.