Over fifty attendees from all over the GTA enrolled and participated in an event for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields in Scarborough back on November 29.

The event, Looking at Non-Traditional Pathways to Success, was run by ACCES Employment, which has multiple Brampton offices. It was a free event promoted by Agincourt Community Services, a not-for-profit multi-service agency helping newcomers find work in Canada.

With the STEM sector being the most dynamic sector in Canada and the world, it makes sense that those who learn to navigate the market as it evolves become better aligned for success. Savvy individuals who learn where opportunities are or learn how to make opportunities, gain successes in building their careers and continually making progressive contributions to the industry and economy at large.

The event featured a panel of women who work in STEM fields, followed by a question and answer segment.

“The speakers were diverse, and each of the speakers answered key messages which resonated with the participants,” said ACCES Employment Program Coordinator, Michelle Waterman, “from getting out of your comfort zone, connecting with a mentor/sponsor, and investing in yourself.”

Bramptonist talked with some the speakers who offer the following advice to women in STEM fields, of all ages, whether beginning or well into their careers.

“There’s a lot of space for women to come in and be strategic,” says Jacobs (U of T). “[As women] we see things from a different perspective, a perspective that is needed.” Jacobs is nicknamed by her peers as the Geek-Translator, as she is a spokesperson skilled in relaying messaged for tech personnel who may lack the necessary communications skills to express why their product or system is needed or useful. “If someone [makes you feel like] you don’t belong, challenge them… It is true that not a lot of women apply to [STEM fields], but not a lot of women feel comfortable in these cultures. [Know you belong, be brave, and] continue investing in yourself.”

“You are valuable,” says Sud (TD Bank), “You have a unique value proposition to offer,” she says, as she talks about how you should learn about your value to your manager, your CEO, to the client and to the public, and advises on how to market yourself to your manager for prospective promotions, or to your potential manager while at an interview.

As an entrepreneur, Nnensa (kuwala.co) says that her days don’t end when she clocks out, but are filled with ways she can explore and expand her platform. “A lot of our stories [you’ve heard today are about] us trying to find places where we belong and grow… I [created a space], learnt code, partnered with people, built my website, and I keep learning about my industry.”

“Turn every challenge into an opportunity,” says Jacobs (Infrastructure Ontario). “Brag about yourself, in your projects, at your performance reviews.” She explains that this is important to let your teams know what you can do in order to become more of an asset to them and for you to continue to grow in attaining more work suited to your strengths. “Brag about yourselves like you would brag about your children.”

Here is the full line-up of the speakers who were featured at the event:

  • Christine Konen: Senior Security Consultant at IBM, worked and studied in Indian, Australia and now Canada, and had migrated to Canada in September 2019.
  • Donna Drakes: IT Project Manager at Infrastructure Ontario, with over 10 years of experience, has the PMP (Project Management Professional) credential, and is part of a dragon boat team that races across Canada and the U.S.
  • Julie Federman:  worked at LinkedIn since 2013, and was of LinkedIn’s Top Performing Accounts as a Customer Service Manager Executive, has a background in science and the performing arts.
  • Shuchi Sud: worked in IT and has 22 years of experience, is now leading in technology at TD Bank, has a background in engineering, telecoms and finance.
  • Tamara Adizes Jacobs: is a Senior Business Analyst of the University of Toronto, Scarborough campus, with 13 years of experience in the higher education sector, with a background in technology and IT.
  • Veronica Nnensa: born in Malawi, Africa, raised in Canada, launched kuwala.co in 2014, an online boutique where she curates and sells art pieces and fashion inspired by Africa, from socially responsible brands worldwide.

For more information about Women in Technology and events like these, contact Michelle Waterman at ACCES Employment, and have a look at upcoming events in your area, from our feature article 10 Job-Finding Resources for Newcomers in and around Brampton.