Where do you live? San Francisco, CA
What is your profession? I am an industrial design innovation program manager.
How did you get into industrial design and what was your path leading up to this? My career path generally causes confusion. I think that people tend to underestimate how creative science can be. I loved being a chemist, I worked in research and development and was given the opportunity to look at problems with an open mind, and solve them in the most creative ways possible. I started my first non-service industry job as research assistant in an analytical chemistry lab during my time as an undergraduate student. We analyzed tattoo inks for their metal content. I still have scars from acid burns, my arms were too long for my lab coat.
After I graduated, I went to work for W.L. Gore and Associates as a research and development chemist. One of my favorite things about working at Gore was being part of the leadership team of a grassroots organization that created a network for women in the company. We were able to educate and empower both women and men through speaker panels, workshops, and community service activities.
When I reached my three year mark I started to feel like I could learn in a more independent way if I left, I am a curious person and love education. I found myself back in school in a masters program. I was investigating environmentally friendly ways to remove lead from water. During my last semester I moved to San Francisco and worked at a startup in Berkeley, we were turning seaweed into ethanol for biofuels. Out of the blue I received an email from Apple, and I went for it.
Presently, I work in the industrial design organization. I work with the most talented and wonderful people in the universe. During my time at Apple I have been on the leadership team for women@apple. It is one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. The group is over four times bigger than when I started. We have created an environment for women to grow.
What did you study in school? BS in Chemistry and Biology, MS in Analytical Environmental Chemistry
It is hard to say that my education is irrelevant, because I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t have ended up where I am without chemistry.
I really like to make my work fun, and for me it came down to the people. I think that if you can find your people, however big the transition is you will feel like you’re home when you get there.
Has anyone been a mentor to you? What role did they play and how do you feel about mentorship now? Yes, I had a wonderful mentor during my time at Gore. Chuck is one of the most brilliant people that I have ever met. He would always make time to help me with my experiments and would truly listen to me. I am grateful to have had such an amazing mentor.
Now I mentor a young woman from Rwanda. I met her a year and a half ago through the non-profit SHE CAN [Supporting Her Education Changes a Nation]. Ines is amazing, she mentors me as much as I mentor her. She is kind, resilient, and intelligent.
What’s the hardest thing that you’ve had to deal with in your career so far? Sexual harassment; for me not feeling safe and not being treated like a person was disheartening. You have to stand up for yourself, no one else will.
What has been a really rewarding moment in your career? One of the most rewarding times in my career was when I was repeatedly told by my co-workers [3 men with 15–20 years more experience than me] that my experiments would not work. They had tried it in the past, their friends had tried it, and that it will never work. So, I did it anyway and changed the direction of the whole project. The harder the problem is the more creative you must be. I hope to never underestimate a fresh perspective.
What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime? I strive for equality on all fronts. I would like to help women get jobs in all industries and feel comfortable being there. I want to always stand up for those without a voice and help them find their voice in the process.
What’s something you want young women to remember when thinking about their future? I think that is important to talk to young women about taking risks. Innovation, like many things, is cyclical. An experiment that yields an unexpected result can be more helpful than a thoughtfully planned hypothesis. I think that talking equally about risks, failure, and success will teach young women to push the boundaries.
What’s one thing you want to try to make an impact on in your lifetime? Education is power. Through education we can create a lasting impact on many issues. If we educate the world on human rights we could empower people to create changes that they feel are important.