Navajo Roots Trailblaze a Path to Mars

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Aaron Yazzie's headshot

Aaron Yazzie continues to set his sights higher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. With a Diné (Navajo) background, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University, and as a Mechanical Engineer with a focus on Sample Acquisition and Handling at NASA, Yazzie designs mechanisms for acquiring geological samples from other planets.

Diversity in STEAM Magazine had a chance to talk with Yazzie about his Native American background and how it influenced his journey to NASA.

DISM: Can you tell us about your background and journey to becoming a mechanical engineer at NASA?

Yazzie: I was born in Tuba City, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. I was born to parents who were 1st generation college students in their families—families that have had traditional Diné upbringings. Their first language was Dinébizaad (Navajo Language), their first known homes were our traditional Diné Hooghan (Navajo Hogan Houses/Dwellings). They learned the English language in elementary school, where they were the first generation in their family forced to attend school by the US government. From that unique beginning, and from that early-childhood culture shock and trauma, both my mother and father made it through an educational system rigged against them, graduated high school, and went to college—the first in their families. My mother earned her degree in education—she became a high school level math teacher. And my father received a degree in civil engineering—he became an engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation. Both of them have been pioneers of Indigenous achievement in higher education and STEM careers. They may not be known and recognized by the larger Native community as STEM pioneers, but they are certainly my inspiration and the trailblazers to my career at NASA.

I grew up in Holbrook, AZ, a small border town to the Navajo Reservation. My brothers and I grew up, and attended school in the Holbrook School District, where we all graduated proud “Holbrook Roadrunners.”
Growing up, I didn’t have any examples or role models who went to prestigious private schools or went on to work at places like NASA. I knew I wanted to transcend the expectations of my family and my hometown, which is why I always strove for the highest grades in school, participated in all the school leadership positions and sought out all the high school summer enrichment programs. These are the programs that ended up transforming me from a self-doubting minority student into a solid college applicant with some awareness of my self-worth. They gave me the confidence to apply to, and to eventually be accepted to, Stanford University—an event that changed the course of my life.

Making the transition from small-town public school to prestigious private college was a big challenge. Nothing about my time at Stanford was easy, whether it was the rigorous academics or the constant financial struggle. Not to mention being separated from a tight-knit home community like the Navajo community for the first time. I was forced to learn quickly how to adapt, persevere, and overcome many challenges during my time at Stanford. Thankfully, there was a supportive community of BIPOC students who were going through the same challenges as I was. We all supported each other and made it through—not only graduating, but each of us moving on to do incredible things.

I was hired by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory mid-way through my senior year at Stanford. I was heavily involved with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society from the time that I was a high school freshman. I grew from there to be president of my high school AISES chapter, then became the Stanford AISES chapter president, and then National AISES Region 2 Student Representative. Along the way I received a 4-year scholarship from AISES to attend Stanford, and while there, I received 2 NASA internships through AISES. One placed me at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and one at NASA Glenn Research Center. By the time I was ready to look for a job, AISES had helped give me a college education, 2 NASA internships, and a job opportunity with one of the most prestigious engineering institutions in the world. I met the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory recruiter at the AISES National Conference in 2007. From that interaction, I received an on-lab interview, and was hired soon after. I have been working as a Mechanical Engineer at NASA JPL for 12 years and counting.

DISM: Tell us about your significant milestone – when NASA’s InSight lander touched the surface of Mars. What were you feeling, and how was that experience?

Yazzie: NASA InSight was the first mission I worked on where I was tasked with leading the design and delivery of space flight hardware. Up until this point in my career, I supported missions as a test engineer or support engineer. When InSight successfully launched into space, it was the first time something I designed—something I touched with my own hands—went into space. And when it landed on Mars, it was the first time I sent something to another planet. I was completely thrilled, and overwhelmed with emotions when I saw the first set of pictures of my hardware on Mars. Considering where I came from, this achievement was monumental!
Being an engineer from a remarkably underrepresented community in STEM fields, it is a constant struggle to overcome imposter syndrome. I did not think I was a thriving or even adequate engineer at NASA. It’s a shame that it took an achievement like sending something to Mars to convince me that I belonged in my field, and that I belonged at NASA.

DISM: Can you tell us more about “Mars 2020”? What is the mission? How has the experience been?

Yazzie: Currently, I am the lead engineer for the Mars 2020 Drill Bits. We are sending the Mars 2020 Rover “Perseverance” to drill rock samples and save them in hermetically sealed tubes, so that we can eventually bring those samples back to Earth in future missions to determine if life exists on Mars. Additionally, this mission will study the history of rocky planets and conduct experiments that will pave the way for humans to travel to Mars. It’s really incredible to be part of another historic NASA mission. I’ve grown so much as an engineer—now sending my second flight hardware to Mars, but also being able to lead a team and be a mentor for the first time in my career. I’m very proud to have successfully delivered my parts to the rover, and very excited for the Mars 2020 launch in July 2020.

DISM: How has your Navajo background influenced your career?

Yazzie: Coming from an Indigenous background, I have a deep appreciation for the advancements of my family and ancestors before me. Considering that Native Americans weren’t granted basic civil rights in this country until 1968, it is remarkable that our people have not only overcome this historic oppression, but have been able to thrive and advance. I reflect on my own family, where as recent as one generation ago, my parents spoke no English, but learned in a small amount of time that education was the modern way to advance their people. My own academic achievements and this career I have been fortunate to achieve has all been made possible by the advancements of the Navajo people who have come before me. And it is for them that I use my privilege and platform to continue on.

DISM: What advice would you give to Native Americans wanting to pursue engineering?

Yazzie: Be resilient. It’s almost guaranteed that along your STEM journey, you will look around and not see very many others like you, from backgrounds like your own. But please understand that there are people in all directions of your life that are there to help you. Those before you, who want to help you succeed through mentorship and wisdom. Those beside you, who are on your same journey. And those behind you, who see you as an inspiration and role model. Recognizing that you have a full circle of support and inspiration will help you achieve any and all of your goals.

This Awesome STEM Toy Teaches Coding for Kids Without Using Screens
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Student playing on the floor with the Mochi Adventure game

by FUTURISM CREATIVE

Learn With Mochi gives kids the basics of computer programming in a playful, hands-on way.

Everyone wants the best education possible for their kids. But it’s hard to find enriching activities that don’t involve setting them in front of yet another screen. And teaching them the fundamentals of STEM seems nearly impossible when you’re limiting screen time. And according to data from Engineering For Kids, STEM workers earn 26-percent more than people without a STEM background. So if you want to give your young children a competitive edge without adding more screen time, you need to know about Learn With Mochi, an award-winning screen-free game that teaches coding for kids ages three-to-nine.

With Learn With Mochi, kids learn the basics of computer programming in a playful, hands-on way as they explore STEM subjects without the use of addictive screen time. That’s because Mochi is your child’s first screenless computer. It takes computer-programming commands, executes functions, and gives audio feedback in a low-pressure, fun way.

Every Mochi Aventure Kit includes these basic components: the Mochi Computer (where kids place the coding commands or blocks), coding blocks, Mochi Bear (a stuffed animal), Lego-compatible Rover, and the play mat (the environment that Mochi is exploring). Together these parts allow your child to absorb the fundamentals of coding without exposing them to more screen time than necessary.

Mochi has three Adventure Packs to choose from. The starter pack, Mochi Basic 1 Book Adventure Pack, covers everything your child will need to grasp the fundamentals of STEM education. This includes Mochi bear, Lego-compatible Rover, Programming board with 12 coding blocks, and Mochi’s Planets Story set (includes story map). Plus, every Mochi kit comes with a SD card that provides unique songs, music, and even audio of the Mochi books.

However, if you’re little one needs a more in-depth kit to help further their STEM education, try the Mochi Starter 4 Book Adventure Pack. The 4 Book Adventure Pack has everything the 1 Book Adventure Pack does, but also incorporates Mochi’s 4 Story Adventure Sets (Planets, Animals, Earth and Biology). This 4-book instructional pack will guide your children on adventures in a variety of STEM subjects, not only educating them, but also stimulating their natural curiosity.

Click here to read the full article on Futurism.

The Cyberwar Needs More Women on the Front Lines
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CYBERCRIMINALS, LIKE VIRUSES, adapt to their environment. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, cybersecurity complaints to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center have quadrupled.

Not only are governments and businesses more exposed, but individuals—stressed from remote work, unemployment, and/or homeschooling—are more susceptible to scams on everything from government assistance checks to online shopping. I’ve been deluged with emails purportedly from Netflix asking me to update my billing information; the sender clearly thinks cabin fever-infected recipients will be so desperate not to lose access to streaming they’ll click without a second thought.

The surge is no accident: Bad actors go where access is easy or where rewards outweigh risks, and the pandemic is ripe for exploitation. But cybercrime was with us long before and it will be with us long after we finally throw away our masks. This is particularly true of cybercrime targeting women and children.

This brings us back to access. Let’s look at the internet of things, for instance. It was developed largely without the input of women in leadership positions. Among the major US tech firms, none have more than 32 percent of women in leadership roles: Amazon 27 percent, Facebook 32 percent, Apple 29 percent, Google 26 percent, and Microsoft 19 percent.

Read the full article at Wired.

 

10 Women Scientists Leading the Fight Against the Climate Crisis
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Rose Mutiso speaks at TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED | Flickr/TED Conference

By Tshiamo Mobe, Global Citizen

Climate change is an issue that affects everyone on the planet but women and girls are the ones suffering its effects the most. Why? Because women and girls have less access to quality education and later, job opportunities. These structural disadvantages keep them in poverty. In fact, women make up 70% of the world’s poor. In a nutshell, climate change impacts the poor the most and the poor are mostly women.

Poverty driven by and made worse by climate change also makes girls more susceptible to child marriage, because it drives hunger and girls getting married often means one less mouth to feed for their parents. Climate change also leads to geopolitical instability which, in turn, results in greater instances of violence — which we know disproportionately impacts women and girls.

Ironically, saving the planet has been made to seem a “women’s job”. This phenomenon, dubbed the “eco gender gap”, sees the burden of climate responsibility placed squarely on women’s shoulders through “green” campaigns and products that are overwhelmingly marketed to women.

There are several hypotheses for why this is. Firstly, women are the more powerful consumers (they drive 70-80% of all purchasing decisions). Secondly, they are disproportionately responsible, still, for the domestic sphere. And finally, going green is seen as a women’s job because women’s personalities are supposedly more nurturing and socially responsible.

Women should be involved in fighting the climate crisis at every level — from the kitchen to the science lab to the boardroom. Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained it best when she said: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” However, women are underrepresented in the science field (including climate science), with just 30% of research positions held by women and fewer still holding senior positions. The Reuters Hot List of 1,000 scientists features just 122 women.

Having more women climate scientists could allow for an increased emphasis on understanding and providing solutions for some of the most far-reaching implications of climate change. Diversity in background and experiences allows for different perspectives. More perspectives allow for different research questions to arise or even a different approach to the same question.

There are, however, women all over the world in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) that have made some incredible strides in the fight against the climate crisis, from fire-resistant coating to protect places prone to wildfires, to a water-storing park for a region usually overwhelmed by floods. Here are just some of the world’s incredible women scientists leading the way on tackling the climate crisis.

Click here to read the full article on Global Citizen.

Taking on Diversity in Tech with Daleele Alison
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Daleele Allison headshot

Daleele Alison likes to help others stop wasting time doing tasks that don’t provide direct value to their clients. He is a technology professional, entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of RooksDM, a technology consulting group that helps alleviate pain points for small to midsize companies by using the right technology. Alison has worked as a consultant, business analyst and project manager for Fortune 500 companies to SMBs.

Diversity in STEAM Magazine (DISM) spoke with Alison about his company, the role diversity plays in tech and more on his participation in NMSDC’s Emerging Young Entrepreneurs cohort.

DISM: What have you seen businesses struggle with the most when it comes to their technology? How does RooksDM help them? 

Daleele Alison: From our perspective, businesses are excited about adopting new technology. However, when businesses rapidly implement new technology to fix a singular problem, this often becomes a band-aid solution and can lead to a different set of challenges. Many businesses end up with a large number of tech tools that become overwhelming to manage and lead to low user adoption. It’s important for businesses to take a step back and be strategic. At RooksDM, we ask the right questions about technology and processes and dig deep into the core pain points. Rather than simply throwing technology at a problem, we take a holistic approach. Our goal is to implement technology that works together and sets a foundation for scalable growth.

DISM: Do you feel there is diversity within the IT/tech sectors? Why or why not? 

Alison: We have seen progress in diversity within the tech industry. Organizations with targeted initiatives to increase diversity have definitely started to move the needle. It’s exciting to see a shift in the industry, however, there is still a long way to go. It continues to be a challenge for diverse vendors to break into large enterprise corporations. I’m hopeful that through tracking and monitoring vendor diversity, we will see even greater progress in supporting minorities in tech.

DISM: Why was it important for you to participate in NMSDC’s (National Minority Supplier Development Council) Emerging Young Entrepreneurs cohort? What have you learned thus far that is applicable to your own business? 

Alison: The NMSDC’s Emerging Young Entrepreneurs has been an important way for us to learn and network. Through this initiative, we have been able to connect with like-minded colleagues, which has led to advice and potential business growth. The sessions have been invaluable and have expanded my thoughts around marketing, finance and strategy. We are truly grateful to be a part of this community and are looking forward to more opportunities in the future.

DISM: How has being MBE certified through NMSDC leveraged your business’s success? 

Alison: Being MBE certified through NMSDC has given RooksDM access to a much larger community of like-minded businesses. We now have exposure to larger organizations to build our business. We have also built relationships with fellow minority-owned businesses. It has been so valuable to learn from each other and share stories and resources that support business growth. We are also proud to share our certification with current and prospective clients. This certification provides us with additional credibility that supports our conversations with potential clients.

DISM: What advice would you give another minority-owned entrepreneur or business owner just getting started?

Alison: My advice to fellow minority owners is to be intentional about how you spend your time. It’s easy to focus on initiatives that don’t matter or that won’t make an impact. It is critical to have the right people in your network to lean on so you can spend your time where it matters most. For us, spending time building relationships has been a game changer, not just in nurturing prospects but also in strengthening relationships within our industry. Leaning on others in the industry for support and expertise has not only led to referrals but been helpful to our overall growth.

Photo credit: Tori Soper Photography

4 Reasons to Consider a Career in Energy
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workers on rooftop solar panel

Implementing clean energy is far from just a phase, it’s a necessity. Given the growing concern with the climate crisis; scientists and innovators from across the country are working together to power our daily lives through environmentally friendly means. By joining a career in clean energy, you could not only aid in these efforts, but do so while securing a stable, growing career.

Here are five reasons why you should consider the clean energy workforce:

It’s a Growing Field in Every Way

We all know that clean energy is popular on a societal standpoint, but even economically the field is thriving. In late 2021, President Biden passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which among other things invested $65 billion in support for clean energy infrastructure, research, jobs and much more. More recently, the CHIPS and Science Act, as well as the new Inflation Reduction Act, have added billions in investments for clean energy jobs and technologies. This makes the salaries of those in Renewable energy higher than average.

Along with being incredibly well funded and well equipped for hiring, the industry also has a lot of opportunities for advancement. Since the industry is relatively new, many clean energy sectors look to promote within their current employees.

The Job Types are Endless

When we think of jobs in renewable energy, we tend to think of scientists, engineers and even construction workers. While all of these areas of expertise are looking for jobs, you don’t have to wear a lab coat or a hardhat to join the field. In fact, you can come from just about any background and find a career in energy that will work for you. For example, the Department of Energy hires for positions in an extensive list of positions including:

  • Business Administration
  • Communications
  • Construction
  • Engineering
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • IT/Cybersecurity
  • Legal Affairs
  • Marketing
  • Manufacturing
  • Operations Research
  • Physical Science
  • Public Policy
  • Safety
  • Sales

It is never too late or too difficult to join the clean energy workforce, and there are so many different ways in which you can apply your skills.

The Work Environment

As an often well-funded and new career industry, the clean energy sector tends to do a better job at keeping up with current business trends and creating a thriving work culture. This allows for many of the employees in the field to be positive and passionate about their work. Benefits of the work environment of the clean energy sector can include:

  • Fantastic diversity and inclusion initiatives in every sector
  • Health care benefits
  • Retirement plans
  • Working with passionate, like-minded coworkers
  • Opportunities to work in-office or from home
  • Opportunities for creativity, innovation and collaboration

You’re Making a Difference

There are many reasons to work toward a clean energy future. Whether it’s to protect the environment, promote energy justice, secure national energy independence, make scientific advancements or lower energy costs, there are many moral reasons you may have for wanting to join the field. In some industries, it can be difficult to see how any of the work you’re doing is making a difference in the world, but the clean energy industry does the exact opposite. In clean energy, no matter what your part is, your field is working to literally change the world every day by fighting climate change and promoting a healthier world for generations to come.

Sources: Department of Energy, Whitehouse.gov, Michael Page

Top Tips for Making the Most of Your MBA
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Young student holding books and carrying a backpack, smiling to camera

By Amelia Hopkins

An MBA is a huge investment, and for what it’s costing you, you want to get as much as possible out of the course.
You might think that, having studied at undergraduate level, you already have a good idea about how to make the most of higher education. But, studying for an MBA is entirely different and requires a different set of skills and preparation.

Here are our top MBA tips for choosing the right business school and making the most of your time when you get there:

Getting the most out of your MBA experience

Applying to business school is a very time-consuming process. MBA candidates have to research numerous MBA programs, cram for the GMAT, write multiple admissions assays and prepare b-school interviews.

With so much to do in the admissions process, it’s easy to forget that it’s only just the beginning of your MBA journey. To make sure you get the most out of your MBA experience, here are a few tips:

  • Come up with your financial plan
  • Focus on the full MBA experience
  • Network anywhere and everywhere
  • Be proactive during your MBA program
  • Evolve your career goals as you go
  • Apply for as many summer internships as possible
  • Don’t get intimidated

But before you land a spot on the MBA program of your dreams, there are a few things you can do beforehand…

Visit business schools 

The best way to understand the culture of an institution is to visit it. By looking around the campus, speaking to current students and faculty and seeing the facilities in person, you’ll be able to assess if the school fits with your personality and goals.

If you live too far away to visit, a virtual tour, coupled with thorough research, will give you a fair indication as to whether the school is a good match for you.

Speak to MBA alumni

No one knows an MBA course better than alumni, so try to speak to several ex-students about their experiences. Given the way we all feel about our alma maters, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s not willing to share their experiences. Try to pick those whose interests match your own, to provide you with an accurate vision of what could be in store for you.

 

Research yourself online

Before applying, look at your public profiles — how are you representing yourself? Either make all your social media profiles private or clean them up so that you’re presenting yourself in a mature and professional way.

Find your way around campus

There’s nothing worse than getting lost on your first day, so avoid that fate by looking around your institution before your classes begin. Take your timetable and walk to every class beforehand, so you’ll be able to find your way there easily when you need to. Most institutions offer tours of the various departments and facilities, so take advantage of these too.

Start growing your network

A big part of an MBA course is the non-academic side of things. Networking and making contacts are a major reason for attending business school, so make the most of the opportunity. Introduce yourself to everyone you can, and spend time getting to know your classmates and professors. Particularly seek out those with different backgrounds to your own. This is one of the best chances you will have in your life to meet such a diverse range of people.

Join clubs

Extra-curricular activities are not only an enjoyable way to meet people and break up your school-work schedule, they also help to impress potential employers. Most clubs will have a ‘try it’ session, so attend all the ones you’re interested in and pick a number to actively participate in. If you can, secure a leadership position in a society, as this looks fantastic in future job applications.

Think about your career

It’s easy to get swept away by the MBA experience, but remember what you’re there for: to advance your career. Make time to research your course options early on and ensure they will help in the pursuit of your goals. Speak to the careers department often and attend recruitment events to meet with potential employers.

The internship portion of your course is also very important for career progression, so prepare for it thoroughly and select a company you’d be happy working for — they might just offer you a job once your MBA is complete.

Practice your interview skills

Informational interviews offer you the chance to get a feel for the kind of interviews that you will be dealing with after graduation. They also provide the opportunity to explore different companies and introduce yourself to recruitment staff. Many MBA courses include classes which include informational interviews.

Make sure you’re organized

An MBA course requires a significant amount of juggling tasks, events and classes, so organization skills are essential. Before beginning the course, familiarize yourself with the tools you’ll use to organize your study, including study apps, planners and calendars. Once your course has started, make a timetable to plan out your time and stick to it — procrastination is your worst enemy. No period of your life will depend on your organizational and management skills more than studying for an MBA.

Engage, but don’t force your opinion

Contributing in class is essential, but that doesn’t mean you should railroad the group. If you have something to add to the discussion, do so and if you disagree with something, make that known, but don’t attempt to dominate the discussion. You’ll learn more by listening than you will by speaking, and you’ll make more friends that way too.

Find a way to relax

MBA courses are stressful, so offset this by finding a healthy way to relax. For some, it might be jogging, for others painting or reading. When you’ve found what works for you, set aside time each week to do it. Your anxiety levels will thank you.

Source: TopMBA

To the Metaverse and Beyond: Access to STEAM Crosses the Digital Divide
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Man wearing VR glasses virtual Global Internet connection metaverse with a new experience in metaverse virtual world. Metaverse technology concept Innovation of futuristic

By Diane McClelland, Dr. Angelina Dayton, Dr. Tom Furness III, Deborah Todd

The metaverse is opening doors for more and more people to work and play in virtual worlds. And within this parallel digital universe, we’re already starting to see virtual reality mirror actual reality in more ways than one—most notably with a lack of equality.

We know that with the exploration of an exciting new world comes great responsibility. And in that truth lies the possibility of creating a more accessible and equitable existence. So how can we leave the inequities of the real world out of the virtual world? The answer, in part, is by getting more girls and women into STEAM to help us bridge the digital divide.

The good news is that colleges and universities are beginning to make a very deliberate, concerted effort to recruit more young women for computer science majors. This can’t come soon enough. In 2021, young women graduating from college earned 18 percent of the nation’s computer science degrees, down from 37 percent in 1984. Current trends show the role of women in tech has declined over the last 35 years, and many women drop out of tech by the age of 35.

But interest in STEM careers seems to be rising. According to Zippia Research, in 2017, 74 percent of girls expressed a desire for a STEM career. That year, women held 49.7 percent of STEM-related bachelor’s degrees, but this didn’t necessarily translate into a tech career, as compared to men.

Career opportunities in STEM and STEAM have to come from more than interest and aptitude. They also have to come from equal access. Inequality is often fueled by policies created by governments, institutions, and corporations that raise roadblocks and barriers to access. These barriers are often based on gender, race, unconscious bias, and even zip codes. The subsequent policies suppress innovation and, as many corporations are discovering, stifle financial bottom lines.

Forbes 500 companies — with a purchasing power of five trillion USD — discovered in 2020 that placing women in leadership roles resulted in a 66 percent increase in ROI. Another report, in 2017, showed that organizations with at least eight out of 20 female managers gained 34 percent of their revenues from innovative products and services.

Young women are paying attention to women-run organizations. Recruiting for the next generation of college students, colleges and universities report that 27 percent of young women said they would consider going to work for companies with positive role models and an inclusive work environment.

The substantial contributions to innovation and profits underscore the importance of having more women at the leadership table, and serving as role models and mentors for younger women. We also need to acknowledge that other voices are missing from the conversation. Equity and inclusion, by definition, are for everyone. We have to take very real, necessary steps to include everyone at the table.

Access to these conversations in the physical world will, of course, determine who has access to them in the metaverse. Likewise, access to the metaverse will determine who can work with 21st century tools in yet-to-be designed digital worlds. Inequality as status quo isn’t sustainable—in society or business. If we don’t address inequalities in the physical world, they will be duplicated and magnified in the virtual world.

There are many under-utilized yet valuable solutions to our world’s challenges that women and other groups provide. One such group is the Girls STEAM Institute™, which is simultaneously addressing real- and virtual-world inequity through a business challenge competition for young girls ages 13-18.

Using project-based learning, the challenge tasks small teams of girls to develop business solutions addressing a global issue, in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Over the course of two days, the girls create a plan for a digital application, assign executive roles, develop a company, create a business plan complete with SWOT analysis, and put together a presentation. At the end of the second day, the teams pitch their ideas to a panel of judges for feedback on the commercial viability of their projects.

The teams work in digital 2-D and 3-D realms, including VR. Participants report a higher level of self-confidence, and the value of their voice as part of a team—inside and outside of the virtual world. Many of the girls pursue college degrees in STEAM, moving into exciting new careers in emerging fields.

At the beginning of a new digital era, these girls are pioneering the way for others to join in the conversation. They’re becoming role models for older generations—on the value of access and equity in the metaverse.

Our communities are more successful with access, and with all of the brainpower, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking skills working for the greater good. We need the irreplaceable contributions of all peoples to bridge the digital divide to ensure a stronger, richer society.

Credits: Diane McClelland, Co-Founder, Girls STEAM Institute™ Deborah Todd,

Dr. Tom Furness III, co-founder of Virtual World Society, Dr. Angelina Dayton

First Native American Woman in Space Leads Mission to the Stars
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Astronaut Nicole Mann gives a thumbs up with American flag in the background

In late September, Space-X Crew, the fifth crewed operational NASA Commercial Crew flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the eighth overall crewed orbital flight launched into the cosmos and traveled to the space station. But unlike any other space mission in history, this one was led by mission commander Nicole Aunapu Mann, a colonel for the U.S. Marines, the first woman commander of a NASA Commercial Crew Program launch, and the first Native American woman in space.

Before ever setting foot in NASA territory, Mann attended the U.S. Naval Academy for her undergraduate degree and Stanford University for her graduate degree, both of which were in mechanical engineering. Mann was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in 1999, completed flight training at The Basic School in Quantico in 2001, and began her operational flying career with her wings of gold as Naval Aviator by 2004. During this assignment, she deployed twice with CVW-1 aboard the USS Enterprise and flew combat missions in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM.

Upon return from her second deployment, Mann reported to the United States Naval Test Pilot School, Class 135, at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland where she began her Developmental Test tour at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron TWO THREE (VX-23) as an F/A-18 Test Pilot/Project Officer. While at VX-23, Mann executed a variety of flight tests, including loads envelope expansion, flying qualities, carrier suitability and ordnance separation in the F/A-18A-F.

In the spring of 2011, Mann assumed duties as the VX-23 Operations Officer and was assigned to the PMA-281 as the Joint Mission Planning System — Expeditionary (JMPS-E) Integrated Product Team Lead just a year later. Before being selected as a NASA astronaut soon after, Mann’s military service accumulated more than 2,500 flight hours in 25 types of aircraft, 200 carrier arrestments and 47 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Her service earned her two Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, along with several other honors for her various academic, flight and military successes.

In 2013, Mann was selected as one of the eight members of NASA Astronaut Group 21 and completed her training two years later. She has since served as a T-38 Talon Safety and Training Officer and was the Assistant to the Chief of Exploration. She led the astronaut corps in the development of the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems. Her mission command to the International Space Station with Crew-5 was Mann’s first time traveling to space.

With Mann at mission command, Crew-5 additionally consisted of Navy Commander turned astronaut Josh Cassada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina. While on the space station, the team studied new biological technology advancements, such as the possibility of 3D printing human cells.

Mann is also confirmed to be a member of the Artemis program, the mission taking a group of astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since 1972. The Artemis program will launch in 2024 and cite one of the crew members as the first woman on the moon.

“It’s very exciting,” Mann told Indian Country Today upon first learning she would be the first Native American woman to officially be going to space, “I think it’s important we communicate this to our community, so that other Native kids, if they thought maybe that this was not a possibility or to realize that some of those barriers that used to be there are really starting to get broken down.”

Sources: NASA, Wikipedia, BBC, CBS, Indian Country Today

Cracking the code: Working together to engage and empower female technologists at Bloomberg
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To create products that serve increasingly diverse customers and solve a wider range of social problems, technology companies need women engineers. However, only 25 percent of math and computer science jobs in the United States are filled by women, and one-third of women in the U.S. and China quit these jobs mid-career due to factors like social isolation, a lack of access to creative technical roles and difficulty advancing to leadership positions.

At Bloomberg, we’ve established a company culture that supports gender equality in a multitude of ways – from company-wide Diversity & Inclusion business plans to a newly expanded family leave policy. But we know that’s not enough. In recent years, we’ve adopted a system-wide approach to increasing the number of women in technical roles, taking steps to remove barriers to advancement both inside our organization and beyond Bloomberg, supporting female talent from middle school through mid-career.

While the number of women in technical jobs at Bloomberg is growing, we’re committed to making progress faster and completing all the steps needed to solve the equation. Here are some of the ways we’re tackling this important deficit – and making quantifiable change.

Early engagement

Bloomberg supports organizations that help increase women’s participation in STEM and financial technology, exposing students to various career options through Bloomberg Startup and encouraging our female engineers to engage with the next generation of talent.

Collaboration, creativity, and a love of problem-solving drew Chelsea Ohh to the field of engineering. Now she works at Bloomberg as a software engineer team lead, helping to provide critical information to financial decision makers across the globe.

Recruitment

We target our entry-level engineering recruiting efforts at colleges that have achieved or are focused on gender parity in their STEM classes. And because not all the best talent come from the same schools or have the same experiences, Bloomberg actively seeks women engineers with non-traditional backgrounds or career paths.

Talent development

Women engineers can sharpen their technical skills through open courses, on-site training sessions, and business hackathons held throughout the year. Bloomberg is committed to inspiring our female employees, eliminating barriers like impostor syndrome, and encouraging them to pursue opportunities in engineering.

Community & allies

To strengthen its network of female engineers, global BWIT (Bloomberg Women in Technology) chapters organize more than 150 events, mentoring sessions, and meet-ups a year. The community also engages male allies and advocates, sharing strategies to help them support their female colleagues.

Click here to read the full article on Bloomberg.

How 4 engineers and culture champions are growing their careers at Bloomberg
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Bloomberg Engineering’s culture champions innovation. This is made possible by the different perspectives of our 6,000+ software engineers around the globe, who come from diverse backgrounds and geographies and who possess a variety of technology specialties.

Meet four of Bloomberg’s software engineers – all of whom are active members of the Bloomberg Black in Tech Community across our New York, San Francisco and London engineering teams – and see how they’ve been empowered to impact our business globally.

 

Our conversations with them cover their paths to and work at Bloomberg, how they’ve grown professionally, their impact in technology, the importance of an inclusive workplace, and their efforts to attract more diversity to tech. Interviews were edited for length and clarity.

Lerena Holloway is a Software Engineer at Bloomberg's New York office.
Lerena Holloway is a Software Engineer at Bloomberg’s New York office.

Lerena Holloway

TITLE: Software Engineer
BLOOMBERG OFFICE: New York

How did you get to Bloomberg? What do you work on now?
I lived abroad for 5 years, during which time I taught English in South Korea for 3½ years. I then served in the U.S. Navy for 4 years, after which I felt the urge to embrace my technical talents. This career change turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

While finishing my MBA, I decided to apply to the Grace Hopper Program at Fullstack Academy, one of the country’s top-ranked coding bootcamps. This decision was the beginning of my path to Bloomberg, which I was drawn to for its philanthropic programs, the eclectic and dynamic nature of the Bloomberg Terminal, and the opportunity to be immersed in a culture of strong, talented software engineers.

I’m currently in the training program for new engineers. Prior to starting my training, I had the privilege of pre-training on the Commodities team, where I worked on building a map UI in React and Node.js and integrating it with a remote procedure call framework. I really enjoyed the learning process in discovering how to merge open source technologies with proprietary technologies.

Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way?
One of my mentors is Erik Anderson, the software engineer who helped created MAPS<GO> and many of Bloomberg’s chart functions. Erik has helped me a great deal in building my confidence to tackle things outside my comfort zone. He really has helped me see that I was capable of more than I thought and encouraged me along the way, which really made me more driven to put in the long hours of practice and study that it takes to get to Bloomberg.

What do you love most about working in tech?
I really enjoy the way it has evolved over the years and how it continues to change so rapidly. Working in technology forces me to continue learning and embrace my status as a ‘forever’ student. The moment we get too comfortable in this industry is the moment we are in danger of falling behind. There are so many advances and new technologies that, even after just one year, the older versions are quickly out-of-date. What I love most is that it is an industry that never gets too comfortable; it is about constantly improving the product and making applications faster and more efficient. The associated mental challenges and continuous learning excite me the most!

What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry?
Entering a male-dominated industry doesn’t come without trepidation. Knowing that people come equipped with certain biases that they themselves may not even be aware of plays a role; it is just the way we have all been socially-programmed by the media, our parents, and our communities. The tech industry is challenging by itself and people of color may have to face a few additional challenges, dealing with variations of micro-inequities, and the burden of not contributing to certain stereotypes. However, what I enjoy the most are the raised awareness and open discussions seeking to address these imbalances. It really shows how we, as a human species, are evolving our consciousness around these issues.

In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community?
Diversity and inclusion are crucial to the strength of any great organization. In order for technology to serve a wider range of users, understanding their needs and wants is very important. With the advent of globalization, this type of understanding can only be reached by increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

I also enjoy sharing my experiences traveling and living abroad with my co-workers. It highlights the importance of travel as a way to break down barriers in understanding different cultures, which I believe is a pivotal step towards this objective. I am also a member of many different communities here at Bloomberg, so as not to limit the definition of myself to one particular ethnicity or background, but to expand my sense of self in order to represent the many different cultural experiences I’ve had and those I’ve adopted along the way.

Deji Akinyemi is a Senior Software Engineer at Bloomberg's New York office.
Deji Akinyemi is a Senior Software Engineer at Bloomberg’s New York office.

Deji Akinyemi

TITLE: Senior Software Engineer
BLOOMBERG OFFICE: New York

How did you get to Bloomberg?
I was an industry hire out of a Bloomberg recruiting event in Seattle, where I met the engineers who would eventually be my managers. They were great and provided an amazing vision of the technical challenges and company culture at Bloomberg.

What do you work on now?
I am presently working on designing and building out the underlying platform that supports Bloomberg’s Asset Investment Management (AIM) compliance workflows.

Did you have any mentors to guide your career along the way?
Most definitely! I was fortunate to have an awesome mentor when I first started at Bloomberg. He was one of those engineers whose code nuances and expressiveness are like revelations. I learned a lot about my team and Bloomberg’s culture just by contributing to his code. I was also fortunate to have supportive managers who accommodated my desire to be challenged. They were able to provide interesting, tangible and business-critical projects to broaden my scope and contributions.

What do you love most about working in tech?
It has been said that engineers are the gatekeepers for civilization. Being in tech is like a calling. The work one does has a direct impact on the well-being of others. It gets more interesting when your work pushes the boundaries of what is considered possible. When this happens, there is no greater feeling than creating something new. Then you realize that, in some small way, you’ve (hopefully) helped make the world just a bit better than before.

Are there any particular technologies that interest you?
Machine learning, especially around the areas of natural language processing and understanding. The best technologies are those that feel so completely natural and intuitive that you may forget that you are interacting with a machine. Ironically, it is extremely difficult to create such a system. Applications of ML have the powerful potential to change the way we all interact with technology, if not the very nature of the machines we use.

What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry?
There are very few of us in the tech industry. This truism begs us to ask why, as demographics don’t support this reality, as 10% of all college graduates and computer science majors are people of color. It’s sometimes hard not to feel excluded when there are very few people who look like you in the places that you are or want to be. There is often a significant effort required to go from ‘person of color,’ to ‘person,’ to ‘extremely capable person’ in the minds of others that people of other backgrounds do not face.

In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important?
Antifragility is a term coined by bestselling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb that describes systems that thrive in the face of volatility, shock or adversity. It represents the next step beyond robustness and resilience. I believe that, by their very nature, antifragile systems are diverse. Events that could take down a monoculture are often integrated and used for the greater good by an antifragile system. Diversity and inclusion promote antifragility by fostering teams that are tolerant, supportive, engaging and dynamic.

How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community?
I am one of the co-founders of the Bloomberg Black In Tech (BBIT) Community, which is composed of individuals in technology roles across Bloomberg – in engineering, product management, data science, etc. BBIT’s singular goal is to make Bloomberg the best place for minorities in tech across the industry. We host regular events to foster professional and personal development and create a fun, safe space. We work very hard to engage, support and empower the community at large through mentoring, recruiting, and outreach events on college campuses and at tech conferences with significant minority representation.

Akin Mousse is a BQuant Specialist for the Desktop Build Group in Bloomberg's San Francisco office.
Akin Mousse is a BQuant Specialist for the Desktop Build Group in Bloomberg’s San Francisco office.

Akin Mousse

TITLE: BQuant Specialist, Desktop Build Group
BLOOMBERG OFFICE: San Francisco

How did you get to Bloomberg? What do you work on now?
I spent the first five years of my career at leading French banks where, among other things, I designed and implemented technology to automate processes on trading floors. Bloomberg found me on LinkedIn and recruited me to our London office in 2013. I’ve now worked in our San Francisco office for five years.

I’m currently a BQuant Specialist in our Desktop Build Group. In this role, I educate our clients’ quantitative financial researchers, analysts, and data scientists to leverage BQuant, our interactive data analysis and quantitative research platform and new Bloomberg Query Language (BQL). To do this, I first have to understand our clients’ workflows and determine how and where our quant research solutions can help them derive value. Often, we can help clients reduce the amount of time and manual labor spent reviewing financial statements. We can incorporate probability and statistics that help clients make faster and more accurate decisions on their financial strategies. Many times, I create the specifications, design a custom application for a team of about 20-50 users, test the app, and implement it at the client site. Finally, I help train users to program in Python in order to leverage BQuant.

Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way?
It has been challenging finding a Black professional mentor. David Mitchell, a team leader for our market specialists, has been a huge inspiration for me. We both started our careers in finance and moved to tech, so I feel like we have much in common. I appreciate how he reaches out periodically to check in on me. I admire his leadership of Bloomberg’s Black Professional Community and am really impressed by his career trajectory and the network he has built. It’s really important to see a person of color in a senior position because it makes that rank seem attainable for the rest of us.

Sandra Lee, who works in Bloomberg’s Product Oversight Office, has also been an influential mentor since we first met in 2016. She’s been with Bloomberg for more than 20 years, and she has helped me understand Bloomberg’s culture and navigate internal networks. I often use her as a sounding board to help me articulate my vision and get a second opinion. On a personal level, she shows me the value of work-life balance.

What do you love most about working in tech?
I love being in a position where I’m learning something. Technology is perpetually evolving, and you always need to be on your toes to remain competitive. I will often think about a complex engineering challenge that I am trying to solve, and will have a candid conversation with a colleague or I will read an article, and then a solution will emerge. I then implement it and it is so satisfying when it works. I also like that tech has tangible results.

Are there any particular technologies that interest you?
I am really excited about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). I love the idea that technology can show us patterns that humans cannot otherwise see because we cannot scrape through large volumes of data as quickly. From there, we can extract specific insights that influence our decision-making.

My interest in AI and ML led me to complete a graduate-level certificate program at the University of San Francisco. While I’m not using these skills in my current role, I’m excited that Bloomberg is doing cutting-edge work in natural language processing and other areas related to ML and AI. I’ve also joined Bloomberg’s Machine Learning Guild so I can stay connected to this technology; otherwise, it is hard to stay on top of it when you don’t apply it on a daily basis.

What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry?
One word: R-E-P-R-E-S-E-N-T-A-T-I-O-N! We need to see peers and leaders who are people of color. When I don’t see people of color in leadership positions, I feel like it’s less possible to attain success. When I see Black leaders, I get a lot of motivation and affirmation that it could be me one day.

In my experience, people of color aren’t taken as seriously by their peers unless there are other people of color in leadership positions. I personally feel like I need to be better than anyone else in whatever I’m doing. I don’t want to give any opening for the quality of my work to be questioned. For that reason, I often spend extra time double-checking my work in order to make everything is perfect. No one asks me to do this, but I feel I must. This adds a dimension of extra stress because that workflow is not scalable or sustainable and can lead to burnout.

In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community?
Life is so much more fulfilling when you can interact with people from different backgrounds and ways of life. At work, a diverse team can help prevent tunnel vision when solving challenges or meeting client needs. Everyone comes with baggage and biases that sometimes makes communication uncomfortable, but this ultimately leads to rich learning experiences.

I’m always trying to recruit and advocate for more underrepresented minority candidates, because we are only likely to stay at Bloomberg if we continue seeing more diversity on our teams.

Jonathan “JC” Charlery is a Senior Software Engineer at Bloomberg's London office.
Jonathan “JC” Charlery is a Senior Software Engineer at Bloomberg’s London office.

Jonathan “JC” Charlery

TITLE: Senior Software Engineer
BLOOMBERG OFFICE: London

How did you get to Bloomberg?
I was on my way to interview with a different company during the career fair at Howard University, when I ran into Kerry Joseph, an engineer who was recruiting for Bloomberg. We got to chatting about the company and he invited me to an info session later that night. What struck me was how down-to-earth and genuine he was. He wasn’t trying to sell me anything; he just talked about his own experiences at the company and how the job allowed him to grow.

In talking about his own background, we discovered we were from neighbouring islands in the Caribbean so we shared a cultural background. Having that conversation, and seeing and hearing someone like me at Bloomberg who had such a positive experience is what really sold me on the company.

What do you work on now?
I’m on the Local Development team in London, which is part of our Developer Experience (DevX) group. Our team creates and supports the tools and workflows that allow engineers to develop and test their applications locally on their laptops using whatever tools they prefer, instead of relying on a limited shared environment.

Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way?
Zac Rider, who leads our Real-time Distribution Platform engineering team, and Becky Plummer, a software engineering team leader in DevX (and my current manager) are two of the most influential managers I’ve had during my tenure at Bloomberg. They’ve provided me with many opportunities for growth and helped me build up my confidence in my own abilities. They were instrumental in putting my career on its current trajectory.

Femi Popoola, a technical team lead in London, has also been an amazing mentor to me. We’ve spoken about many different topics related to personal and technical growth, like knowing which opportunities are right for you and how to manage them, to understanding when you’re ready to take on a new challenge (hint: you’re never going to be “ready,” but don’t let that stop you).

What do you love most about working in tech?
I love the rate at which everything changes in the tech industry, and the ease of being able to get involved.

The tech industry evolves so quickly that you’ll miss it if you blink. In the last 20 years or so, we’ve gone from having one dedicated phone line per family and maybe having a computer for the household to us all having a computer in our pockets and everyone having a phone. All the information this puts at our fingertips has made it much easier for anyone to become involved and even to transfer into tech-related fields from any profession.

Are there any particular technologies that interest you?
Docker and container technologies are particularly interesting to me. The ability to simulate an entire environment and have repeatable declarative processes have really changed the way we think about development, testing, and stability of our systems.

What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry?
Without seeing other people who look like them or can stand as a role model for them, people of colour tend to get discouraged from entering the tech industry. It is hard to continue being self-motivated or to believe you can achieve something if all the stereotypical icons don’t represent you in any way. It’s why Kerry stood out to me so much. He was West Indian and able to succeed in the tech industry. This isn’t spoken about often, but it creates a real psychological barrier for many people. Being able to connect with someone who shares your heritage or cultural background, and being able to see yourself in that person, are some of the greatest motivating factors.

In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important?
Diversity and inclusion are very important as they provide different perspectives. Having someone who can see something in a different manner and who brings their own background and experiences can help elicit a new style of thinking and new direction when it is needed the most. When all options have seemingly been exhausted, something which may seem intrinsically basic to someone can actually be just what is needed to get things moving again.

How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community?
I’ve spoken at events aimed at promoting and highlighting diversity and inclusion, as well as been a representative, speaker and mentor at both internal and external events aimed at empowering underprivileged youth to encourage them to pursue careers in STEM and grow their networks. This includes serving as a mentor to both university students and secondary school students.

I have been an advocate for and given advice about different ways to recruit effectively at select Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) across the U.S. I’ve also attended university career fairs where I directly engage with students, serving not only as a company point of contact for them, but also sharing my experiences with them. I talk to new hires about my career progression and serve as a mentor to help them navigate the company’s culture.

Click here to read the full article on Bloomberg.

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