Women are still vastly underrepresented in STEM fields, so Mina Dezyanian created an online community of fellow female engineers to share their knowledge and experiences starting with university.
What inspired you to join a career in STEM?
To be honest there wasn’t one single thing that inspired me to pursue a career in STEM. I always enjoyed solving problems. I liked pushing myself and learning complicated subjects in school. I would say the push I got from my teachers and parents to take high-level math, physics, and chemistry courses in high school created the opportunity for me to be able to apply for civil engineering. And of course, my father being an engineer had a lot to do with me considering it as a career option.
What difficulties did you have getting opportunities for leadership?
I didn’t think about leadership until I was about four years into my career. After graduating in 2014, the first few years were mostly about figuring out what I wanted to do and finding the right job for me. Once I found the career path I wanted to take, I started looking for opportunities in leadership to grow. I would say the hardest part for me was first finding what I wanted to do with my civil engineering degree. That meant experiencing different fields like transportation and structural. Now that I’ve made up my mind and know what my five to 10-year goals are, I actively pursue opportunities in leadership instead of waiting for them to find me.
What advice do you have for recent STEM graduates looking to go into leadership?
The first step is to find what you enjoy doing and plan your five to 10 years around it. The way to do that is by experiencing as much as you can until you develop various skills and find that one thing you’re really good at. After you identify your goals, it’s easier to look for leadership roles.
What specific changes would you like to see in your industry in diversity?
I would like to see more active actions in companies to create a more diverse environment. I don’t think it’s enough to talk about diversity or just “be okay with it” when a diverse group applies for a position. It’s necessary to actively hire a more diverse group to create an inclusive company culture. I would like to see HR and headhunters in companies reach out to more women for higher positions.
Why did you decide to start blogging and sharing your career on social media?
There isn’t enough mentorship for women in STEM. Over the years we’ve seen a boom in mentorship from entrepreneurs in business development, but not from people in STEM professions. I just think if someone told me their lessons learnt when I was starting my career, I could’ve used a lot of the mentorship to my advantage. I learn so much every day on the job and it’s such useful information that I feel like it’s a waste not to share.
Do you have role models or mentors you can rely on for leadership advice?
Yes definitely. The first being my father. His mentorship in the business side of my career has been amazing. When working in my profession in construction management, it’s important to have skills in budgeting and negotiating. I’ve watched him work and learnt a great deal from him. He’s also the person who has always said to me “if all these people can do it, so can you”.
My current manager is also my mentor. He puts me in uncomfortable situations and pushes my limits. I’ve surrounded myself with successful people whom I learn a great deal from.
What do you enjoy most about your career in STEM?
The way it allows me to fix things and solve problems. I’m constantly using my skills and knowledge to solve something. This empowers me so much not just at work, but also in my personal life. I love that it gives me the confidence to face any problem in front of me.
What do you recommend to women who experience gender bias in the workplace?
Educate. Speak up. Move forward.
Educate: constantly educate yourself in whatever field you’re working in. Even if someone doesn’t believe you can do something, still go ahead and educate yourself. There is so much we learn on the job and the more knowledge you have on the topic, the better you can carry yourself forward.
Speak up: if you want something, go for it. Go ask for a higher position. Ask if they’re hiring. Apply for the job. If you face discrimination, don’t be silent about it. Stand up for other women. Never be silent about your goals and dreams.
Move forward: you will come across many different people with many different opinions. That is not your problem. You need to keep moving forward. Yes, some days it’ll be harder than others.
Maybe someone will be biased towards you. What do you do? Educate yourself in the job so you know what you’re doing; speak up and acknowledge their bias; keep moving forward until you get what you want.