Open Opportunities: Girls in Technology Program Encourages Students to Think STEM

A crowd of nearly 200 girls—some as young as third grade—gathered at Telos’ Ashburn headquarters Thursday night to get an up-close look at opportunities awaiting them in science and technology fields.

Sponsored by Women in Technology (WIT), the event allowed the students to get up close with robots, engineers and scientists in the hallways before a formal program in which four women who built successful careers Girls in Technologyshared their stories. Norma Henry, vice chairwoman of Loudoun’s Girls in Technology committee, told her audience of elementary, middle and high school students that they were lucky to be living in the Washington, DC area where there is an abundance of high-paying technology jobs and not enough qualified workers to fill them.

WIT’s Girls in Technology initiative is designed to give students early exposure to the opportunities that lie ahead for them in STEM fields. There was a common message to the girls from the panelists, each of whom arrived at her current position by an indirect path. Don’t worry, things will work out, they said.

Heather Pomerene said she grew up loving math—as a youth she did

Heather Pomerene
Heather Pomerene

complicated long division problems for fun—and charted a career path in nuclear medicine. However, conversations with her college roommate turned her attention to mechanical engineering and dreams of designing cars for BMW. That didn’t pan out either. Today, she designs rockets and satellites as a senior principal engineer at Orbital ATK.

Linda Decker earned an economics degree and then worked as an administrative assistant for a top executive at a Telos subsidiary. He recognized her skills and encouraged her to get involved with the IT side of the company’s operations. She ended up working as the sole IT technician serving a staff of 80. Today, she is the system network administrator for Telos Identity Management Solutions.

Stephanie Spiers was a political science major in college before switching to legal studies. After finding her job as a paralegal unsatisfying, she joined a small technology company and sold Linux products. On a whim, she applied to Amazon and was hired to join the sales team at Amazon Web Services.

Meenakshi Parthasarathy grew up in New Deli, India with dreams of becoming an astronaut. Later, she hoped to become a lawyer or an

Girls in Technology forum
Girls in Technology forum

economist. She earned a business degree in finance. She has been NeuStar’s director of customer relations for the past 5 years.

“Don’t stress,” Spiers said. “You don’t have to know it all. You can always change careers.”

“Pick something that you really like to do—that you’re passionate about,” Parthasarathy told the audience. “The rest will fall into place.”

The evening’s talk wasn’t the end of the program for many of the students. Drawings were held to select girls to visit area technology companies that volunteers to provide the students with a closer look at what they do—and what they might do someday.