San Francisco Burton High School Women in Tech Panel Discussion: 2-2-2016



We had an inspiring IGNITE panel discussion with 7 women in technology volunteers from Genentech, Histogenics, UC Berkeley, Fandor, Norse, and Biomarin with over 119 San Francisco Philip and Sala Burton High School girls. Each volunteer shared their career story and mentioned how they got to where they are today, what obstacles they had to overcome to get to where they are today, and spoke about their jobs and what they do everyday.

The girls were able to ask questions and get a better understanding of various technology and engineering jobs are available to them, and how women chose their college majors and career paths. The girls loved the discussions and mentioned how inspired they were after the conversations.


Thank you to Lesley Luginbill from Genentech for organizing multiple volunteers that are part of the SWE (Society of Women Engineers), including Alice Rystov (Automation Engineer, Biomarin), Amy Zhang Fong (Civil Engineering Student, UC Berkeley), and Ellis Kennedy (Materials Science Student, UC Berkeley). Thank you to SWE for partially funding the food for the event.

Thank you to each of our IGNITE Volunteers, including Anita Crompton (Histogenics), Dara Than (Fandor), and Marcela Denniston (Norse Corporation).  Each of these volunteers shared their stories with the girls, and it’s what makes this experience so relevant and valuable. The girls relate to the volunteers and see how similar they are to them: they went through a lot of things, did not have it easy, and had to work hard, but triumphed because they never gave up. It’s an amazing message and one that changes these girls lives forever. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories and answered questions with care and such thoughtfulness.

Thank you to Amber Zertuche, the IGNITE teacher who recruited all the girls who came to the IGNITE panel discussion and to all her student volunteers who helped setup the sound system, put up the posters, organize the tables, and take pictures during the event. We are so glad to be working with SF Burton High School and Amber – your enthusiasm and passion for this program is amazing!

Amber is an awesome IGNITE teacher and is coordinating all the girls for the upcoming field trips to the local radio tower, to Atlassian and Genentech. Thank you for all you do to inspire girls to learn about STEM careers. IGNITE teachers inspire us all.

Here are the comments from the Student Evaluation surveys. The girls always say it best.

The background information of the speakers inspired me because it sounds like they have been through a lot which is encouraging. Grade 10

I enjoyed listening to each of the ladies’ stories. I felt very inspired and hope to pave my way like they have in the STEM field. Grade 12

I enjoyed hearing about the different pathways all the women on the panel took in order to get to the success they have today. It is a great reminder that it is possible for women, being a highly under-represented group in the STEM field to succeed and obtain an amazing and unique career that one would enjoy. Grade 12

The highlights were the stories and the different jobs. For example, the person who talked about business administration, and the career that works with different broadcasting platforms and the civil building. It sounded interesting and made me think that there are other careers that maybe there is something I’d be interested in STEM. Grade 10

Highlights that I enjoyed were their life experiences and answers to our questions. Also their advice and encouragements were helpful. Grade 10

I enjoyed the story Dara & Marcela told about how they got to where they are now… Different obstacles, challenges, etc. Grade 10

I enjoyed hearing about not going directly to college after high school. I liked the different platforms event though I’m not into it. I hope to study biology/medical science. Grade 10

I enjoyed Marcela’s story, she really inspired me with her degrees and choices. Grade 9

They spoke about their past, and how they changed their interests before deciding what they wanted to major in. This helped me realize that I don’t need to know exactly what to do right now. Grade 10

I enjoyed hearing people’s stories about how they got to where they are, like school, experience, and especially how their interests changed over time. There were times where they talked about things that I have imagined in the future, like jobs and choices that guide them. Grade 10

Having so many engineers here, explaining how they started, what college they attended, and the majors they picked. I got to know some information about a mechanical engineer, which is what I wanted information on. It was interesting to learn about the different fields of engineering. Grade 10

I enjoyed listening to everyone’s stories of how they are where they are now. This inspired me because it let me know that not all of them knew right away what they wanted to do and just took things one step at a time. Grade 10

They show you how to find yourself, like you can try everything but at the same time try to find the things you’re really good at out of all the activities you’ve tried. Grade 10

I really enjoyed hearing directly from different perspectives of actual people. The whole presentation was really interesting when they talked about their backstories and their struggles. Grade 10

My favorite part about this meeting would be listening to all the women’s ideas and careers that they have done. I liked how they were very interested about their career and life. Grade 10

I liked Marcela’s story, I can relate because I want to join the navy too. Listening to her story made me consider joining the Navy. Grade 11

I enjoyed hearing stories from each panelist. This helped me see how each tech or engineering fields are like and how with different backgrounds, you’ll still be able to gain a goal in tech or engineering as long as you work for it. Grade 11

I really loved to listen to every single story. It really captured my attention. But I want to know more about how the career makes them feel and how they explore that. Grade 11

The highlights I enjoyed are that they gave us advice on how to succeed. I learnt that hte important key to success is having excellent communication skills. Grade 11

I liked that they looked comfortable sharing their stories. This event inspired me to not give up and to ask for help. Grade 9

2016-02-02 16.14.28I’ve always thought you had to be clear on what you wanted to be in the future. These volunteers didn’t have a clear idea of what they wanted to do, yet here they are. I think their journey inspired me to want to become an engineer in the future. Grade 9

This event inspired me to give computers a chance to learn adn to learn more about coding/tech because soon enough it’s all about technology. Grade 9

I enjoyed how there was such a big list of diverse stories from each woman and how they all had different experience onto how they got into engineering. Their stories really opens up a new window or interest to take into consideration as a future career. Grade 9

2016-02-02 16.21.57I liked listening about how similar they are to me, in some ways. Because I’m not doing as well as I should and want to be, but I want a job in Math, Science, or Engineering. And I’m still a little confused on how to start, but it helped me. Grade 11

I enjoyed hearing from various professionals and hearing how you can work in the STEM field and help people. You can get the impression that work in this STEM field gets alot of money but don’t do much else. Grade 9

2016-02-02 15.32.06I enjoyed how each person shared how they got started in the technology field. For example, how Marcela joined the navy and got involved in the cyber security. Small steps could lead to more knowledge. Grade 9

It inspired me because of how they talked about how they achieved their goals and their advice helped me. Grade 9

From today’s event, I enjoyed listening to everyone’s personal experience and how they got to where they are. This event inspired me by giving me ideas and it made me interested in being involved in similar majors. Grade 11IMG_8038

The panelist saying their stories and how they go here was really interesting. The event inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things. Grade 11

Highlights I’ve enjoyed from this event was when the panelists answered our personal questions. This has inspired me to be more communicative, more outgoing, and more willing to learn new things. Grade 12

Shows how you change alot in your life and you’re capable in so many things. The Q&A portion was good. Grade 10

I enjoyed the stories of each of the guests and the fact that each of them has started their careers far away from engineering field or not in the field that they ended up with eventually. Grade 12

2016-02-02 16.35.31I enjoyed that a lot of this was relatable, I don’t know what to study/career to have but seeing that these women could do it. I am willing to do it and discover too. Grade 12

What I enjoyed about today’s event were their stories on how they got to the point they are at right now. It inspired me by knowing that not having to be interested just to try it now. Grade 9

It had inspired me to do and learn what I like no matter what people say if it’s hard or easy. I wanted to be an architect, and after this it had motivated to pursue it more. Grade 11

It made me realize that there are so many opportunities given in the technology field and how we can benefit from that to improve ourselves. Grade 112016-02-02 15.43.40

How to act in an interview, take risks in what you are interested in. This event inspire me more into being in a STEM career. Grade 11

I am inspired from all the women on the panel today, because I never though there is more different careers I can go into or learn more about. I enjoyed this event very much. Grade 11


It was an inspiring day for everyone! Thanks for all the stories!

-Audra, IGNITE Director of Development and Operations