On Thursday, Oct. 8, lululemon hosted an IGNITE Worldwide virtual panel with 45 girls/non-binary students from Bethel, Federal Way, and Kent school districts. Carrie Larsen, Director of Business Operations for the Technology organization at lululemon, facilitated the event and kicked things off with a discussion of STEM and why these are great career choices for women. Lululemon is an athletic apparel company, and students learned that there’s a lot of technology in making clothes! The company has over 400 tech employees and contracts with 500+ more!
After the introduction, the students met 4 panelists who all work in different positions at lululemon:
Julie Averill, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, has a “really cool job” leading lululemon’s technology efforts to maintain lululemon’s 500 stores and operations all around the world! She said she never planned to have a career in technology and didn’t realize she was capable of it, but she has taken advantage of opportunities and worked really hard. Julie also talked about the value of inclusion at lululemon and how important it is to have diverse perspectives.
Devanshi Mehta, Director Digital Technology, International, was born and raised in a small city in India. Growing up she was an introvert but loved solving problems, which got her interested in math and science. At 16, Devanshi traveled to the U.S. by herself to continue her studies – she had never even been on a plane before! She credits trusting herself and taking a leap of faith for launching her on her career journey. She now oversees a team that manages lululemon’s 8 digital sites, and more than 50% of her team are women leaders who come from all different parts of the world!
Wei Manfredi, Senior Director of Architecture & Integration, grew up in China and didn’t think about STEM at all; all she wanted to be was a writer. She earned a Master’s degree in poetry and came to the U.S. to pursue a PhD in literature, but a professor encouraged her to look into options that offered more career opportunities and financial prospects. After walking by a computer class with only one woman student, Wei decided she wanted to join her! Even though she didn’t do well in her first class, she didn’t give up and completed her computer science major, which led to her career at lululemon.
Sushma Mandava, Order Management System Technical Manager & Architect, is a technology manager in the digital group – any orders from the lululemon website go through her system! Sushma originally wanted to be a doctor but was influenced by the tech boom when she was in high school and took her first computer class. She thought technology was really interesting and continued to explore through summer camps before ultimately deciding to pursue a career as a technologist!
After the panelists shared, students asked great questions, including:
- Do you have to deal with men being condescending in your workplace?
- What kinds of technical skills should I start learning now?
- Coming from a different country, was it hard to get to where you are?
- What is your advice on how to further your career and get where you want to go without stressing too much about having the perfect plan?
The panelists’ advice included:
- Some negative behaviors are unconscious and may have good intentions behind them.
- Analytical thinking and problem-solving are also important skills in STEM and technology careers.
- It’s okay to not always know what you want to do or where you’re going! You just need to have the drive to move forward and try out new things.
- Find something you enjoy at least 80% of the time and that allows you to keep learning and progressing.
- You are strong, capable, and qualified! When applying for a job, be confident and know that you are qualified enough to be there. You can’t control the other variables, so focus on you and your strengths.
- Stay true to yourself and remain confident in your ability to navigate any environment. If something’s not right, then speak up and change it.
- Life doesn’t always present you with the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. Opportunities come when you least expect them, or when you’re not ready for them, so embrace and value each step and learn from it.
- Ask questions, be brave, and it’s okay to be interested in more than one thing!
The students enjoyed learning about the panelists’ different pathways and that they have a lot of choices along the way to their future careers. It was encouraging for girls to hear that they don’t need to make a decision right now for what their future holds! Students shared they were happy to see a strong, diverse group of women represented on the panel. They took away that being a girl/woman will serve you well in this world!
Thank you to the lululemon team, Becky Smith, Carrie Larsen, Janine Akins, and amazing panelists Julie Averill, Devanshi Mehta, Wei Manfredi, and Sushma Mandava for spending time with our students and inspiring them to explore new possibilities!
After attending this event:
Here’s what the students thought of the event:
“Today’s event made me believe in myself more, and that I can actually be successful in a STEM related career. Seeing the panelists who come from all different backgrounds succeed in their jobs at lululemon motivates me and convinced me to give STEM jobs another try :). I’d like to thank them for coming and sharing their stories. This hour zoom call changed the perspectives of a group of high school students for the better and is greatly appreciated. Thank you!” – 11th grade
“It definitely helped me view myself differently and boosted up my confidence a little more just knowing that gender does not define me as a person. I would love to say thank you for this experience. I love the amount of diversity in the panel, and STEM is going to be an option that I will look at in the near future.” – 9th grade
“I always felt like STEM for women wasn’t encouraged. Through middle school, and taking coding classes, you get made fun of. However, seeing these strong women pursue that career and be successful is truly eye-opening. I love your determination and uplifting spirit. Sharing your experiences and how your dedication to doing the things you love allowed you to grow as a person awoke something within me. I now know more of the career paths I can take.” – 10th grade
“Today’s event inspired me because they gave young girls hope about their future. I really liked hearing their backstories, especially that I relate about coming from a different country. Thank you for coming and explaining what you guys do. It has given me more perspective.” – 9th grade
“This event inspired me because I learned that you don’t have to know what you are doing in life to be successful. I have learned that it will be hard, but I see these women here today and think this is where I want to be. I am glad I attended I have learned so much. I want to say that you guys are powerful. I really look up to you now and am glad I got to hear from you today.” – 9th grade
“It inspired me as they push the idea of being a woman will be helpful in our emerging world today. Additionally, I was inspired through the stories and the challenges that the speakers had faced to get where they are currently. Thank you so much for repeatedly stating that being a woman should not hold you back. I am also grateful as I am more inspired by your stories to pursue biomedical engineering without any regrets and any fears.” – 12th grade
“Lately I’ve been worried about having my life planned out, so the panelists today definitely helped me understand that it’s okay not to have everything figured out yet. This also inspired me to keep my options open and explore as many as possible. Thank you so much for the inspiring advice! I’ll be as confident and brave as I can moving forward :)” – 11th grade
“It inspired by helping me realize that I could achieve anything and that women are really powerful.” – 9th grade
“It was really interesting, and I really am hopeful that in the future I am able to be in the engineering side of work, and not let what my gender is affect me. It was cool to learn about these women who are doing things I want to do.” – 9th grade
“Today’s event inspired me to not only let my passions drive me forward but to also take risks and don’t be afraid to pursue something that is unknown. To work hard and change the world through baby steps. You guys are awesome and this was so cool!!” – 9th grade
“Today’s event inspired me because I know now that there are more job opportunities that you can use STEM for instead of just computer science. STEM can pretty much come in handy for any career because STEM is all around us in everything we do. I want to thank you for taking the time to come to speak with us and giving advice. I also want to say that the number of jobs that you can do that STEM uses is amazing and that this does help with my career path.” – 9th grade
“I got to see how women from all over the world took their circumstances and made the most out of them. Computer science and technology has the power to change lives. I would like to thank them for sharing their stories. I would also like to thank them for their advice and insight.” – 12th grade
“Hearing other people’s stories inspired me to overcome the fears or challenges I have and just do it with full force and confidence. Thank you all for coming! It was amazing to meet you!” – 9th grade
“I want to start looking into it more instead of shying away from it because of my lack of confidence in my skills. I should at least try to explore the field even now in high school! They are very inspirational and it’s amazing how far they have come and how many obstacles they’ve faced.” – 11th grade
“I really enjoyed hearing female perspectives from job roles usually dominated by men. Seeing women in this position from all backgrounds and journeys really inspired me that I can do it too. Thank you for coming! I really enjoyed listening to your inspiring stories!” – 11th grade
“This event made me feel more inspired by listening to strong women sharing their stories and perspectives on how and why they became successful.” – 9th grade
“It showed more how technology is in more places than just tech companies. Thank you for empowering women!” – 9th grade
“It helped me gain more confidence. And helped me choose a job for later years. I appreciate everything that they do.” – 9th grade
“It helped inspire me to do my best and pursue what I want to. Thank you so much!” – 10th grade
“Thank you for making us younger girls or teen girls feel confident about ourselves.” – 12th grade
“Encouraged me to look even more into starting my own business. Encouraged me to open a business on multiple platforms. You all are incredible people. Thank you for your time.” – 10th grade
“I like how strong these women are, it’s very inspiring.” – 10th grade
“I saw how the company was run by mostly women. They also showed just because you’re a woman does not make you less. You guys were amazing.” – 10th grade
“It inspired me because I got to know how to get into a job. I also learned all about STEM and how much work they did to get where they are.” – 9th grade
“It inspired me because I now know that rarely any girls get involved in STEM and now want to try it out and see if I like it. I’d like to share that you guys are very inspiring and that I believe more girls would be interested and more confident in doing STEM because of your wise words.” – 10th grade
“To just go for what you want and don’t give up. They are very inspiring and have great stories of how they got to where they are now.” – 11th grade
“It inspired me because I love to do math and I want to run my own company of real estate and interior designing. I hope that me crossing this path could help a lot of people to find a home at a price that they can afford.” – 10th grade
“Today’s event showed me that there are ways to engage women in various STEM careers. Opportunities are opening for women and we should strive to act upon it to pursue our goals. I now know more about STEM careers because of today. I realize that there are a lot more opportunities for women than I had previously thought.” – 9th grade
“I was very inspired today because I loved listening to the panel talk about their journeys and how I can be with other women in the next generation of females in STEM. Thank you so much for being an inspiration. I feel I can more openly talk about wanting a STEM career now. “ – 9th grade
“It is helpful to remember that you will probably not find your purpose in your first or even first few jobs. I don’t have to have everything figured out, especially at such a young age. Thank you for taking time out of your day to help inspire so many girls through IGNITE. It is very inspiring to hear real-life stories and experiences of women in the STEM field.” – 11th grade
“It’s going to be rough getting turned down on jobs for being a woman, but an amazing opportunity will one day come your way. It has also inspired me to try something new like a computer science class, although it might be tough, it’s a good experience. To the volunteers, thank you for showing me that it is okay to not know what I want to do in the future. Everyone’s story was truly inspiring.” -10th grade
“Today helped me see that the inequality of men and women in the workplace is slowly being balanced out. They are very inspiring because normally we hear about girls in STEM but to see them and hear what they do gives more perspective.” – 10th grade
“I learned to not quit just because you’re a girl. Also girls can have any jobs men can.” – 9th grade
“It helped me see what I can do in a world that men mainly work in. There are many more jobs. I am happy we had this so we can learn about what is going on in the world of tech.” – 11th grade
“I’m inspired by the fact that these women came from backgrounds all over the world, and do what they do now. They just realized what they wanted to do, and pursed that.” – 12th grade
“It inspired me that I can be a girl and I can still do what boys do!” – 9th grade
“It inspired me to follow whatever my dreams are, even if I don’t know where I’ll go just yet. Thank you very much for taking the time to share your experiences and telling us how you got to where you are now, it was very helpful for me and thank you.” – 9th grade
“This showed me that everyone is capable. Even women from all around the world, each individual has their own journey.” – 10th grade
“That you can pursue anything you put your mind to. Confidence is key. You are very inspiring!” – 12th grade
“I think it helped me stay a little more motivated about different opportunities in my job careers. Since I already have a job, it helps me know that I can keep going even if I don’t know where I’m going. I liked your stories! They were very inspiring.” – 12th grade
“It told me that I should never give up on my goals. They gave me more input on what I want to do in life.” – 11th grade