Panel with Planet Labs

In partnership with an amazing team of professionals at Planet Labs, on January 27, 2021, IGNITE Worldwide featured a panel of interns with Planet Labs. Many young women and non-binary students joined us online to learn about STEM careers at Planet Labs and connect with women in the field!

Students learned that Planet Labs designs, builds, and launches tiny satellites that they call “Doves”. More than a hundred Doves orbit the Earth right now: they make up the world’s largest constellation of Earth-imaging satellites, capturing fresh imagery of the Earth’s surface every day. These satellites can be used in a multitude of ways. For example, farmers can monitor crop health, and environmentalists can study the impact of forest fires.

Planeteers are a mission-driven group of humanitarians, space geeks, environmentalists, inventors, curious intellectuals, passionate stewards of the earth, and most of all people who never stop exploring the endless possibilities of space. One thing Planeteers have in common: we each have a unique story that leads us to work in a space technology company like Planet.

Students heard from Planet’s current cohort of interns and learned more about their backgrounds before coming to Planet. Students had the opportunity to learn first-hand how the tech industry is becoming more accessible to people from non-traditional backgrounds.

Stephanie Vaughn, Developer Relations Intern, kicked off the event by explaining about the background of women in non-traditional careers and why events like this are important. She informed the girls that STEM careers are fast growing & high paying, yet there are many fewer women than men working in STEM. There’s a large number of STEM jobs within Planet Labs, all of which help bring together the amazing experience of learning more about our world!

Stephanie then introduced the panel speakers, who each took a few minutes to share about their background and career path.

Ebonne Cabarus is a Houston native currently living in Oakland, California, where she balances her time between being a Project Manager at a local nonprofit and a Developer Relations Intern at Planet. She discovered her love for Computer Science in 2018 after working in the hospitality industry for many years. She then moved to San Francisco and attended Make School. After completing her education in 2020, she pursued remote work opportunities in the technology industry. When she isn’t creating tutorials in Jupyter Notebooks for Planet, she loves to spend time listening to podcasts and tending to her plants.

Carla Joseph transitioned to Web Developer from a 6-year career as a chef! She did this by attending a coding bootcamp. She then accepted an internship at Planet as a Developer Relations Intern.

Monica Tadeo is a Developer Relations Intern at Planet. She noted that growing up, if you’re not a doctor, lawyer, nurse, or anything similar, you would be considered as not successful. She later learned that none of those careers gave her any interest, so she ventured into things that do interest her. She comes from a non-traditional background where she didn’t complete a 4-year degree, but she’s figured out different avenues to create her own definition of success.

Perla Toscano is a Quality Engineer Intern at Planet. Before coming to Planet, she completed a one-year IT program and worked at General Electric as a data analyst intern. Coming from a non-traditional background has taught her that everyone is capable of doing whatever they want. With some willpower and determination, anything is possible, no matter the route

The event then transitioned into a Q&A discussion, during which the girls were invited to ask any questions out loud or via chat.

The girls had many insightful questions for the speakers.

  • Can you talk a little bit more about what Planet Labs does?
  • Can you give details about one or two of the new innovations Planet Lab is working on?
  • What classes do you recommend to take in high school?
  • What kinds of tech skills helped you the most?
  • What is a typical day like?
  • What is your biggest challenge at work?
  • What was something you wish you had known when you were younger that will be helpful for us?
  • How/where do you see yourself in five years?

The speakers’ responses to these questions often related back to their own career paths and how they discovered a passion for this industry. They also shared many great pieces of advice and important life lessons!

Panelists believe future Steminists should look for a career that they can be most impactful in, or something they are good at or really enjoy. At the students’ age, they can do anything they want to do. Just try it out. Never feel limited by your gender, age, money, etc. Don’t be afraid to explore different interests. Remember that you are your own champion and your biggest advocate. Make sure you pick classes that teach you things you really want to learn about. Tech will make you a better problem solver. Look more into your computer and what it can do.

Panelists also encouraged students to not be intimidated by the stereotypes and to believe that you can achieve anything. Explore!

Panelists all wish they knew STEM could be a lot of fun and that they don’t have to be a certain kind of person to get involved. They wish they would have known that they could have started coding well before they decided to enter a STEM career.

One teacher noted that this was the best panel yet in terms of personal stories and advice from the panelists.

Thank you to our Facilitator, Stephanie Vaughn, and our Tech Host, Sara Safavi, for organizing this amazing event. Thank you to our panelists, Ebonne Cabarus, Carla Joseph, Monica Tadeo, and Perla Toscano for inspiring students with your stories and wisdom.

After attending this event:

92%

of students are more interested in STEM

85%

of students want to study harder to attend college and further their education

Continue Attending IGNITE Events

81%

of students want to continue attending IGNITE Worldwide events

Take STEM Class

89%

of students want to take a STEM-related class next semester

Read what the students thought of the event:

Today’s event was really cool because of the diversity in women. Not only have women but women of color in STEM is such a cool thing to see and it’s very inspiring to me as I am a WOC. I feel inspired and empowered. -8th grade

I would like to share a thank you because if it wasn’t for IGNITE and the volunteers in IGNITE I would’ve never known about women in STEM and would have no encouragement to go into STEM. -7th grade

Today’s event inspired me to think outside of the box. To find something I want to do and then to pursue it. To be a part of the change for our futures. -7th grade

I liked the answers the panelists gave. They helped give me an insight into what it would be like to have a STEM career. They also made me want to learn more about STEM careers. -7th grade

It was cool to see how not all the women in STEM started off on the traditional path to their jobs. I liked learning that even if it’s not you’re initial career interest, it’s never too late to get started with a STEM career. -8th grade

This event let me know that it’s possible to be a woman in STEM. The panelists also gave advice to encourage us to get into STEM and it was helpful. -7th grade

I feel more and more motivated to join STEM every time I hear these wonderful pieces of advice! – 8th grade