On November 17, 2021, IGNITE Worldwide hosted a virtual field trip for girls and nonbinary students attending Military Magnet Academy in North Charleston, South Carolina with six women in STEM careers at Afiniti. The girls and nonbinary students present learned all about the importance of STEM careers, while also discovering that these careers are accessible to anyone with the right mindset.
The students learned about the critical underrepresentation of female voices in technical careers, as well as the numerous ways STEM skills can be applied to any career. Furthermore, the benefits of STEM careers, such as rewarding and meaningful problem solving, were also illustrated. Finally, Facilitator Eleni Theodosiou-Pisanelli, a Senior Director, described Afiniti’s work creating Artificial Intelligence to help facilitate interpersonal relationships.
After this enlightening introduction, Ezgi Arslan, who serves as Director, Global Real Estate, gave the students a virtual tour of amenities at Afiniti’s global office. These include numerous lounge spaces for eating and collaborative work, as well as a green roof in Washington D.C. and an innovative open floor plan in the Seoul office.
Once the tour concluded, panelists shared their experiences.
Ezgi shared her personal path to a STEM career, which began from a seemingly unlikely visual arts education. She studied interior design in college, and currently helps design Afiniti’s offices.
Kashaf Jamshed Chishti described her work as a Data Scientist at Afiniti, analyzing trends and making challenging decisions. She was initially fascinated by mathematics and dreamed of having a momentous theorem to her name. This determination drove her through social pressure throughout her education and work, where many felt math was unsuitable for her. Her recommendation is to take computer courses before college.
Lindsay Hua, Vice President, Global Deployment, manages designers, software developers, and data scientists at Afiniti. She attended an all-girls school and, after showing aptitude as a typist, wondered how else she could harness the computer’s potential. Her advice would be to take a computer science course or engineering class- it would open up numerous opportunities.
Theresa Gebert, Director of Advanced Analytics, recounted her family experience as a child with three siblings in Germany. Her parents moved to America in order to support her brother with Down syndrome, and she was largely on her own to study and learn. As a brilliant student, she attended Harvard and became fascinated with probability and statistics. Furthermore, she also wrote a book on this topic and eagerly taught younger students. She is a Team Strategy Lead who helps other people analyze data.
After the introductions, the students had a chance to ask their own questions and hear advice from panelists, including:
- What STEM class opens the most career opportunities? Mathematics is the foundation of all sciences, so it can provide a unique window on the world. If you’re less mathematically inclined, Theresa recommends biology, chemistry, and even robotics!
- Why would you suggest STEM for girls/nonbinary students? Ezgi worked at a male-dominated construction site and believes that anyone who is interested in the final product should be involved. One shouldn’t be discouraged from any career because they feel it’s for a specific gender. Theresa added that STEM careers pay particularly well.
- What activities outside school could help you learn STEM? Crash Course on YouTube offers an understanding of not only theories and concepts, but how they’re applied in everyday life.
Following the Q&A session, the students then had the opportunity to engage in a group activity regarding Artificial Intelligence.
Students learned that games can demonstrate artificial intelligence in action. Teachable Machine shows how a computer can recognize an image, such as a human or a cat, and test the machine’s knowledge. There was also a rock-paper-scissors robot that adapts to an opponent’s patterns and predicts future moves. Finally, the students got the opportunity to draw images and see if a machine could recognize them.
Following these AI demonstrations, the panelists each gave a piece of quick advice.
Ezgi wished she knew she wanted to be an interior architect, because her parents and teachers provided relatively little guidance.
Kashaf would improve her self esteem and noted that people don’t typically feel negatively about you, despite one’s own potential feelings to the contrary.
Lindsay recommended that one should pursue what they love and not be deterred by social pressure.
Thank you so much to Panelists Theresa Gebert, Kashaf Jamshed Chishti, Ezgi Arslan, and Lindsay Hua for sharing their stories, Facilitator Eleni Theodousio-Pisanelli and Tech Host Julie Kim for making everything run smoothly, IGNITE Lead Volunteer Stephanie Vaughn, and Blogger Sebastian Rodionov for helping support this event!
After attending this event:
Here’s what the students thought of the event:
“Today’s event inspired me because it gave me a chance to see that there are actually women in the world who participate in STEM.” – 12th grade
“Your stories were very inspiring. Especially how you all had setbacks but you all still pursued your passions to become STEM workers.” – 11th grade
“Today’s event inspired me to pursue my dreams in whatever it is that I choose to become and not to let anyone or anything set me back.” – 11th grade
“It inspired me by showing me more about STEM.” – 12th grade
“This field trip helped me get more comfortable in the STEM field.” – 12th grade
“It just changed my mindset a lot.” – 12th grade