Virtual Women in STEM Panel with Sequoia Grove Charter Alliance

On January 19, 202, 27 IGNITE Students from Sequoia Grove Charter Alliance had the pleasure of learning about possibilities for their futures during an IGNITE Virtual Women in STEM Panel. The Panelists, including Brooke Ulrich, Field Service Manager at Rivian Automotive, Parul Manek, Partner GM at Microsoft, Siyuan Zhou, Senior Software Engineer at Google, and Fethiye Starmach, Implementation Engineer at Oracle, shared their insights, while Lucia Viña Patiño served as Tech Host, Val Olague facilitated the engaging discussion, and Ujwala Khaire attended as the alternate Facilitator.

The event proved to be an illuminating experience for the students. From the get-go, the Panelists offered invaluable advice and shed light on the diverse opportunities within STEM fields. Throughout the session, students were particularly intrigued by Brooke’s role at Rivian Automotive, asking her questions about internships and career pathways. The Panelists gave advice on topics ranging from college majors to real-world uses of AI in STEM careers. They emphasized the message that one’s career journey in STEM can be dynamic and multifaceted, empowering students to explore various paths and even embrace uncertainty. Moreover, the Panelists’ reassurance that it’s okay not to have all the answers right now resonated with students, taking some pressure out of their prospective endeavors in STEM.

A sincere thank you to Panelists Brooke Ulrich, Parul Manek, Siyuan Zhou, and Fethiye Starmach for sharing their stories, advice, and careers with IGNITE Students. Additional thanks to Val Olague and Ujwala Khaire for facilitating the event and providing backup support and Lucia Viña Patiño for serving as Tech Host. A special thank you to Educator Reece Perez for encouraging Sequoia Grove students to explore STEM. Thank you all for contributing to the empowerment of future leaders in STEM!

After attending this event:


of students are interested in STEM

Take STEM Class


of students know more about STEM career choices and the benefits of working in a STEM field

Ask Teacher about Additional STEM Activities


of students feel more confident in pursuing STEM


of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the students thought of the event:

Today’s event inspired me to look at how design is connected to STEM and to think about how many different jobs there are that are related to STEM topics. One of the things that was said today that resonated with me was choosing the people you surround yourself with, and never being the smartest person in the room because you learn from the people around you. I think the most interesting thing I learned today was that AI cannot replace humans in jobs because AI is not capable of creativity. I had not thought about that before, and I find it fascinating.” – 9th Grade IGNITE Student

“This event inspired me to further research a career in STEM. I am currently taking a CTE IT course, which I feel is putting me on the right track. My favorite thing that I learned today is how almost any school subject can track to a STEM job and how versatile the field of STEM is. I also appreciated the presenters’ various viewpoints and academic and work experiences.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

This event made me feel that I have a purpose in life! I can’t pick a favorite moment; I thank everybody who helped me learn today!’ – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

Today inspired me in a way that gave me an idea of what I could do with STEM. I learned that there were more women in STEM than I expected. The volunteers were great at explaining things to those who were the most interested.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

This event helped me learn how I can work on trucks in the future.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today reassured me that interior design is a good career to pursue. I learned a lot more about STEM and how it’s part of every career. Thanks to all the panelists today; they really helped me.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

After this event, I realized I am willing to push through the hardships to achieve my dream of becoming a veterinarian. I was really interested in learning about Rivian. I also liked the idea of Google AI fashion.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

This event inspired me to work a little harder in classes that I struggle with. I believe that top grades, especially in STEM classes, will take me farther than I would otherwise. I liked the panelist’s statement about not needing to know everything. I have struggled with that before and know what she’s getting at. Thanks for answering my questions about cars and age requirements!” – 9th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me to just focus on one day at a time. It inspired me not to feel as stressed about the future and to just worry about making an impact today. My favorite thing that I learned today is that it is okay not to know everything. It is okay not to know exactly what impact your choice from today will have, for example, ten years from now. I found that really helpful to hear from someone a lot older than me who is successful.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

This event taught me about all of the different possible STEM jobs. The electric motors in Rivians have constant torque.” – 9th Grade IGNITE Student

“The panelists were so relatable and easy to listen to. I was so inspired by the story a panelist told about how they got to their position. It’s so good to hear that people like me, with high-functioning anxiety, can still find success in life. One of the biggest things that stuck is that it’s okay to not know what I want to do in life because, likely, my interests will change throughout life anyways.” – 9th Grade IGNITE Student

Today made me see there are a lot of opportunities in the STEM field.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“Before this event, I was already interested in STEM. My favorite part of today was getting to hear others’ journeys, how each person was inspired by their surroundings, and what motivated them to pursue their dreams.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

About IGNITE Program Panel Events:

Virtual or In-Person IGNITE Panels empower women in STEM careers to connect directly with students by sharing their academic and professional journeys. IGNITE Students are inspired by hearing stories they can relate to, and Q&A discussions help break down stereotypes that hold them back from engaging in STEM classes and careers.

About IGNITE Worldwide:

IGNITE Worldwide is a 501(c)3 nonprofit STEM education organization that aims to change gender and racial equity in STEM permanently and systematically. We work directly with teachers during the school day to provide programming that promotes gender equity and representation in STEM academics and careers. Through our award-winning program, IGNITE provides engaging, hands-on events that connect students with STEM professionals from industry leaders from around the world. Learn more at

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