With the theme of women entrepreneurs disrupting the marketplace, Florida Polytechnic University hosted its third annual Women in STEM Summit, Wednesday, March 8 at Florida Poly’s Innovation, Science & Technology building. A record number of prospective students – including elementary, middle and high school – attended the summit, along with area teachers, current Florida Poly students and representatives from local businesses.
Those on hand first heard from a panel of highly successful individuals who provided insight on what they went through to apply STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to their careers. The panel included Michelle Eatherton, head of Global Partner Funding at Amazon Web Services, Inc.; Linda Figg, president/CEO and director of Bridge Art for the Figg Bridge Group; and Dan Rini, founder and president of Rini Technologies.
Not being afraid to fail was a common topic throughout the discussion. “There are many times when doors get shut in front of us, but if we just keep being persistent, we can find a door that will open,” said Figg, “It’s just about never giving up. To not put ourselves at risk to fail is to not try to advance technology. We have to create that kind of spirit.”
Rini shared his thoughts on the importance of surrounding himself with the right people to maximize his company’s growth and stressed the importance of bringing more women into the STEM industries. “I think women in STEM fields make science and engineering better because of women’s perspective and work ethic in those fields,” he said. Eatherton noted how dynamic the high-tech industry is and offered suggestions on emerging technology that will be available to those embarking on their STEM careers.
“We are just at the tip of what’s coming with something called artificial intelligence and machine learning,” said Eatherton. “So anything you can do with robots and drones — that is going to be a totally different world for you than it is for your parents. You’ve seen nothing yet. It’s just getting started.”
Rachel Carpenter, the CEO, and co-founder of Intrinio, later delivered a motivating keynote. She focused on both the importance of being a risk taker as well as how critical it is to embrace incremental learning. She said “failure is the most essential precursor to evolution” and also used an example of how she obtained her initial programming skills by breaking up the learning into a series of steps instead of trying to absorb it all at once.
“If you understand how transformative thinking about things incrementally is, and how simple that is, you can apply that methodology to anything from a math problem to programming to rocket science,” said Carpenter. “There are no boundaries for you. STEM is for anyone who can learn incrementally.”
Figg made special note of the uniqueness of the summit, which continues to grow each year.“What Florida Poly is doing here is really pioneering for creating that networking and for being able to build that resource in a very special way,” she said. “I haven’t seen that done in other places. It’s really a great tribute to what you’re doing here at the university.”
Loretta Sanders, who serves on the Florida Poly Foundation Board of Directors, said the summit shows the university’s continued commitment to women in STEM. “This is an opportunity for all of us to join our community leaders and industry partners in making Florida Poly an environment that attracts, supports and retains women in STEM.”
Cady Johnson, the senior vice president and external advisor consultant for PIMCO Investments, served as moderator of the summit, which concluded with networking break-out sessions.
Assistant Director of Communications