At 19, Kirsten Benjamin found herself with her hands full and dealing with exciting responsibilities she never saw coming. She was just a freshman at Florida Polytechnic University, yet she was already hiring employees for a high-tech project.
Benjamin successfully completed an internship with the Boston tech company VisitDays, where she learned new program languages, reviewed code, and immersed herself in the business side of engineering.
When it was time to come back to Florida, the company made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: to become a project manager.
She accepted the opportunity as long as she could continue classes at Florida Poly. And to fulfill the temporary task, she needed a team. So she hired the most hard-working, talented people she knew: about a dozen of her fellow students.
“Not many 19-year-olds can say they’re a project manager for an out-of-state tech company,” said Benjamin, now 21. “The experience made me feel more confident, capable of achieving anything.”
Growing up in Panama City, Florida, Kirsten enjoyed taking things apart. She would then take her time to figure out the best way of putting them back together. Little did she know she already had the mind of an engineer.
Math never scared her, Benjamin said, and she thrived while building and programming robots during STEM camps at middle school.
“It was so much fun! I thought if that was engineering, I wanted to keep having fun for the rest of my life,” said Benjamin.
She was also surrounded by engineers through her father’s work, who were always encouraging of her goals. Neither of them though were women.
“I don’t recall ever meeting a woman engineer, but that didn’t stop me,” she added.
Now, a junior, Benjamin is looking forward to her last year at Florida Poly. She said she already has several job offers waiting for her when she finishes her degree in mechanical engineering.
Aware of the male domination in STEM fields, Benjamin is up for the challenge.
“If it’s something you really want to do, don’t be intimidated. Do it.”