Dr. Barbara Holtz
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was very good at math and interested in technology from a very young age. I also grew up in East Germany where there was much less choice for studies in Social Sciences, Languages and Humanities—especially when you were not “aligned” with the system. Also: in East Germany women were much more assertive and studying a “male” subject was less of an exception.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
After studying physics and teaching at a University for a year I joined a company which makes scientific software. Instead of working in Development I started to work in Sales, selling technology and highly complex software to scientists is a very rewarding career for myself.
The most exciting project was a few years ago when a major chemical company decided to start a new research group and I worked very closely with the Manager of that group, not only eventually selling our technology but also placing a scientist as a contract research scientist with that group. Apart from that my sales role has given me the opportunity to travel to many different countries, meeting many different cool people along the way.
Marie Curie as a scientist, Ginni Rometty as a Business Leader and Angela Merkel as a physicist turned Chancellor.
Why do you love working in STEM?
Technology is all around us, most people take it for granted: new materials, new ways of communications, so many things. So being in close contact to how those technologies come about is very exciting every time. As a Sales person I manage to get to go to many different companies and see what is happening in their R&D departments, I have learned about flavours and fragrances, about polymers for everyday materials, about catalysts and consumer packaged goods such as shampoos.
Understanding the challenges that are coming with the development of new materials with new properties and their production satisfies my neverending curiosity. To give an example: shampoo makers are challenged to develop new shamposs which slide out of the bottle easily, but then not off your hand—we have all been in the shower and the shampoo does not behave as we would like it to—the requirements for those material properties are usually conflicting and never cease to amaze me. It makes me look at the world in a different way every day.
Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t just think of STEM as lab work, there are a million other jobs out there, which require the analytical skills which come with a STEM education. Marketing, Business, Support and Training jobs are just as important to scientists and require STEMinists. Those jobs can be fitted around normal family life as well. Later in a career there are possibilities to turn years of experience into a freelance consulting job or on the way there is a chance to start your own business, who knows….