Senior Validation Engineer
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I had a vague sense of being interested in science and engineering as far back as grade school. What cemented it for me was, during high school, seeing a show on PBS about biomedical engineers who analyzed Olympic athletes to improve their training. These engineers worked on athletes’ form and also on equipment athletes used to train. I played sports, so this practical application was illuminating for me.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Outside of my day job, I love playing with my websites. I’ve been a blogger for almost 10 years; in addition to my personal blog, swirlspice, and my namesake ericamauter.com, I’ve had a few niche interest projects come and go. I’m not a developer or a designer by any stretch, but playing with features and code-y bits has long been a fun pastime for me. Bonus: through my web presence, I’ve met a lot of really great friends and people who do amazing things in technology and the business of technology.
lynne d johnson has long been someone I look up to. She’s truly a pioneer in every facet of the modern web. She’s been producing content, managing online communities, and doing digital marketing since way before most people knew what those things were. The first time I met her was at the 2006 BlogHer conference; I saw her in a hallway and totally went all fangirl and blurted out, “Oh my god, you’re lynne d johnson!” I’m now pleased to call her a good friend as well.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love having these skills that not everyone has. STEM work is not easy, but it’s a good match for what I happen to be good at doing, and that makes it rewarding. Also, being in validation, I do a lot of technical writing. There’s an art to writing a document that’s technically accurate and comprehensive, that speaks to and satisfies regulatory requirements, and that is still comprehensible by a non-expert. In that sense, it’s quite creative work.
Advice for future STEMinists?
There is a wider variety of jobs for STEM majors than you can even imagine, so do your research. For example, I did my first internship at a food company, in R&D. My project was to figure out how to make a cereal stay crispier longer in milk (aka, “extend its bowl life”). Also, if you’re graduating with a degree in a STEM field, you are a smart, capable person and you absolutely deserve to be well-compensated for your work. Negotiate your salary offers. Always ask for more. Read the book “Women Don’t Ask” for help with that.
Favorite website or app:
Just one?! Unpossible! Okay, I’ll name Instapaper as my favorite app. It lets you save web pages for reading at a later time and in a more readable form. My favorite website is Racialicious, “a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture.” It’s eye-opening, and the perspectives generally apply to people existing in any non-dominant aspect of culture, including women.