Personal Presentation for Success: Roxana Radulescu

Next week we will be holding our Personal Presentation for Success: A Public Speak Workshop, so we thought it was a great time to introduce you to our facilitators. First up is Roxana Radulescu, the Founder of All Personal, a bespoke training and coaching agency, as well as host of the All Personal Podcast. We sat down with Roxana to find out a little more about our workshop warrior.

How did you discover your interest in public speaking/personal skills development?

I was an IT trainer for an international law firm (about 15 years ago). And one day I had to do a mini-training session for all the lawyers in our office – in 5 minutes. On Excel! I remember I worked for those 5 minutes about 5 hours to make it easy to understand, engaging and fun! And it was. Imagine a room of about 30 lawyers, eyes on you. Imagine you speak about Excel. Imagine they laugh and shake their heads in understanding. And now imagine they ask for a next one. That’s when I knew I loved presenting. And then I went for learning & development, creating and designing ‘soft’ skills courses and having such a great time doing that! To me, it’s easy: presenting and public speaking are the same as providing services. If there’s value in what you give, people will love it. And you will love it more.

Thus far in your career, what would you say are some of your lessons learned?

Biggest lesson: asking questions is the ultimate proof of really listening to someone! And it’s one exercise I am practicing each day, because good questions at the right time are sometimes all we need, especially when we want to work well with others.

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Why do you think communication skills are important, especially when it comes to the workplace?

Communication skills are at the core of what makes us human. The better we’re able to communicate our wants and needs, and the more we’re able to depict them from others around us, the better our relationships are. The better our relationships, the better the quality of our lives, because, ultimately, we are ‘social animals’ – both at work and at home. We all crave to be heard, understood and accepted. Or, better yet, loved.

Given your experience training executives and professionals, when it comes to communication, what is one mistake you often see women making?

Not communicating – their expectations, their ideas, their wishes, their refusals, their frustrations, their needs. Not communicating and trying to fix the problem themselves, before anyone else knows there even is a problem.

What advice would you give to women either starting out in their career or making a transition?

I don’t like to give advice, I love asking questions. ‘If you had a Superpower, what would it be? What would you do, how would you walk, how would you talk? Who would you be? How much of that power is already in you now? Who are You and what do you really want for Yourself?’

Roxana Radulescu is the Founder of All Personal, a bespoke training and coaching agency. She helps individuals (re)discover and work-out their personal skills ‘muscles’, so they increase their self-awareness and improve their confidence, impact, relationships, and ultimately, quality of life. She trains and coaches executives, business owners and professionals on practical techniques that they can easily apply in any area of their life, with a strong focus on communication (verbal and non-verbal), change, feedback, presenting & speaking, team & self-management, teamwork, leadership, coaching & mentoring.

Women in STEM Recap

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While an increasingly larger number of women are choosing to pursue degrees in the traditionally male-dominated STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) the percentage of women actually working in these fields has not changed much in the last three decades. There has been much research into the reasons behind these stagnant numbers, yet many of the forces keeping women from progressing remain invisible from the outside. With the recent rise of movements like #metoo and #timesup, issues of blatant harassment and discrimination have been brought to the media spotlight.  But there are also deeper, more implicit issues embedded within organizations such as gender stereotyping, implicit bias and even women holding themselves back.

As I walked out of the elevators into the beautiful space provided by Telus Digital for the STEM Panel hosted by Young Women in Business, I couldn’t help but wonder: What am I going to learn today that I don’t already know?

After my pre-event duties as part of the organizing committee, I settled into my seat amongst the crowd which, I happily noted, was very diverse. People of all ages, genders and career paths had come out to listen to the wisdom departed by the panelists.

This, to me, was enough evidence these issues we tend to associate with women actually indirectly affect everyone. It speaks to the importance of having colleagues and friends from all walks of life in one’s support system. At the front of the room sat our accomplished, professional panelists – Dr. Ilana MacDonald, Abhilasha Bhatia, Barbara Robinson and Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang.

Who were the panelists?

Check out these blog posts to learn more about the panelists:

Ruth Fernandez, MAPC
https://ywib.ca/toronto/blog/women-in-stem-ruth-fernandez

Dr. Ilana MacDonald
https://ywib.ca/toronto/blog/women-in-stem-dr-ilana-macdonald

Abhilasha Bhatia
https://ywib.ca/toronto/blog/women-in-stem-abhilasha-bhatia

Barbara A. Robinson, M.A.Sc., P.Eng.,
https://ywib.ca/toronto/blog/women-in-stem-barbara-robinson

Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang
https://ywib.ca/toronto/blog/women-in-stem-dr-sarah-mayes-tang

The conversation, moderated by Ruth Fernandez, covered a wide range of topics that ranged from anecdotal experiences of discrimination in the workplace, to tips and strategies on how to overcome these obstacles in the workplace. Amidst jokes about sewage systems, Barbara talked about starting off as an engineer and eventually becoming so good at her job she was able to start a company of her own. That, to me, is the definition of perseverance and her passion for her work is something that I strive to have in my own life.

When the impressively-dressed Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang mentioned she second guesses the way she dresses out of fear that she won’t be taken seriously, I wanted to stand up and say “hey me too”. As ridiculous as it might seem, it made me realize women tend to think about things that wouldn’t even cross a man’s mind! The conversation continued with Dr. Ilana MacDonald confirming that, “No, all astrophysicists do not act or talk like the guys from the Big Bang Theory”.  Dr. MacDonald went on to discuss all the stereotypes she constantly has to dispel around both astrophysics and being a woman in astrophysics.

While I learned something from each panelist, the one thing that resonated with me the most was when Abhilasha Bhatia was asked how she handles being an introvert in a job that requires collaboration. She gracefully replied, “You don’t have to be loud to do your job, right?”  The applause from the audience was awe-inspiring and reaffirmed for me that there is nothing wrong in being yourself, as you are. I think this is something women especially tend to struggle with and will often change how they behave to fit certain expectations in the workplace. In fact, I have even been told to speak up more during meetings at work because “that’s what great leaders do”.

As I walked out of the event that day, I thought to myself, I should have more discussions about these kinds of topics with both male and female colleagues. I might just surprise myself with all there is to learn and how shared our experiences can be.   


Parting thoughts

The panel noted how everyone, even accomplished women, will suffer from imposter syndrome quite often. They said that we all need to tell each other how great we are doing, and the great job we do everyday, and to recognize each other’s efforts as often as possible.

The panel reinforced the need to have a support network. Whether they are your friends, family or like-minded colleagues, they recommended to rely and uplift one another. They noted that there will be difficult times when you’d want to leave the industry altogether, but that having this support system and sounding board will help you persevere in the field you love.


Learning More

YWiB created a handbook with resources to support you, our community, as you continue to forge ahead and take action in your career. The dropbox link is below:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/veynf19oekidx8m/YWiB%20Toronto%27s%20STEM%20Resources%20Handbook.pdf?dl=0

Please also utilize this folder containing resources from Canada Business Ontario.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/qwztldaf25srlxb/AAC01k_X63R61VOIgqaQr715a?dl=0

You’re welcome to share this information with anyone.

Women in STEM: Barbara Robinson

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What made you want to participate in this panel discussion?

I was moved to participate in this panel because it is essential that we get more women in STEM fields. Women think differently than men so we have a great deal to add to the conversation. However, working in a STEM field is not for the faint of heart. There are many reasons why it is more challenging to be female. Indeed, many studies have shown that women who graduate engineering leave the profession within 5 to 7 years, citing lack of acceptance, opportunity, respect, etc. I’d like women considering STEM fields to be aware of this.

What are some things you do outside of work to help you develop personally and professionally?

Well, I am naturally a jock so keeping up with sports was easy for me, but almost essential in STEM fields. I took golf lessons early in my career and golf about as well as the average men in my field. I also play hockey (which I have done all my life) so organized company hockey clubs as well as client hockey challenges, which again helped me to be one of the “guys”. This won’t be as important for younger women, but a lot of work gets done on the golf course. Long-term, I have many friendships in my field, mostly with men (necessarily). I have intentionally reached out to other senior women for a support network, but in my cohort, we were very few. I do an awful lot of volunteering. I maintain a balanced life, which is important in any career.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

As I progressed in my career, I realized that being a woman in charge of men was always going to be problematic for some men. When I reached the “pinnacle” of my career (City Engineer for Kitchener), it became obvious that being female was a real detriment to succeeding. Also, on numerous occasions I went to HR with concerns over how I was being treated. It never worked out well. Also, how to deflect male advances without making a scene. Hopefully, in this day and age, that is changing. Now that I run my own company, I don’t (much) have to deal with these things.

When you think about your journey thus far, what would you say was the one trait that helped you get you to where you are today?

One trait that has worked for me was that I am naturally assertive. However, a woman who is assertive is considered “bossy” or “bitchy” as opposed to a natural leader, as a man would be perceived. I was told as much by very senior management in one of my senior roles. Not being assertive will probably result in not getting those promotions, but it’s a two-edged sword. But, regardless of anything else, always be kind to everyone around you, from the cleaners to the admin staff. That is the true test of character.

What advice would you give to other women working in STEM?

Do it!  Just be prepared, form a network of support, ask for help, work hard, and you’ll get there… Make sure you marry someone who believes in true equality (e.g. emotional energy of running a household and raising kids) 😊

Who do you look up to, and why?

Catherine Fife, MPP for Waterloo; my best friend (not in STEM) who is a beautiful soul, people who are actively involved in community, my sister-in-law.

Barbara A. Robinson, M.A.Sc., P.Eng., established Norton Engineering Inc. in 2015 following a successful 25-year private sector career and highlighted by two years as City Engineer for Kitchener.  Norton initiated the ongoing “Addressing Unacceptable Inflow and Infiltration (I/I) in New Subdivisions”, which is currently gaining national attention; she has given dozens of presentations on the topic.  She functions as senior QA/QC on Halton Region’s Downspout Disconnection projects and the Fort Erie Pollution Control Plan.  She has provided ongoing wastewater engineering services for the Township of Woolwich since 2001. Norton was works regularly with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) to undertake various projects, including a long-term project to calculate the “Societal Costs of I/I” and “Engineering Data and Flood Risk”. Barbara is currently Chairwoman of the CSA committee to develop a new national Basement Flood Protection Guideline (expected to evolve into a Standard), which was just posted for public review.  She sits on the WEAO Collections Systems Committee, ICLR Municipal Advisory Committee, and advises on the Durham Climate Resistance Standard for New Houses and the new BC Housing Standard. She also works for NRC and SCC.

Barbara works as a paid infrastructure columnist with CBC Radio, speaking on a wide range of infrastructure and engineering issues such as sewers, flooding, potholes & water towers. The column is regularly delivered on CBC Radio’s morning shows across Ontario.

Women in STEM: Abhilasha Bhatia

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What made you want to participate in this panel discussion?

I have found myself at the center of "Women in STEM" topic for over a decade now. I started observing the disparity in gender while I was pursuing my Bachelor's in Technology degree. It was annoying to get attention for being a woman in tech rather than being a student willing to gain knowledge and grow. This only became more stark when I pursued higher studies and worked alongside, mostly male, colleagues. I wonder why gender difference is even a thing when everyone is working towards the same goal. But unfortunately it is at the workplaces. I want to participate in the panel to discuss and throw light on some of the challenges that I have faced, measures I have taken to overcome them, and the few that I am still fighting off. I also want to participate on this platform to send out a message to young girls to not be afraid of technology careers, and to the dominant forces in tech to step out of the way.

What are some things you do outside of work to help you develop personally and professionally?

I am a science geek. I like reading science and technology articles, mainly around astronomical sciences and, in this past year, analytics and data science. For centering my chi, I resort to ways to let my artistic expression flow in the form painting and dancing. It is very important for me to see life through different perspectives, and therefore enjoy listening to panel discussions and podcasts.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

I think working with startups has been biggest learning curve for me thus far. One hustles, develops, learns on a daily basis. You join the dots together piece by piece, block by block. There is an open environment of ideas flowing, there is a culture you are contributing to strongly. Another point I would like to add is, experiencing different ethnic cultures and work environments has also contributed significantly to my growth.

When you think about your journey thus far, what would you say was the one trait that helped you get you to where you are today?

I believe in not quitting. And you can only be confident about it if you are open to learning and open to changes. All this while, even today, I keep my mind open to learning new things, be it more efficient ways of approaching a problem, to improving ways I can be more efficient ways, to optimizing my contributions.

What advice would you give to other women working in STEM?

Do not give up. It is a fact that the number of women who actually pick STEM as their careers, do not continue thereon for long, for a variety of reasons. I would like to ask them to remind themselves of the reasons they chose to be in a scientific field and what's holding them off now.   

Who do you look up to, and why?

There have been many people part of my journey that I look up to. My family has all along been a guiding light for the path I have chosen. My friends to challenge me to a competition. My colleagues and mentors at workplace, some of whom have challenged my beliefs and some of whom have helped me with ways to let my voice heard in a crowd.

Some public figures whose biographies, writings, and speeches I have thoroughly enjoyed are Dr. Kalpana Chawla (an astronaut), Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam (a scientist, and former President of India), Jocelyn Goldfein, and Steve Jobs.

Abhilasha Bhatia is a software engineer at Finaeo Inc. Her forte is backend development. From time to time she delves into frontend and dev-op projects that give control of the full development stack. She is a self-proclaimed science geek and loves to read articles on scientific innovation, especially about astronomical sciences.

Abhilasha’s encounters with technology started of as a kid in India playing with handheld game consoles. The very first building blocks were learning the “turtle graphics” in 3rd grade, using the Logo programming language. Followed by the widely discussed Y2K bug which gave her a realization of how technology is converging the world. Ever so pumped up with it, she took off to pursue an undergraduate in Computer Science from a state university in India and then decided to move on to pursuing higher studies in the United States. These were the years she faced the stark truth about the number of women opting for technology as their major. The female:male ratios in classes were astonishing. Fighting off the complex of “being the only girl” or “one of the two” to raise hands or participate in hackathons, she continued to tread her way past it to enter the workforce where the story wasn’t very different. As one goes up the ladder, the ratio bends further towards one side.

Those experiences made her question the causes behind such disparity among female students picking up STEM majors to actually pursuing and staying in these fields as a career. This is the major reason Abhilasha want her voice to make a difference by reaching to a greater audience.

Women in Stem: Dr. Ilana MacDonald

With our Women in STEM event just a month away, we introduce our YWiB community to our second panelist: Dr. Ilana MacDonald. Dr. MacDonald is an Instructional Support and Observatory/Planetarium Administrator for the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and will be representing the Science field of our panel discussion. We are pleased to have her contribute to this important discussion on women working in STEM and to learn how she has managed to forge ahead at a time when most women are leaving their respective fields. 

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What made you want to participate in this panel discussion?

I'm always interested in any opportunity to meet other women working in STEM fields and to share my story. I started along an academic path and realized that it wasn't for me, and I would like to help others realize that sometimes your career can take unexpected twists and turns.

What are some things you do outside of work to help you develop personally and professionally?

I mostly try to keep my work and personal life separate, but I do tend to gravitate towards all things astronomy. That means that I like to go to and help out with public astronomy events and to keep up with astronomy news on my own time. 

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

The biggest learning curve for me has been to realize my own worth and what I'm good at. When I started my post-secondary education, I was so sure that I wanted to be a scientific researcher, and to follow the traditional academic path (get a PhD, get a post-doc, become a professor). I discovered part-way through my PhD that I really disliked doing research itself, even though I loved the ideas behind it. It took a lot of soul-searching to admit to myself that I was much better at doing public outreach and working in education, and that I enjoyed it a lot more than research. Now I feel like I know what I'm really good at, and I feel like I can take pride in the things I really excel at.

When you think about your journey thus far, what would you say was the one trait that helped you get you to where you are today?

I think the main thing that ultimately helped me the most in getting to where I am now was my willingness to try a bunch of things until I ultimately found something that I loved enough to make a career out of. After finishing my PhD, I floated around and picked up every part-time job that seemed interesting, including science consultation for a documentary, private math tutoring, and a bit of graphic design. At one point I had 7 part-time jobs! Eventually, I was able to cut out the things that I didn't enjoy as much and focus on the things I could see myself doing for a while. It also allowed me to try out a whole bunch of things that I wouldn't necessarily have been able to do had I just taken on one full-time job after graduation.

What advice would you give to other women working in STEM?

Always maintain your network. I actually applied for relatively few jobs during my career journey, and most of the work I was hired for was through the connections I had made and maintained in Astronomy and elsewhere. The first job I got after graduation was the result of a conversation with my local coffee shop owner. My most recent job at the Astronomy Department at UofT was the result of my involvement with the UofT planetarium after graduation. You never know if your next job is a random conversation away!

Who do you look up to and why?

I look up to people in my field who devote their time to promoting science outreach and education. I would love someday to be a science communicator like Carl Sagan or Neil DeGrass Tyson, and so look up to role models who are striving for the same goals. I also look up to women in STEM fields who have stuck it out after receiving their doctorate and are now established in academia. It's tough to stick to that career path as a woman, and I admire those who are now accomplished research scientists.

Dr. Ilana MacDonald grew up in a small town in rural Quebec where she was inspired by the clear night skies and her father's "midlife crisis telescope" to study Astronomy. She completed her Bachelors of Science in Physics at Bishop's University, and her Doctorate in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, studying under Prof. Harald Pfeiffer. Her doctoral research topic was to test the accuracy of models of ripples in spacetime, that is, gravitational waves, from binary black holes for detectors such as LIGO. Since graduating with her PhD in 2013, Dr. MacDonald has decided to pursue a career in STEM outreach and education, and has tried everything from working in a Math tutoring centre to being a science consultant for a documentary. She currently works in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics managing some of the largest courses at the University of Toronto, as well as creating and presenting planetarium shows. In her free time, Dr. MacDonald enjoys reading science fiction, knitting, playing the ukulele, and riding around Toronto on her bicycle.

 

Women in STEM: Ruth Fernandez, MAPC

Meet our panel moderator: Ruth Fernandez. Ruth is a Managing Consultant for IBM Global, and has worked in both journalism and technology implementation. Her passion for diversity and gender equality makes her the perfect moderator our Women in STEM panel discussion. We can't wait to hear what what questions she has for our panelists and how she continues to forge ahead!   

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What made you want to participate in this panel discussion?

I have always been interested in gender equality issues. The topic of women in STEM was the subject of my Communications Master’s degree research project. I examined how technology companies today are trying to attract girls, and women, to STEM education and careers respectively, and what implicit biases can be found in the language and images used in their ads. Research on the lack of women in STEM consistently highlights the need for women to SEE the women working in STEM and to identify potential mentors. This panel, where the audience can interact with female STEM professionals is, therefore, invaluable.

What are some things you do outside of work to help you develop personally and professionally?

I have a variety of interests outside work including photography, viewing movies and watching my favourite TV sitcoms, and the space program (I follow the Mars Rover @MarsCuriosity on Twitter!). I am also a voracious reader gobbling up every type of fiction from romance to science fiction.

I am energized by interacting with others, so I love spending time with friends and family including being a referee during some raucous game nights!

As a management consultant at IBM, I help clients adopt new technologies, and I use a variety of tools to keep my skills current; namely, following thought leaders, reading up on new technology or latest innovations, and asking subject matter experts a lot questions. I try to lead by example -  willing to work in new ways, with new tools that we are advocating.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

Be forever changing. I cannot think of one occupation that is untouched by innovation of some kind. To succeed I had to accept change and ambiguity in my work. Going from the typewriter to the computer to the tablet or smart-phone has meant giving up the feeling of comfort with the way things are. I remember when I had to get up to change the station dial on the TV.. tomorrow something new will be launched and we’ll need to adjust. 

I started my career in journalism at a time when newspapers started their decline, and reporting jobs were dwindling. To make a living writing, I needed to quickly broaden my horizons to write for a variety of industries and objectives – research, marketing, healthcare and technical writing. For the last 20 years I’ve worked in technology implementations helping clients cope with changing technology and ways of doing things. I still see my job as informing and educating people, but about technology and processes rather than the nightly news.       

When you think about your journey thus far, what would you say was the one trait that helped you get you to where you are today?

Adaptability. I quickly learned that I needed to be adaptable and not box myself in as one thing or another. It’s not something we are taught when we choose our area of study, or think about when we decide what we want to be when we grow up. The world is changing rapidly, and one must be open to the possibilities. Being open to how I could apply my skills and constantly learning new things has been the key to my career success.

I left university in my 20s thinking I might break a Watergate-like story, but now I work on digital transformation projects and explain cognitive computing!

What advice would you give to other women working in STEM?

Some colleagues recently asked me how I got such plum assignments.  My answer: I applied for them, then worked hard to learn while in the role and live up to my commitments. Raising your hand to take on a new challenge is the first step. Do not put limits on your skills or your ability to learn.  It took me a long time to take bigger risks (ok sometimes they are calculated risks!). As one of my rock heroes, David Coverdale, of Deep Purple, said, “Be safe, be happy, and don’t let anyone make you afraid.”

Who do you look up to, and why?

I’ll start with the obvious: my parents for immigrating to Canada more than half a century ago. Their sacrifices including leaving behind everything they knew so their kids were born and raised in such a wonderful country where we can be whatever we want to be. Beyond that, a colleague once told me that you should have at least five mentors. So, there are teachers, colleagues and loved ones who I go to for their various expertise or traits. And these days I often crowd-source advice from them all! Finally, I look up to Jennifer Yetman who became my Little Sister through Big Brothers and Big Sisters 20 years ago. She is now an incredible woman, a family counselor and educator. I’ve witnessed her struggles and admire her positive attitude and love of life.

Ruth Fernandez, MAPC, is a Change Management leader and scholar known for her ability to inspire and motivate multigenerational, ethnically diverse, and geographically dispersed teams. She completed a Bachelors of Arts in Journalism at Ryerson University, and her Masters Degree in Professional Communications at Royal Roads University. Her research project examined how technology firms leverage advertising to attract teen girls to STEM careers. Her study uncovered the counterproductive patriarchal discourses hidden in the ads and its potential damaging consequences. As an IBM consultant, Ruth focuses on creating and implementing strategies to enable and empower employees to adopt new behaviours and new technologies. Dedicated to the mentoring of girls, Ruth is an active member of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization in Montreal where she serves as a local chapter board member and was responsible for the chapter’s first social media engagement strategy. In her free time, Ruth Fernandez enjoys travelling, spending time with family, attending hockey games, and being a role model for her nieces.
 

Women in STEM: Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang

We are so excited to announce that we will be holding a Women in STEM panel discussion on September 13! With that said, we are proud to introduce our first panelist: Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang, a Mathematician and Professor at the University of Toronto. Given her knowledge and documentation of the experiences of women teachers and students in math classrooms, we are very excited to hear her take on how women in STEM can continue to forge ahead! But until then, here is a little about Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang.  

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What made you want to participate in this panel discussion?

Hearing the stories of other women and being able to share my own in an understanding environment have been a huge source of support as I have progressed in my career.  Even if we “know” about unique challenges that women face in fields where they are underrepresented, there is something special that happens when we share and talk about our experiences.  I am also excited for the opportunity to connect with other local women in STEM.

What are some things you do outside of work to help you develop personally and professionally?

Reading. I try to read widely, but am not afraid to put down any book that I don’t enjoy, even if I think it would be beneficial. Physical activity. My exercise routine looks a lot different than it did a few years ago, but ensuring that my body functions well is important in ensuring that I am able to do my best work. Restoration. I am understanding the importance of rest and relaxation in developing a successful career more and more each year.  Some of my favourite ways to unplug include baking, playing piano, and exploring new places with my husband.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

The biggest learning curve in my career was at the beginning of my first continuing faculty job.  Up until that point, my success had always seemed to be based largely on the quality of my work; if I worked hard I would find a way forward.  Suddenly, I found myself in a position where good work wasn’t enough, students seemed to be comparing me to their vision of what a mathematician “should” look like or be, and it felt as though I had hit an impenetrable wall.  Eventually, things got better as some students began to trust me and word spread that I was a good teacher. I became successful in my position.  Through this experience, however, I learned that we don’t always have control over how others perceive women in STEM and that it is important to surround yourself with a supportive community.

When you think about your journey thus far, what would you say was the one trait that helped you get you to where you are today?

My strong drive to learn has been instrumental throughout my journey.  Loving learning and discovering new things is key to making it through graduate school, but plays an even bigger role in being a faculty member.  I see this as an essential part of my job as a professor;  whenever I get away from learning new things my work becomes stagnant.  Although I am a mathematician, I prioritize learning about a variety of subjects (education, history, medicine, computer science, leadership, sociology, etc.).  I am constantly surprised about where I stumble upon connections to, and inspiration for my work! 

What advice would you give to other women working in STEM?

Find people with whom you can talk openly and honestly about the struggles that you face in your career.  Having friends or colleagues who will be reliable cheerleaders when things get tough can be a tremendous support.  They do not need to be in STEM themselves - some of my greatest professional supports are not - but you should be able to rely on them to accept the barriers that you face.

Who do you look up to, and why?

I think that I could write a book about all of the people that I look up to! Here are three, in brief.  A friend, Bianca Brigidi, is one of the wisest and most eloquent women I know - she always seems to know exactly what to say in difficult situations. My mom, Ann Mayes, has built communities and a family with grace and is a pillar of strength in my life.  My PhD supervisor (aka my “academic mom”), Karen Smith, is a tremendously accomplished mathematician but she spends a great deal of time and effort supporting young mathematicians, particularly those from underrepresented groups.

Sarah Mayes-Tang received her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Queen’s University, and her Master’s and PhD degrees in pure mathematics from the University of Michigan.   Her dissertation was in computational algebra and algebraic geometry, and investigated questions about infinite collections of polynomials. After receiving her PhD, Dr. Mayes-Tang joined the faculty of Quest University Canada, a liberal arts institution in British Columbia dedicated to undergraduate education.  While there, she developed and taught innovative courses in both traditional and non-traditional areas including calculus, abstract algebra, cryptology, creativity in mathematics, and knowledge.  She also initiated and led several University-level projects. Following four years at Quest, Dr. Mayes-Tang moved to the Department of Mathematics at the University of Toronto.  She currently leads a team of instructors and TAs as coordinator for the University’s largest-enrollment calculus sequence.  Her current projects include documenting the experiences of women teachers and students in math classrooms, developing programs to support TAs, and helping students to develop positive attitudes towards mathematics.