For The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we connected with IB alumna, Oriana Fuentes on why we should support women and girls interested in science. Oriana, COO of a technology start-up, shares her perspective on giving women opportunities to fill important gaps in the tech industry.
Each year on February 11, the United Nations focuses on the importance of women and girls in science fields. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science aims to highlight the critical and influential roles that women and girls play in science and technology. By supporting gender equality, we can open new opportunities to develop unique perspectives and ideas to help solve the world’s most pressing issues.
We connected with Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Emptor, Oriana Fuentes, to share her experience transitioning to a career in tech and key advice for girls considering a career in STEM or tech.
“It is fundamental that women have access to these professional opportunities and participate in the industries that are shaping our future.”
What makes you passionate about your work?
Every day arrives with challenges and new things to learn. I am currently a COO at a tech start-up, which can be chaotic, but it’s also an opportunity to ‘build your own job,” as you are interacting and managing different teams and partners both internally and externally. I also enjoy thinking strategically about the technology we build and how it can help us grow the business. Strategy layered with the complexity of growing a team, sticking to a budget and navigating the legal landscape of running a company, present scenarios of constant problem-solving that I wouldn’t find in another job. As a founder, I am also in the unique position to create and foster culture. Part of my mission is to also create a great place to work, which requires investing energy into understanding what motivates a team to excel, grow and stay at a company.
Do you think increasing access to science courses for girls is important? Why?
“There are plenty of non-traditional career opportunities with a STEM degree (or vice versa, STEM careers without a STEM degree!)”
The strong education in science I had in high school (concluding in both biology and chemistry at a higher level for IB) taught me curiosity, rigor, attention to detail and tolerance for frustration. All of these skills are fundamental to any industry, especially in the emerging technology industry but also in research, writing, journalism and professions where thinking deeply and creatively will propel you forward. STEM is fundamental to the new economy and innovation is changing how we live every day through apps, AI and other technologies. It is fundamental that women have access to these professional opportunities and participate in the industries that are shaping our future.
What advice do you have for girls considering a career in the sciences?
Work on your own projects. There are many ways to learn skills like coding by building a personal website or putting together an app or a game. Be perseverant and learn from others. One of the mistakes I made in graduate school was not realizing that the program was tough for everybody (not just me, since I lacked a computer science undergrad) and it took me longer to find a study group to work with because most of the other students worked. Think outside of the box. There are plenty of non-traditional career opportunities with a STEM degree (or vice versa, STEM careers without a STEM degree!). Studying computer science didn’t limit me to software engineering roles and, on the other hand, I’ve met engineers or engineering managers who are self-taught and moved into tech after studying something non-technical in university.
Oriana graduated from Hiram Bingham School in 2007. In 2012, she graduated as valedictorian from Syracuse University with a dual bachelors in finance and economics. She is currently studying for a master’s degree in computer science at Columbia University in New York, after spending four years at J.P. Morgan as a banker.
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