Re.engineer Magazine - Summer 2021

T R E N D I N G L E A D E R S

Q: What advice would you give to young African American girls or those who are curious about STEM, but not sure that they can do it, or parents who are reading this and want to expose their kids to STEM? Denise: My response to this question is primarily directed to the parents and villages of young African American girls. Please, pretty please, make sure your young AA girl is not being discouraged from taking more math and science courses in school. Challenge your girl and her teachers. Introduce your girl to fun math and science experiments, which can easily be purchased online. And last, but surely not least, introduce your girl to African American women who have STEM careers so that you can expand your village to include these women. If you don’t know a woman with a STEM career, ask somebody to help you find one. For your girl, seeing is believing!

Q: What were some of the things you did for fun outside of STEM that keep you passionate and enthusiastic about your career? Denise: For over 20 years, I served as the interviewing skills facilitator for my Delta chapter’s scholarship workshop for graduating seniors. During my presentation, I shared the do’s and don’ts of interviewing, delivered real talk messages and conducted mock interviews with the students. I was also a facilitator in the career interest break-out sessions, where I shared my STEM journey, encouraged students, and answered questions about STEM education and careers. Over the years, I hope I have planted seeds that produced young aspiring STEM careers. My belief is that African American women with STEM backgrounds and careers, have a responsibility to help fill this pipeline with others who look like us! ▪

Q: What skills can women who just graduated from college in STEM-related fields focus on to become successful? Denise: I would say soak in as much knowledge and information as possible. And I’m not just talking about online information, books, podcasts, etc. These are a given. I’m talking about engaging in conversations with employees who are currently in the organization. When I first started working at Dow, I would talk to senior engineers, leaders, office professionals, technicians, security guards, anybody who was willing to share their wisdom with me, and I’d sprinkle in some tough questions too. You really do need a village at work. Never be afraid to ask for help. I find that most people are willing and excited when someone reaches out to them to ask for help. but back in the day, if an employee was very strong technically, it was assumed that she/he could be equally as talented as a people leader. NOT TRUE!! What we needed were people leaders who genuinely cared about the success of all employees on the team and respected the differences. I had a leader who was afraid to ask me any tough questions (not technical-related) because he knew I would tell him the truth and he did not want to hear it or try to “unhear it”. We needed people leaders who looked in the mirror and asked questions i.e., “Am I getting the most out of every employee?”, “What can I do better as a leader?”

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