“You Cannot Succeed by Winging It,” Says Co-Founder of Latinas in STEM

Jazlyn Carvajal (pictured above, right, with her mother), is an energetic woman with a permanent smile (“My passion project has become my business,” she explains. “I can’t help but smile.”) She took a pretty windy path to get to where she is today. She’s overseen construction projects in Manhattan, founded an event planning company, and co-founded SOYD, a business consulting firm.

In 2013, she and her MIT girlfriends launched Latinas in STEM, which was named the 2017 California Nonprofit of the Year.

And now she’s developing that organization further, to add more services this year in support of Latinas in STEM’s college and professional members. (In the past, more of her focus has been on encouraging and supporting younger women and girls to get into STEM education and entry-level positions.)

She and her team are growing the candidate pipeline for jobs and internships, while also assisting early to mid-career women in STEM with career advancement (webinars, networks, advice).

Here’s an excerpt from our fascinating interview with Carvajal.

I grew up in a home of various cultures, nationalities, and languages. My father immigrated from Chile, my mother from Puerto Rico. While Puerto Rico is an American territory, making my mother an American-born citizen, she is often seen as an immigrant. In this environment, I was raised with three principle tenets; hard work, education before everything, and love.  

[su_pullquote]You can’t hope to be successful, you have to proactively seek to empower yourself every day by outworking everyone.[/su_pullquote]

In 1998, both Serena and Venus Williams challenged then 203rd ranked Karsten Braasch, from the men’s tennis tour to an unofficial match during the Australian Open. They were both soundly defeated. As athletes, men tend to be stronger and faster than women. Yet, it is these very physiological anecdotes that are stretched into the realm of mental acumen. Why aren’t there more grand champion women chess players?

Some scientists have posited that it is because there is a smaller pool of women actually seeking out to be chess players. I disagree. From my own experiences, I have felt that the landscape itself is conducive to women not being able to readily engulf themselves in certain circles, whether it be a chess or engineering.

As a woman, or a minority in general from financially humble backgrounds, the pressure to succeed is placed squarely on your shoulders. Your parents worked two to three jobs each to afford you this opportunity, you are the first generation college attendee in the family and you most likely have no one that you can seek as a mentor.  As such, it is up to you to succeed for the greater good of the whole. Then you look around the classroom in your AP class, and no one looks like you. Not that you are ostracized, but no one is welcoming you with open arms either.

Giving a presentation at MIT Women’s unConference

N.B.C. stands for Never Be Cold.  

To be successful, you must focus on your preparation.  

Have a product?  Know what your price point is and what the market trends are.

Attending an event?  Know who you want to talk to, and prepare talking points to address with them.  

You cannot grow your business (or your career) by winging it. You can’t hope to be successful, you have to proactively seek to empower yourself every day by outworking everyone.

I chose to focus on Latinas in STEM fields because I have dealt with the realities of being a Latina working in a STEM industry. Latinas are currently 1.8% of the Science and Engineering workforce and we feel it.

My narrative is not unique. There are so many young women that have the support at home, the math and science ability to succeed, but simply don’t have a blueprint on how to get there. Latinas in STEM was created to address these issues via education for parents on the process, creating a STEM support community for Latinas seeking to enter these fields and continuing that support once they graduate. It is hard enough to become an engineer, an architect or a scientist. What shouldn’t be difficult is understanding how to get there and how to succeed once you are there.  

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Latinas are currently 1.8% of the Science and Engineering workforce and we feel it.[/su_pullquote]

Biggest lessons

Don’t lose sight of the end game. A lot of times, we get caught up in day to day drama at the office, on a project team or at home and lose sight of our priorities and our ultimate purpose. I learned early on that whenever I feel myself getting caught up in minutiae, to take a beat, review my priorities and focus on the greater purpose of my company, a given project and my life.

Believe in myself. Imposter syndrome has affected me many times in my life. In the last eight years, I have learned to believe in myself and be confident in what I know. It is what allows me to speak up for myself and for others.




The Switch Editorial Team.

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