Panel Offers Career Advice to Students and Honors Professor’s Advocacy
“Working hard is essential, but it’s very different from marketing and promoting oneself,” Amy Kopelan emphasized during the 5th Annual Career Development Panel, which featured esteemed panelists Helen Altshuler, Technical Manager of Cloud Engineering at Google; Sukari Brown ’14, NYU Tandon alum and Senior Advisory Consultant at Deloitte; Whitney Levine, Senior Software Engineer on the Search Team at Grubhub; and Patricia Parada, Biomedical Engineer and Senior Application Specialist at EDDA Technology.
The panel was moderated by Kopelan, President and Founder of Bedlam Productions, Inc., and hosted by career coach Dede Bartlett — a key figure in advancing women in STEM, who founded the Thompson-Bartlett Fellowship program at NYU Tandon and was the Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Altria Group, Inc., where she developed their domestic violence programs. Sara-Lee Ramsawak, Assistant Director of Academic Affairs, and Nicole Johnson, Assistant Dean of Opportunity Program, organized the event.
After welcoming the attendees, Bartlett dedicated a touching tribute to the late NYU Tandon professor and associate dean of academics Iraj Kalkhoran, who passed away in September 2016. Bartlett recognized Kalkhoran’s 20 plus years of service to NYU Tandon as associate dean of undergraduate and graduate academics and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “Iraj changed lives [through] his passion for teaching, his passion for students, and his commitment to and deep understanding of what it takes to bring more women into engineering and science,” Bartlett said, adding that the Career Development Panel was inspired and supported by Kalkhoran. Noting his advocacy for a diverse student body, Bartlett shared that the NYU Tandon students “today are his legacy.” After the audience enjoyed a video of memories and stories of Kalkhoran from the Tandon community, Ramsawak and Johnson presented Kalkhoran’s family with a commemorative plaque.
The panelists began the discussion by detailing their transition from degrees in civil engineering, computer science and biomedical engineering to their current industry positions, and offered sage advice to attendees at any stage in their career on topics such as mentorship, the bias women and underrepresented groups face in the workplace, self-advocacy, work-life balance, and career changes.
- Brown emphasized the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. While a mentor offers guidance and support, a sponsor advocates “behind closed doors” and invests in your performance and potential.
- Levine noted the importance of speaking up and advocating for oneself within your career advancement, encouraging attendees to “ask for what you want.” Altshuler echoed this sentiment of self-promotion, adding that many women hesitate to nominate themselves for promotions or recognition.
- Parada stressed that students eschew the myth of a smooth career trajectory, with Kopelan adding that one’s career path is a “lattice, rather than a ladder.” Altshuler noted that changing careers or jobs should come when you’re no longer challenged and find no room for growth.
- When transitioning from college to industry, students should focus on translating transferrable skills to any position and research a company’s culture and work-life balance. Parada emphasized “networking before you need it” and Brown assured students that “failure is not permanent.”
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018