A WEST Fest to remember

The networking event for women in engineering, science, and technology brought their wisdom online this year.

WEST Fest panelists conversing over zoom.

WEST Fest was moderated by Moira Forbes (bottom left), and included (clockwise, top left) Lauren Wehrly, Chelsea Shoemaker, Brittany Kendrick, Camila Morocho,  and Danielle Meyer.

Every year since 2015, incoming women undergraduates (along with ambitious aspiring women engineers from New York City’s high schools) have been invited to WEST Fest (the acronym stands for Women in Engineering, Science, and Technology), a networking event that allows them to interact with faculty members, meet peers, and hear advice from industry executives and alumnae.

While circumstances didn’t allow for an in-person event this year, Director of Undergraduate Enrollment Management Cindy Lewis and Nicole Johnson, Assistant Dean for Opportunity Programs and Director of the TRIO Scholars Program, together spearheaded a virtual conference that attracted just as many high wattage figures, who shared just as much insider knowledge and good advice.

The event was moderated by Moira Forbes, the Executive Vice President of Forbes Media and President and Publisher of ForbesWomen, and panelists included:

  • Danielle Meyer, a Volume Planning and Competitive Intelligence Specialist at Audi of America
  • Chelsea Shoemaker, a Senior Retail Strategy Specialist at Audi of America
  • Lauren Wehrly, a Manager of Cost Management and Claim Administration in Audi’s warranty division
  • Alumna Camila Morocho (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering ’19), now a web developer and UX / UI analyst in Bank of America’s global technology and operations division
  • Alumna Brittany Kendrick (Urban System Engineering and Management, 18’), now a civil design engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

NYU Tandon Dean Jelena Kovačević opened the proceedings by recounting the strides the school has made in recruiting and retaining women students and elevating women to positions of leadership: women comprise 46 percent of the Class of 2023, and we’re eagerly awaiting final figures for the Class of 2024; half of the participants in the school’s K12 STEM programming are young women; and an impressive 15 members of the Tandon executive leadership team are women. “The world needs effective problem-solvers,” she asserted, “and we’re more effective when there is a diverse group at the table.” While she expressed hope that WEST Fest could be held in person next year, she said, “There are still few things more fun and dynamic than sitting in a room full of powerful women, even if that room is virtual.”

The panelists proved her absolutely right, as anecdotes and advice flew freely. Among the wisdom shared:

  • Try new things — even those you don’t think you’ll like; they might just lead you to your dream career.
  • Women tend to avoid applying for jobs in which they don’t meet all the stated qualifications. That’s a mistake — you don’t have to tick off every box.
  • In that same spirit, raise your hand and volunteer for a task, even if you don’t have the exact skillset to carry it out. Be honest, and express a willingness to learn.
  • To become a well-rounded, effective person, amass a toolbox of transferable skills.
  • If you have the opportunity to take part in an enriching program like the Forbes Idea Incubator, grab it!
  • Differences are not deficiencies: what makes you different also gives you unique and valuable perspective.
  • It’s not just the technology you learn at Tandon that will be important in your career, it’s the mindset and the thought processes.
  • Take time occasionally to think of what you have and are grateful for — then commit to leveraging it not for your own good but for the common good.
  • Find a way to get in the room — even if you feel uncomfortable or that you don’t belong.
  • Life will throw you curveballs, both personally and professionally, so get you glove ready.

“While WEST Fest looked a little different this year, we are thankful that Ms. Forbes and all of the panelists took the time to share their experiences and advice as women in STEM,” Lewis said. “And to the incoming Class of 2024, welcome to the NYU Tandon community!”