FTG 0021 - Engineering to Marketing with Inclusive STEM Advocate and Marketing Leader Paula Garcia Todd ’03


This episode covers a wide swath of topics from first engineering jobs to transitioning to new functional areas using a STEM background to the importance of soft skills, promoting diversity in STEM, and coming to Penn State as a first generation American. Any Scholar, regardless of major, will pull value from this conversation!

Guest Bio:

Paula Garcia Todd ’03, ‘03g Engineering has made significant contributions in drug delivery through her work at Dow Chemical, DuPont, and now IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances) for the past 18 years and currently serves as the Global Strategic Manager for Pharma Solutions at International Flavors & Fragrances. Her vast experience ranges from process engineering in manufacturing settings with small and large molecule active pharmaceutical ingredients, to researching and creating patented polymer innovations to solve critical formulation issues for pharmaceutical companies around the world. Her technical success led to various customer-facing roles, including marketing and product management, progressing to her current position as Global Strategic Manager at IFF. Paula is passionate about introducing STEM to children. She has volunteered on boards and organizations focused on increasing the number of female and under-represented students in STEM fields, especially engineering, for the past decade. She has developed new K-12 programs aiming to improve understanding of the real world applicability of STEM while changing the face of what an engineer looks like. She has been active in diversity, equity, and inclusion advocacy within industry, working through women’s and Latinx employee resources groups at each of her companies to create awareness and improve company cultures. In 2019, she was named a AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassador by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her devoted work in STEM outreach and will be featured in a life-sized statue exhibit of outstanding women in STEM fields (debuting in Dallas, TX in 2021). In 2020, she was named both “Woman of the Year in Engineering” by Women in Technology and a “Community Trailblazer” by STEMConnector’s Million Women Mentors. She received the Luminary Award from Great Minds in STEM in 2021. Paula holds a Bachelor of Science with Honors and Master of Science in Chemical Engineering from the Penn State College of Engineering. She and her husband, Doug (also a Penn State alum) have 3 children and live in Georgia.

In the episode, Paula mentions a statue exhibit - it's currently outside the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. through March 27th, 2022 for Women's History Month. 120 3D-Printed Statues of Women Redefine What Scientists Look Like

Episode Specifics:

In this episode, Paula shares her insights on:

· Coming to Penn State and the Schreyer Honors College as a first generation American and as someone speaking English as a second language

· The differences between collegiate culture in Brazil and the US

· Building cultural capital and learning from your network

· Finding involvement that compliments your major and career aspirations – and opportunities that are just for fun

· Resources for Penn State students from historically marginalized identities, particularly in engineering

· Pursuing an IUG – integrated undergraduate graduate degree in a STEM field

· Getting into pharmaceuticals as a way to help others and getting into entry level, technical roles

· The importance of “soft skills” and how to develop and learn them

· Moving up into pharmaceutical leadership and transitioning from technical to marketing

· Living and working through mergers, acquisitions, and spinoffs/separations in the corporate world

· Supporting STEM education for historically marginalized K-12 students and providing role models for women and girls interested in STEM

· The importance of asking for help in your professional life and in finding balance

· The difference between mentorship and sponsorship

· Avoiding comparison and finding your own journey


Schreyer Honors College Links:






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Make a Gift to Benefit Schreyer Scholars

• Join the Penn State Alumni Association


Credits & Notes:

This content is available in text form here.

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen ‘11 Lib (Schreyer).

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer.

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License.

The theme music is “Conquest” by Geovane Bruno, accessed via Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.

Greeting scholars and welcome to following the Gong, a podcast of the Shire Honors College at Penn State. Following the gone takes you inside conversations with our scholar alumni to hear their story so you can gain career in life advice and it spanned your professional network. You can hear the true bread of how stollar alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rind the gone and graduated with honors, and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Shawan Doheen, class of two thousand and eleven and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back. This episode covers a wide spots of top pics, from first engineering jobs to transitioning to new functional areas using a stem background, to the importance of soft skills, promoting diversity and stem and coming to penn state as a first generation American. Any scholar, regardless of major, will pull value from this conversation. Paula Garcia, todd class of two thousand and three, has made significant contributions and jog delivery through her work at Dal Chemical, dupont and now if international flavors and fragrances for the past eighteen years and currently serves as the global strategic manager for farmer solutions at if. Her vast experience range is from process engineering and manufacturing settings a small and large molecule active pharmaceutical ingredients to researching creating patented polymer innovations to solve critical formulation issues for pharmaceutical companies around the world. Her technical success led to various customer facing roles, including marketing and product management, progressing to her current position. Paul is passionate about introducing stem to children. She has volunteered on boards and organizations focused on increasing the number of female and underrepresents students and stem fields, especially engineering. For the past decade She's developed new K twelve programs aiming to improve understanding of the real world applicability of stem while changing the face of what an engineer looks like. She's been active in diversity, Equity Inclusion advocacy with an industry working through women's and Latin x employee resource groups at each of the companies to create awareness and improve company cultures. In two thousand and nineteen, she was named an Aaas if then ambassador by the American Association for the advance of Science for her devoted work in stem outreach and was featured in a life size statue exhibit of outstanding women in stem fields. In Two thousand and twenty, she was named both woman of the year and engineering by women in technology and a community trailblazer by stem connectors, million women mentors. She received the Luminary Award from great minds and stem. In Two thousand and twenty one, Paul holds a Bachelor of science with honors and a Master of Science and chemical engineering from Penn State's college or engineering. She and her husband, Doug, also a Penns Day Lam, have three children and live in Georgia. In this episode, Pauli shares her insights on coming to Penn State and the Shire Honors College. Is a first generation American and, as someone speaking English as a second language, the differences between collegiate cultures in Brazil and the United States. Building Cultural Capital and learning from your network, finding involvement that compliments your major and career aspirations and opportunities that are just for fun. Resources for Penn state students from historically marginalized identities, particularly in engineering, pursuing an Iug, the integrated undergraduate graduate degree in a stem field, getting into pharmaceuticals as way to help others and getting into entry level technical roles, the importance of Sawce Scales and how to develop and learn them, moving up into pharmaceutical leadership and transitioning from technical to marketing, living and working through mergers, acquisitions and spinoffs their separations in the corporate world, supporting stem education for historically marginalized tate twelve students and providing role models for women and girls interested in stem the importance of asking for help in your professional life and in finding balance, the difference between mentorship and sponsorship and avoiding comparison and finding your own journey. With that, let's stay into our conversation with Paula Garcia. Odd Paula, thank you so much for joining me here today on following the gone as a former member of the scholar Alumnie Society Board, I'm very excited to have you on today to talk all things stem and marketing in a really unique career that you have. But I want to obviously started the very beginning and asked how did you first get to Penn State and specifically at the Shuire Honors College? So first of all, at love to thank you for having me. I'm so excited to be here to share a little bit of my journey and I'm thrilled that you invited me to be here. So I am originally from Brazil. We moved to the US when I was ten and we moved to the Pittsburgh area and I went to high school there. I went to North allegheny and I always knew I wanted to be an engineer. So when I started looking at schools, I was definitely looking for...

...good engineering programs, which Penn state ranked up there. Now, where I lucked out is that I actually had a lot of friends that knew about the honors program and I even had friends from the graduated before me that had gone on to the Honors College, and so, just having that knowledge, I went ahead and applied. And so you know, I'll be honest and saying that Penn State was more of a backup school for me, but on like the honors college was a stretch for me right. So like I was kind of like, all right, so penn state, if falls feels a go to penn stay for engineering, but oh my gosh, would be amazing to get into the shires honors college. And so when I got accepted, that really shot Penn state up to to the top for me. That's great. Now you mentioned that you weren't born here. What advice do you have for students who are first generation Americans and for maybe whom England, which was not their first language growing up? Yeah, so I think everyone will have a slightly different experience, but for me in particular, coming from South America, so my oldest brother is eleven years older than me. So I saw him get accepted into university in Brazil, and in Brazil the public universities you don't have to pay for necessarily, but they're really hard to get into right, and so is instilled very early on me that I had to do super well and quite honestly, my parents never saved money for college, like that wasn't a thing. So when we came to the US, as you can imagine, that had a wide awakening. My oldest brother was already in college I had another brother who was in high school than I was ten years old myself. So they were hit with the realization that they had to pay for college here, right, and so there were a lot of things that they didn't know, and I would say that, you know, I followed the path a little bit with my brothers and learning from what they learned coming here at their various stages of life. But the other thing I also did a lot is ask some of my friends parents, because my parents just didn't have the knowledge of how do you navigate all of this? How do you apply to schools? How do you pick a school like? How does this work? So I really relied a lot on my friends parents for support, for help, guidance, counselors, teachers, you name it. I have never been shy to ask questions and I encourage others to do the same. Ask people around you. They're willing to help, even if your own parents can help you right. The other thing for me as well is that I was lucky enough that I came at a young age, right being ten. I didn't speak any English when we moved here, but being so young, I picked it up relatively quickly and I never took the toful, you know, along with the sat and things like that. But if you do feel like English is a disadvantage, I say there's no shame in taking the toful right and and allowing that score to also count within your sat and all of that right A. I think it's it's the test is there for a reason and if you feel like you need it, absolutely take it. A lot of guests on the show talk about going and talking to professors and you know, you highlight your friends. Families are great resource to tap into as well, both coming into the college and once you're here even and in even past, as you know, I'm as a host here. Some of my friends parents were great resources for me as well, and I think that's really sage advice for students. Now, speaking of students, you are obviously a scholar here in the Honors College. Can you tell us what kind of organizations you were involved in, internships that you pursue, because if you're in stem it's good to have hands on experience in the field. So can you share any unique stories from either the leadership or the hands on outside of classroom experiences that you may have had? For sure. So I came into the College of Engineering. I had already chosen in my mind that I wanted to be a chemical engineer, and so a lot of the activities and clubs and organizations that I did were very aligned with that. So I was an officer for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers for three years. I did a lot with the Society of Women Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, so a lot along those lines. On the side note, I love playing volleyball, so I played wreck volleyball quite a bit. I Love Salsa Dancing. I did a lot of that as well on campus. So there's there's a lot that you can do besides just things that are focused on your major, obviously, and that's one of the beauties of going to big school like Penn State. There's a little bit of everything there. But in terms of internships, I'm so glad you mentioned that because there is nothing like getting hands on experience, because when you're sitting in an engineering classroom and you're learning about their moo dynamics or learning all the theory and the calculations, it's not until you see it come to...

...live and really understand how is this even utilized in the real world, and so for engineers in particular, I always say seeking internships coops is critical, not just in better understanding what it means to be an engineer and what that work looks like, but also it really helps you in getting a job once you graduate, because you're showing an employer, Hey, I already have some experience, have already kind of learned a little bit on the field and it looks really good on a resume. Right. So while I was on campus after my freshman year, I did an internship with Bayer, I did a couple of internships with MERC and the pharmaceutical space. I didn't internship with Dow Chemical, and so I took advantage every summer I had some type of working experience. The other thing I just wanted to point out, maybe for students that aren't aware, the College College engineering actually has what's called an outreach and inclusion office and that's what houses a lot of these organizations like swee and ship and nest be the national sciety of black engineers. They have a lot of resources, tutoring, they can help you get internships, coops and so forth. If you are and underrepresented student in engineering, not a lot of universities offer that and I think it's an amazing thing the Penn state actually has that offering to help students that may find themselves disadvantage maybe didn't have the right high school experience to help them be super successful in engineering, and they really provide the the bridging stones to help you be successful. So I think it's really important to highlight that Penn state has that resource available for underrepresented students in engineering. That is fantastic and that is on top of all of the resources you already have as generally an engineering student through the College of Engineering, a Penn state student through the Bank of America Career Services Center and the Shuire Honors College crewdevelopment office with Liser Certinsd so a common theme on this show if you are frequent listeners. There are so many resources for you here at Penn State and in the Honors College. So that's another great one if that fits your identity. So thank you for sharing that, Paula. I wasn't aware of that. So that is great for students who may benefit from that. There was an anecdote that you shared on the questionnaire about Easter one year in Undergrad. I love if you could share that story because I thought it was really cute. Yeah, absolutely. So sometimes I get asked, you know, what was your draw for the Shuire Honors College if Penn State was already, you know, a really good engineering school? And yes, the resources is what really drew me to Penn stage right to your point. It's such a big school, there's so much available, but I also didn't want to feel lost and I wanted to have like that small college feel more family like, and that really came to light for me my sophomore year. So, like I mentioned, I grew up in Pittsburgh, went off to Penn State and then my sophomore year my father was actually transferred to Tennessee and I was kind of emotionally having trouble kind of grasping the fact that my parents are going to be so far away and you know, I'm close to my family and I really struggled a little bit Um and you know, I'll admit my grades even dropped a little bit and you know, the Shire Honors College took note. They just wanted to know how things were going. I shared what was happening and I also shared that because there were further away, you know, coming into the springtime Easter, for example, I wasn't going to be able to go home even to see them over Easter break or that weekend, and an administrator within the honors college actually invited me into her home for Easter Sunday so I wouldn't be alone and I would be within a family setting, and it was probably one of the most welcoming impactful things that anybody ever did for me while I was feeling really down and lonely and and upset. You know and to me that that's the perfect example of showing how the Shire Honors College really does provide kind of this smaller family like feel within such a large environment, and I'm forever grateful for that experience. I love that story. I think that really speaks to I'm not sure of that administrator is still here or not. Paulish shaking her head that they are not, but the staff here really care about you as a scholar. You know thing. We try to look out for you at every step of the way and I really really love that story. Now, obviously, at the end of the day you're here to be a student and, Paula, you participated in the I g, the integrated...

...undergraduate graduate, where you get both an Undergrad and a Grad degree at the same time, and you did this, no less, in a stem field, which is no small feat. Can you tell this about that and what recommendations that you have for students who are interested in pursuing this opportunity? Sure, so I'll tell you about my own experience and then I'll tell you, if I could go back, what I would do differently. So, as you're aware, as an honor student you have to write in honors thesis by the time you graduate, and I actually really like that aspect of the honors program because I was interested in research. I wanted to understand a little bit more of what's research like, and you know that that I was interested in from the very beginning. And so freshman year I was already kind of investigating what are the chemical engineering professors studying at Penn state like? What's the research all of that, and very early on my sophomore year actually started to talking to some of the professors and better understanding their research and kind of throwing myself out there right and so I started doing undergraduate research my sophomore year, very early on in my sophomore year. So by the time I actually hit my senior year. My adviser kind of set me down and was like, you know, you've done enough research for a master's thesis, and I was like wow, I never even considered that that would be a possibility. So thought about it and I was like okay, so if I stay extra year and really hone down on all the graduate coursework, finish up my research right up my thesis defended, basically in five years I can graduate with both a Bachelor's and a Master's and chemical engineering. So it's like, sign me up, let's do it. It was super hard because I made that decision so late, and so it was early enough that I could substitute some of my senior classes for graduate coursework. That allowed me to do it in five years. But if you do have any interest whatsoever, so number one, you have start your research early, like I did, but number two, you really need to start looking at your schedule and understanding how you could fit it all in within the five years because basically, like my last year, was all these super hard, crazy classes where I could have spread it out over the course of two years and made it way more manageable. So so that would be my advice. If you are interested in partaking in the UG program, I think it's amazing. As an honors called, as an honor student, I think it's a lot easier to partake because you're already writing a thesis. But just start thinking through that and planning early. Don't wait until your fourth year, is my advice. That is great advice and I think that's reach to a lot of other opportunities as well. Is the earlier you can start planning for anything like internships or for Iud your thesis topic. Not a bad idea. And speaking of internships, earlier you mentioned that you did ones at Merk at Dow and you had one each summer, and there's kind of a common theme there of Pharmaceuticals. Did you always know that you wanted to go into pharmaceuticals or how did you discover that that was where your professional interests lay? Yeah, so, to your point, all of my internship experience was in the pharmacty industry. I have spent the last eighteen years within pharmaceuticals and in various types of roles. And yes, like I've always wanted to do pharmaceuticals. That stems from me and I think a lot of people have a similar feel when they're younger that they want to do something that's going to help others. And so I went into engineering knowing that I wanted to help people. I for a while considered, you know, maybe I'll become a doctor. That's a great way to help people, but I will readily admit I faint at the sight of blood. I am terrible and now with three kids, trust me, when they're hurt they know to get a dad because I'm I am no help to them. So I knew medicine was not in the cards for me at all. But the next step that I could really see that I could still really help in that field was the pharmaceutical field. So I went to the chemical engineering already with the thought and the desire to work and pharmaceuticals. I chose chemical engineering over, say, a pharmacy degree, simply because I wanted to have a broader foundation that would allow me to do a lot of different things within pharmaceuticals. But yeah, that that's how I really discovered, you know, the pharmaceutical field and for me personally, I feel great knowing that every day I'm doing something that's helping patients around the world with, you know, whatever diseases they're fighting. You came out of college,...

...you had your master's degree and you started early in some frontline engineering roles that are very technically oriented, which, if you're looking at the episode description, you'll see that your title now doesn't necessarily reflect the technical side as much. But I want to start at the beginning, where our students are likely to be headed in those roles. Tell us about your experience in those frontline roles, what you know, what you learned, what suggestions you have for students who are looking into similar engineering, technical tactical roles that they can explore right out of college? Yeah, sure, so. My very first job out of school, I would say, is like the traditional chemical engineering role, where I was working in a maufacturing plant. We were basically taking a chemical process from lab scale, scaling it up to what we call a pilot scale, which is kind of like the midscale, and then took commerce actual scale, which is like these large manufacturing plants that you see producing various molecules or, you know, chemical entities. My first job was very specific with active pharmaceutical ingredients, and so I was working for a company that doesn't participate in the discovery of active pharmaceuticals, but rather just in a contract manufacturing of active pharmaceuticals, and so I learned a lot about manufacturing, about especially manufacturing under very strict regulatory conditions, which is, you know, all of what pharmaceutical is and and that was a great experience. But I also have, you know, this story to tell that when I was doing that job, because we're doing contract work for other pharmaceutical companies, really they were kind of they're basically our customer, and I remember we had worked really hard on scaling up this one process. We got the plant up and running, super hard work, and the customer, the pharmaceutical company, was still not pleased with the product and they kept saying that the particle size of the material we were providing was completely off, and so we had to go back to the drawing board and find ways to change the particle size of this material. And as an engineer, I remember thinking, oh my gosh, like why are they so picky, like this is the chemical that you need. I don't understand, like what what is the deal with this whole particle size discussion? Fast forward a few years later, I find myself working not in a manufacturing setting, but rather in a lab setting, and I was working with pharmaceutical formulations, with various polymers that we call excipients, which are basically inactive ingredients that go into all types of pharmaceutical products and they do a ton of different things. They can coache the products, they can control the release of a drug, they can bind materials. I mean just so many applications. And one of the very first projects I worked one I just remember really struggling to make this formulation work and there was my Yaha moment. It was the particle size that was throwing everything off. And so if there's anything that I can tell you as a young engineer coming into work, it's really easy to get siload into the job that you're doing, into the role or the manufacturing plant that you work in. All of that, and the more you understand more broadly, like what's happening across the business, what's happening across the company, or even what's happening across like that value chain, you know better understanding why was that particle size so critical would make you a lot better at your current job and make you even better for subsequent jobs because you have that bigger picture of view. You know, and I think that was a big learning for me within the first five to six years working, that you you get so tied down to doing that one specific job. Well, and and then that was this moment of realization like wow, if I had simply asked more questions three years ago, I would have had just this understanding of how particle size influences formulations and hence the exact need that that customer had. Will Paul, I think you just eat up my next question perfectly. So we just talked a lot about really technical skills in stem roll. Well, what about the soft stills that you need for leadership? How can a stem major think about ways, either while they're a student or in those early roles, to get the soft stills, the communication, the leadership, these things that you need, but there's no manual for developing them. What are your recommendations for students? Yeah, so I often get students that tell me that they feel like they're not smart enough to go into a stem field. In my response back to...

...them, as always, that you know, most engineers and scientists that are work with are not Einstein's in any way, shape or form, but rather they have different assets to them that I think a lot of students have that make them really good at doing stem science engineering, which are things like problem solving, things like having a curiosity asking questions. Those things are more valuable bole than really being super extra smart, right, and those are things that you can really hone in on not just in school work but even in activities that you do outside of school, right, and so I always encourage people to yes, you should work hard in school and do well, absolutely, but you should take time to find hobbies and find other activities and clubs and organizations to join. That's where a lot of those soft skills come from, right, like communicating and leading a group. All of that is really going to come from those types of experiences and furthermore, I think those experiences also further help develop the curiosity and the problem solving in all of those other skills that are so important to be really good at stem you know. So that would be my suggestion, is to not be so focused in school but really allow your natural curiosity to lead to other paths and organizations and clubs and hobbies, and through all of that you'll naturally start to really hone in on those other soft skills. Speaking of other paths. You've gone from the lab work the handson manufacturing and now you've progressed to some key leadership roles in the companies that you've been at. You've been in marketing and product management, strategy setting roles. How did you decide to go into that, and also without getting an MBA? I love training. I'd love to hear about your thought process. I'm wanting to move up into those types of roles and doing so without that specific degree. Yeah, so so. Ironically, I think marketing found me. I was I had, as you mentioned, at worked in manufacturing and lab settings and then I spent four years in a role that in our company called Tech Service, which is basically I spent half of my time traveling all over the world visiting pharmaceutical companies and better understanding their problems and helping to solve those problems, whether they be formulation dependent or process dependent, whatever it is that they needed. I really helped in terms of what our products provided to them. And it was I was just coming out of that role and I was thinking about going back into a lab setting in our marketing director reached out to me and said, Hey, Paula, have you ever considered a job in marketing and I said no, absolutely not. I don't even know where marketing is. So I don't know where this conversation is going, and he pointed out to me. He's like, okay, so so here's the deal. Like, we work in a very technical area. You understand our products really well, you understand our customers really well because you've been solving their problems for them for the past four years. The marketing piece I can teach you. What I need is this technical background that you can ring into our marketing organization. So he was smart. He first put me into a marketing research role, which, honestly, it's a lot of data analysis and understanding market trends, and that felt like a very natural fit. Right. I'm still looking at data spreadsheets all of that, and then from there he started moving me into various brand management, product management, strategic marketing types of rules and teaching a lot of things along the way. And so I always tell people I think they're different ways that you can learn how to do a job. Right. So, yes, getting a degree is absolutely a way that you can learn how to do a job, but I would, you know, argue that actually doing the job is another way to learn how to do the job right. And so I personally never felt that need to go back to school to get an MBA because I was getting my Mba experience doing the marketing role, which, you know, I've done these types of rules for the past eight years now, right and so so. So that was my choice. I you know, I think there are people that find value and getting the MBA and it makes sense for them. I'm not telling people that they shouldn't get an MBA right. I think it's very different for different people. I had already started a family, I was learning a lot on the job. It just made sense for me personally to progress and keep learning on the job, taking trainings and courses, you know, throughout the way, but not necessarily stopping everything to get an MBA. So, as an MBA...

...student myself, I think that is spot on. I think it is valuable for some and for others you're getting enough on the job where maybe a really good training opportunities and good managers where you're going to get that handson. So something to think about if you do or don't need to, because it is an investment of time and money. Now, one of the things we talked about in NBA classes is change management and you've been at Dow, you've been at Dupont and now you're at iff and trying to piece together from your resume and your linkedin. These companies have been together, they've been separate. You've been through mergers, acquisitions, separations, divorces in the business setting. You're still happily married to doug. So when to put that out there? So business divorce from these different companies. How do you handle those situations? What's that like? That's something that we don't typically hear the experience of somebody kind of in the in the middle of the organization, and especially not something that you think about when you're just trying to get a job as a student. But it's something if you go into the private sector you're probably going to deal with it some point. So I'd love you to share your experience going through these different types of organizational changes. It's been a wild ride, I'm not going to lie. To your point, down Dupont merged and then my business unit ended up going with Dupont once they separated, and then after two years with Du Pont, Dupont sold off our business unit to this other company IFF. And Yeah, it's it's very challenging because it's a lot of changes happening in short periods of time and it's new management, new systems, new processes, you have to learn, New People you have to meet and it's and it's just a constant state of change. What I would say has helped me personally through all of this is, you know, one of the characteristics that I recognize in myself as that I tend to be very optimistic person and I think you have to go into these environments with an obstinate optimistic perspective and with the thought pattern that all of this is crazy, but it just presents more opportunities for improvements and changes in the organization that maybe you've been wanting to make free years right. And so, as crazy it as it is to manage all of what's happening on the day to day, I always think strategically like here's an opportunity that we can improve our processes and we can improve our systems and we can improve the way that we're doing business, because everything is new and changing. Let's just tackle it and do it right, and I think, honestly, that's what's carried me through the past few years, with all these changes, just that constant optimism and knowing that things can get a lot better from here. If you're enjoying this podcast, then listen up about this great opportunity. Do you know your major but not sure what your career will be, or you still in the fence about your major, even if you know both? Scholars like you should come to connect two thousand and twenty two on Saturday March Twenty Six two thousand and twenty two from one to five pm to meet staller alumni like the ones you hear on the show and learn about their paths to get where they are today. We are excited that this event will be in person this year. Connect two thousand and twenty two is open to students in all majors, from stem to business to liberal arts, and those who don't know their major yet. Students will participate in three panel sessions of their choosing to hear advice from stallar alumni and ask questions. Are you looking for opportunities to connect with the alumni in your field? Connect feature sessions between each panel for students to meet with the panelists. To top it off, free professional headshots for Linkedin will be taken before the event starts. Be Sure to visit SHC DOT PSU DOT eedu connect to learn more and register today. Our SVPS are due by March Eighteen, two thousand and twenty two. Now back to our conversation on following the Gong. So we've talked a lot about your work. But just like student leaders who are going in, they're not just students but their leading these organizations that we've talked about, you're really involved in things outside of work, and you can't see this because this is an audio podcast, but Paula has this beautiful quilt, I think. Yes, yes, it's find her. That says stem and it's kind of a mosaic thing and I think that really speaks to her passion for this topic. And you're doing a lot in the wealth in your workplace, but also in the broader stem field, for particularly women and women from historically excluted or marginalized identities to get into stem. Can you talk about what you're doing and why you're taking on these challenges? Yeah, for sure. So I consider this...

...my side Gig because I'm so passionate and I spend so much time doing this. It really started for me when my when I had children and they started going to school and some of the schools in our area had an interest in doing more around stem, you know, explaining to kids what stem really means and so forth, and I started to visit a lot of schools and it's interesting because I would walk into a classroom and I'd get a lot of these looks like in questions from really young students, elementary age students, saying, are you really an engineer? You know look like an engineer, and I quickly realized that we really needed to change the visibility of what an engineer looks like, and so I really started to expand a lot of the work that I was doing. I started to visit work classrooms, I started to work with different organization in my community, I currently live in Atlanta, different nonprofits. I really wanted to change this stereotype that exists and I wanted little girls to see themselves as scientists and engineers, and I want a little boys to also see it and think of it as natural and normal that, you know, a woman or a Latina like myself to take on a role like this. and honestly, it started from from just kind of this you know, this desire to do that, I really exploded. So, as you mentioned, you know, today I find myself doing really weekly talks with different organizations through zoom meetings or, you know, pre covid, a lot of facetoface type of things. But I think it's really important to put myself out there because I did not have a role model like myself. I had a lot of men in my life that supported me. Actually, my whole family's made up of engineers, my father, my brothers, my uncle's, my grandfather. So I had great examples of engineers in my life, but they were all men, and so I wanted to become that role model that I didn't have growing up, and hence that side gate kind of took off. And what's really cool is you've been the recipient of many an award and I believe there's some kind of artwork installation if you can briefly tell us about that. Yes, allow shaking her head here. So I would definitely now very much love you to tell us about that. Absolutely, and I would say this is probably one of my biggest successes is in two thousand and nineteen I was named and if then ambassador by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. What they did is they did a national call out to women and stem there were looking for role models to serve and in various ways, I threw my name in the hat. I said there's no way I'm going to get this, and I was chosen, which was absolutely thrilling. And so as part of that, there's a lot that comes with that, as you mentioned, were I've become a more connected to a lot of organizations, you know, a lot of different speaking opportunities, all of that. But then, to your point, they decided to do something that is just very cool and in terms of that visibility component we were talking about, they actually took all of us and did D Scans and they created statues of all of us. And so basically there is a research done, I'm trying to remember how long ago this was done, that found that in public spaces in the top ten US cities there are less than six statues of women in public spaces is in the top ten US cities. And so what they wanted to create is this exhibit showing a hundred and twenty women. So basically the most female statues gathered in one place at one time and they would all be women in stem, and these women are incredible. I mean we have engineers, we have astrophysicist, mathematicians, biologists, you name it, we have it right and it was just breathtaking to see it in real life. It was displayed in Dallas, Texas from May throughout October of this year. They're currently talking and trying to see if there's a way to display it in another city at this point, but it's really impactful to see so many women that are doing such amazing things in stem and just the impact that that can have on kids. You know, the other thing that's really exciting is being an if then ambassador is there is a morning a Saturday morning show called mission unstoppable and CBS that also follows...

...women and stem and we are all featured in that as well. So my episode is coming up in January. You can learn a little bit of more about what I do in the pharmaceutical field. But that's also another incredible opportunity to really being friend of more children and really showing them the wonders of stem and what it means to be a scientist or engineer. That's fantastic. So you're really getting out there in a lot of places, both live and in person and through the statue. So that is that is really, really cool. Depending on when this is released and when you're listening to it, check that out, I imagine you could probably this is not a paid advertisement. I'm sure you probably took it out on paramount plus after it airs. I'm assuming I don't know this for sure, so please back check me if I'm wrong. Now, throughout this poll you've mentioned that you have kids, you have a family and as we're sitting here it is currently we're in the middle of Hanica. Christmas is coming up in a few weeks when we're recording, and I think I see an Elf three on the shelf. So how do you balance having a family, being a working professional, taking on this side Gig and doing things like this podcast, being on a CBS kids show to talk about stem what strategies do you use to try and balance all of that? So I learned really early on to ask for help when I need it, and I know it's really hard for for some people to wrap their heads around that. They think that they have to do everything themselves, and I've just learned that it just doesn't work that way. As one human being a perfect example I have of that is even when I first started working as an engineer, I think it was like within like the first couple of months and my job, my manager gave me this really hard problem to solve. Is Like Hey, I need you to calculate this out and figure out, you know, how much you know of this material, do we need and how we're going to make this happen, and I was determined to get this right, and so I spent three days doing calculations out the Wazoo and I was like, okay, I'm going to get this, I'm going to get this right. And so three days later I go into and its office and I present the work that I did. I'm like, okay, this is, you know, what I'm thinking. Blah, Blah. He said, this is really all great. Have you met the person who sits right next to you in your office? And I was like yes, and he's like do you know that this is his like like this speciality, like this is what he does. They in a, day out. Just an FYI, if you had asked them from the beginning, he could have knocked this out in half an hour for you. And I was like wow, okay, so the real expectation at work is not that you have to do all of your work by yourself on your own, but it's really learning how to get the work done through collaboration, and so I implement that in my life as well. Right. So, yeah, I have to travel for work and I'm not afraid to ask for help from the grandparents to help with the kids while I'm gone, you know. And but you know, the same token, I'm also not hesitant to provide help when needed, right, and so it's a two way street. Just like I'm not afraid to ask for help, I also don't hesitate in providing help whenever I can, in any way I can know, to the people around me. So I've this is something I learned to Penn State. Actually, I've learned how to build a community of support around me, which is something, you know, I really learned through the Women in Engineering Program at Penn State, building a community of support. That is really sage advice and being able to offer help, because every person has value and has something to give back, just in the same way that there are things that you might need help with. So I think that is really good. You've already talked about your biggest successes and learning moments. So you really cheat up. Something else I wanted to ask about kind of in the wrap up here, which is in terms of asking for help and specifically in a professional capacity, around mentorship. How do you approach Mentorship, both as a mentor both in the broad sense of the different things we've talked about, but also on one to one level? And also, you're still mid career, you've you've got a very large trajectory ahead of you. How do you approach being a mentee, you know, a few years into your career? Yeah, so mentorship is really, really important and I want to talk about mentorship, but I also want to talk about something that we don't talk about very often, which is sponsorship. So I'll start on the mentorship side, and I think mentors provide great value because, like I mentioned, I didn't have any mentors that look like me necessarily, but I had a lot of people that provided support and guidance throughout my career. So mentors can provide that guidance in a way that maybe others, like your parents and so forth, that they just don't know, otherwise they don't know how to provide that...

...guidance. So that's really important. They can answer questions, they can give you a glimpse of what different types of rules and careers look like. They can suggest ideas of classes you should take, experiences, jobs you should consider, you know all of that. So if you don't have a mentor in your life, I highly encourage you to think about who would be a good mentor for you and who is someone that you look up to and that you can really learn from. You know, for me personally, I have found that I really prefer these organic mentoring type of relationships and I don't I can't say that I have any specific mentors that I meet with, you know, in a monthly or cordly basis or anything like that, but I do have a lot of people that I look up to and what I do for myself is I create these mini mentoring moments where maybe I go out to coffee with someone or I grab lunch with someone, and I usually have very specific questions of you know, considering making this career change, or I'm thinking about, you know, doing this for my project. What are your thoughts on that? And so in that way I create these mentoring relationships that aren't like I think sometimes people get scared to become a mentor because they're thinking, oh, this is such a huge time commitment and I have to create these monthly meetings and things like that, and and that's not it at all. Right, I think if you're willing to put yourself out there, provide guidance and so forth, your your you automatically make a great mentor. Right, and so that's how I kind of manage being a mentee and really, you know, engaging with people that I trust. Now, the other thing that we don't talk a lot about, which I learned kind of the hard way, is sponsorship. And these are the people that are very influential in your organization and they can make decisions behind closed doors and they can really speak up for you and they can really be the people that vow for you and your work and your successes in front of other influential people. Sponsors are a little harder to identify, but I would I would say that I have learned to kind of identify these people that are kind of well connected, well thought of within the organization, and I make time to get to know them and I allow them to get to know me as well. Right, because sponsors can have a huge influence in your career and the opportunities that come your way. You know, the other thing that I've learned, which kind of ties into the sponsorship discussion, is that I think the academic world doesn't fully prepare you for industry in the sense that when you're a student you learned that by working hard you're going to get what you need and what you want. Right. So if I study really hard, I'm going to get that a on that test, and then you come out into the workplace and you can sit continue that pattern of I'm going to work really hard and I'm going going to get the next step and it doesn't quite work that way because there's a missing element about really communicating what you want and where you want your career to go. And nobody teaches you this and nobody tells you this, but it's important for you to communicate and communicate it to a mentor communicate it to your manager and communicate it to these potential sponsors and influential people in Your Business and let them know, hey, I have a lot of interest in taking on this, you know, manufacturing role or this regulatory role or, you know, I really see my career aheaded this direction. You know, how do you think I could get there? And by being open and communicating your desires and what you really want. That also creates opportunities for you. So that's a really important lesson that you know, I no one ever taught me, but it's become very apparent in corporate America. You want to position yourself so that when there is an opportunity available and something good, you want to be that first person that somebody in a position of influence or authority can think, oh, I want Sean for that or I want Paula for that, because they're perfect fit and it sounds like a good example. That is that marketing director who kind of pulled you from the technical side into the marketing side. Ye, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. He's been a huge influence in my life, absolutely so always. You know, working hard, like you said, sets you up for success and but it's also about communicating. You know, the hard work demonstrates that you can do it. And I think also something I thought of Real Quick Paula, is that you know there's this you always want to move up and I think there's a lot of folks who are very content to be in a frontline roll and those roles are needed. Organizations tending to be kind of like triangular shaped and there's fewer roles at the top. Not Everybody has...

...to move up to be happy and to be successful. So I think knowing what you want and where you're do you want to lead or do you want to be handson engineer for your entire career? And you opted for leadership, and others may want to be in the lab for their whole life and that's where they find joy. That's absolutely true, and especially as can of your life takes on and and their potential children and maybe hobbies, activities, other things that come into your life. Absolutely that's something that needs to be considered right like what really brings you joy, because the definition of success is very different for everyone and you shouldn't follow you know what you think others define a success. You really need to find your own definition of success and what makes you happy and follow that that path. Absolutely. I think is a good summary. I think a mentor can help you figure out what that is and a sponsor can help make it a reality. Yeah, yeah, it's a really good way to think of it. Yeah, so now for the fun questions here at the end. Is there anybody that you want to give a shout out to you from your days as a scholar? Oh my gosh, there are so many amazing people that I met, you know, a lot of I made a lot of great friends, a lot of great people in the office. Like you said, I always loved going to the office. Such a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. You know. The one shout out I really want to throw out there is to my advisor, Dr Wayne Curtis. He still a chemical engineering professor at Penn State. He was, like I said, highly influential. He was, you know, I really consider him the first person who said yes to me and gave me an opportunity. Honestly, in an in that time of my life that I didn't think I necessarily belonged in a lab or. I was ready to be in a lab but he opened up that opportunity to me, and so I consider him my first yes and for that I'm forever grateful to to everything he did. Again, speaking to the power of being a sponsor and finding one great, great shout out there. Are there any pieces of advice that you really wanted to share that maybe have not come up organically through the previous questions in our chat here today. Yeah, there there are a couple of things that I like to throw out there, and so you know, imposter syndrome is a very real thing, especially when you're going into like a stem major, and especially when you don't see other people that look like you. Write. A lot of these underrepresented students that have talked about that I'm very passionate about encouraging to go into stem. It can be really hard. But you know, someone said this to me once and I think it's so true. Don't compare your chapter one to someone else's chapter ten. Everyone has had failures, everyone has had challenges and it's really easy to see someone even like myself, eighteen years out in career, like this is where I'm at, and when you're brand new you can look at that and find it very intimidating. But it's really, really unfair to compare yourself to someone who has had many years of experience, because we've all had our ups and downs, and so don't allow that to really pull you away from the things that you want to do. Embrace who you are, embrace your uniqueness, bring your whole self to everything that you do and and fight off that imposter syndrome. The other thing I'd like to point out is that, you know, we talked a lot about the outreach work that I do and I find it interesting that a lot of people don't see themselves as role models. And, no matter what age you are, who you are, what you do, I want you to look at yourself in the mirror and recognize that you are a mentor today, you are a role model. Today there are people that are looking up to you, younger students, sibling, neighborhood kids, whatever. There are people the look up to you, and so you're really never too young to start helping a fellow colleague or a classmate, a younger student. You're never ever too young to be that role model. So always remember that you have a superpower to pass that on to someone else, no matter what your age. That is really powerful, especially even if you're a fourth year student listening, you can have a huge impact on a first or second year scholar. So absolutely is wonderful words of wisdom. If a student wanted to get even more wisdom from New Paula and connect after listening to this episode, how can they connect with you? Okay, so I am on Linkedin I'm the only Pola garciatage you're going to find a linkedin. That's a unique name. So please feel free to connect with me if I see your pin stater, your automatic family. So please reach out and connect. I'd love to connect with with anyone with questions.

I'm happy and open to do that. I'm also on twitter and instagram. You can find me at watch me stem not. As you know, I'm not as active on twitter as I am on instagram and a lot of my content is very much based on the outreach work that we talked about and getting, you know, more more girls to these some to see themselves as scientists as well as, you know, Latin students, black students and so Um. I'd love to connect with you there as well. And now for the hardest hitting question of the day. If you're regular listener, you know what I'm about to ask. If you were a flavor of Berkie creamery ice cream, which would you be? And, most importantly, as a scholar Alumna, why that flavor? Yeah, so I like to joke, it's somewhat of a joke, it's almost real, but I like to joke that I chose chemical engineering because it's the engineering building closest to the Creamery, and it still is today, even though the creamer has changed locations. So yes, in the mornings, when students were going in there to get their bagels and cream cheese, I was always going in there to get my ice cream and then at head to my first class of the day. So yes, I am an ice cream fanatic and I think I've had close to every flavor that the creamery offers. With that in mind, my very favorite flavor is happy, happy, joy joy. If you haven't had it, it's amazing, delightful coconut ice cream, chocolate almond crunch. It's the best and I would say I would want to be a happy, happy joy joy because, as we discussed, I am a very optimistic person. I love to spread Joe Joy. I am the office PRANKSTER. Yes, have I ever filled somebody's office with two hundred balloons to celebrate their birthday? Yes. Have I filled those balloons with confetti so as they pop the balloons to clean up the mess, they actually made a bigger mess. Yes. So I think I am happy, happy joy day in all sense of the name. And I thought I had a rough clean up job when some of my roommates in college filled my apartment room with seemingly every copy of the daily Collegian that had been printed for two weeks. Kudos to you on the Confetti there. I think that's a great reason to pick that flavor. Paula, you're doing great things out in the world. Thank you so much for taking some time to join us here today on following the Gong and sharing all of your wisdom about stem and every other which thing that we've talked about today. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks for having me. Thank you, scholars, for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show probably supports the Shryer Honors College Emergency Fund Benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at rays, DOT PSU, dot eedu, forward slash shreire. Please be sure to hit the relevance, subscribe, like or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the college on Facebook, twitter, instagram and Linkedin to say up to date on news, events and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or a scholar alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on following the gone. Please connect with me at scholar alumni at PSU DOT eat. You until next time. Please stay well and we are.

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