Leadership Advice from SBU Alums

By: Cynthia Converso

Read on for advice from this semester’s WISE Leadership Workshop for Graduate Students

For our last meeting, we got to talk to 3 SBU alumna: Trisha Lollo, Yaqi Xue, and Jennifer Eng-Kulway. It may have been the most valuable 1.5 hours of my entire year. While I couldn’t possibly summarize the entire conversation, I’d like to informally pass on some of the advice that was shared:

What the president of a children’s hospital looks for in a mentee:
– Humility. Acknowledge that you’re here to learn & that you have a lot to learn.
– Hungry. You are open to opportunities and are willing to work to get them!
– Specific goals. Have a tangible goal to start working on right away.

Do not be the one to hold yourself back. When in meetings, men tend to speak up before they have fully formed thoughts. This is not a bad thing. Women tend to wait until they have well-thought-out responses. I think this is because we hold ourselves to a high standard and are afraid of coming off incompetent… We fear being stereotyped. By the time we are ready to speak, the conversation has moved on. The advice: Jump-in even when your thoughts are not fully baked.

Don’t trap yourself within the boundaries of someone else’s misconceptions. If you know your own competence and believe your expertise, you must advocate for yourself. At the same time, continue with your discipline and let your work speak for itself. When you do gain the confidence to speak up, you will have your hard work to back you up.

Practice and patience. Even when you build up respect at one table, you are not done advocating for yourself. Everyone brings their own biases into the room and you will likely have to continue speaking up and showing that you are worthy of your position. Try not to let this discourage you. Your hard work in this area will help pave the way for women after you. 

You must create your own priorities. Don’t get me wrong, you can do anything and everything you put your mind to… But if you don’t set your priorities and boundaries early, someone else will do it for you. So, pick your opportunities based on what you want your life to look like, not what you think is expected of you. Don’t apologize for building your ideal life. You only have one to live, you should have everything YOU dream of.

Other words of wisdom that inspired me today: You deserve a seat at the table. Be open to opportunities. It’s okay to change plans. You are never done learning.

Author: sbugwise

We are the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering group at Stony Brook University and we are dedicated to supporting women in STEM fields.

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