In our Women Who Inspire series, we’ll be talking to influential women who are making a difference in their communities and the world at large. Through their leadership, we are inspired to do better, work smarter, and continue to create opportunities for women in STEM.
When other kids were at the pool or the mall, Alexandria McCuien was at academic summer camps. When they were playing video games, Alexandria was figuring out how they worked. Her curiosity paid off. Alexandria is a now a Senior Specialist – Applications Developer for AT&T in St. Louis and is currently pursuing a career as a Data Architect. Hear how she was inspired to pursue her goals in STEM:
What inspired you to pursue a STEM-related career?
In ninth grade, I attended a math and science program at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. I learned early that I wanted to work with software. I earned my Bachelor's degree in Computer Science at Webster University and minored in Mathematics and Web Design. I also earned a certification in Decision Support Systems. I had a great support system from my family and friends that encouraged me to be myself and "crack the code" at all times.
What do you love about your job most?
I love the daily challenges with code development. If I’m able to have a successful outcome with a program, it definitely makes me happy!
What’s the most fascinating aspect of your field to you?
Being able to work on cool projects that accelerate the company or help the community is the most fascinating aspect of my field. We constantly come up with things that will simplify life and make customers happy.
What advice can you give women who are seeking a career in a STEM-related field?
Though it isn't easy, it will pay off in the end. Statistics have shown small numbers of women in STEM careers, but don't let this discourage you. Be bold in your career and step out on faith and see what happens. Have confidence in everything you say and do and never be intimidated while sitting at the table. Get involved in networks of women in and outside of your company. Being involved in these networks will give you exposure to different experiences and people. And don't forget, STEM fields pay very well!
What advice do you have for women technologists that are struggling on all-male teams?
You are not the only one. Stay in the race. There are a number of women that struggle on male teams. As women, we have to connect with each other to create a support system. Once the support is established, we can help each other by sharing experiences and advice on different situations and hope for a successful outcome.
Who are some of the women who are game-changers in the Technology industry right now?
Dr. Reagan Flowers, the founder and CEO of C-STEM (Communication, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)Teacher and Student Support Services, Inc., supports the engagement of Pre-K through 12th grade students in hands-on, project-based learning experiences that expose them to workforce opportunities in related fields. In 2014, C-STEM was a White House Champions of Change Honoree. Dr. Flowers has directly empowered and inspired members of the community by integrating STEM enrichment program for Pre-K through 12th grade. She has truly inspired those of us who are passionate about STEM career education.
What do you think will have the strongest impact on closing the gender gap in STEM-related careers?
I think early introduction to STEM careers in elementary school will have the strongest impact on closing the gender gap in STEM-related careers. If we can reach our young girls at an early age and encourage them to use their math and science skills, we will have a better outcome. Young girls are very impressionable and need to be introduced to STEM careers during this timeframe. STEM career interest starts in the classroom. We have to educate our teachers about STEM careers and prepare them with the tools needed to encourage our students.
Were there any mentors who have made an impact on your life? If so, who were they and how did you connect?
I have a number of mentors that have impacted my life. My high school assistant principal, Debra J. Pitts, and the former Global Marketing Exec of AT&T, Cathy Coughlin. In high school, I signed up to be a student assistant for my assistant principal. While working with her, I learned a lot of leadership skills. She encouraged me daily and supported me in everything I did. She is someone I still talk to on a consistent basis for life advice and more. Cathy Coughlin, former Global Marketing Executive of AT&T, is a woman I truly admire. Though my mentorship with her was short, it was impactful and I'm truly thankful for her. She encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and pursue new goals in my life. I continue to use Cathy's words of encouragement as motivation: stay calm and peaceful when things aren't going right and they always work out in the end.
What are your goals for this coming year?
This upcoming year I am focusing on becoming a Data Architect. That requires me to step out and work on projects that will enhance my development and leadership skills all at once. I also plan on continuing a degree in cybersecurity. If I can code data and and also be knowledgeable about the integrity of the data, I will become a force to be reckoned with. Those two areas combined with each other will make me a well-rounded developer. I also plan to continue to be a STEM advocate for girls through my work in the community, involvement with Girl Scouts and the youth group at my church.
What advice do you have for women that are hesitant about pursing STEM because they are entering in a male-dominated arena?
Please do not let that discourage you. Don't pay attention to the statistics, and enjoy your job. No, you won't be treated the same as the male employees, but maintain your presence on projects and stay consistent at all times. Have factual data for everything to be successful. Don't limit yourself. You can do whatever you put your mind to. Yes, STEM is a male-dominant field; however, once you enter the workforce, your work will speak for you. Once you complete a degree in STEM-related field, you'll have the same training as your male counterparts. Bring your best self to any position, and don't let statistics intimidate you.
Tell us about what inspired you to start your blog?
After being featured on an AT&T blog, I was asked to talk about my story and encourage other young women to consider a field in STEM. I enjoyed being able to discuss my journey, and I've been excited and inspired to write more blogs since then. Blogging has been a great opportunity to encourage others.
Connect with Alexandria on Twitter.