This blog post was originally published on FIUTS, through their Alumni Impact social media campaign to recognize the work being done by exchange alumni all around the world. The author is Fernanda Teresinha da Silva who was a 2019 SUSI alumni from Brazil.
I’m Fernanda Teresinha da Silva from Brazil and I participated in the SUSI on Youth, Education and Closing Skills Gap 2019. Through the program, I feel like I advanced my understanding of humanity, my knowledge of my own potential and my outlook on my mission as an engineer and as part of the technological revolution that is happening in the world.
I was with a group of 19 students from around the world discussing and understanding global issues with a focus on being prepared for the future, and most importantly, being part of creating that future. Our common motivation was to make a difference in the world. Until we participated in the SUSI program, we didn’t know how to start. Meeting American people and institutions with a purpose to drive social change in their communities inspired the feeling that making a difference at home is possible. This positive feeling added to the skills we acquired during courses we took with FIUTS like leadership and project development. All this empowered us to believe in ourselves and motivated us to take the next step.
My city is an industrial hub, a large part of the job market is focused in the STEM field. Before SUSI, I had not considered the issue of female representation in STEM. Women constitute minorities in technology fields and leadership positions. This trend towards gender disparity in these sectors is increasing with growth of labor demand in global markets. During the program, I met one of the institutions I most admire today, the Techbridge Girls. Finally, I found a cause that I felt should be my first step. I took Guila Muir’s book out of my bag and set up a new project!
I developed Let’s Innovate Joinville with the mission of inspiring students in my city to innovate. My purpose was to connect people with ideas to solve community problems to people with the necessary knowledge to put these ideas into practice and to people / institutions that could finance the implementation of those ideas. I was invited and participated in some events to introduce my project to students.
There were already some tech initiatives in Joinville and I became familiar with them. I noticed little engagement by women in these initiatives so I also created a new organization with two women called, World Wide Women in Tech. Our objective is to make the participation of women in the STEM areas more expressive, EMPOWERING girls and women to develop and excel in these areas while also promoting INCLUSION and EMPATHY in society as a whole through the organization’s actions and events. We want to make the difference!
Fortunately, we held our first event before the COVID-19 epidemic started in Brazil. Within less than 48 hours of launch, all spots were reserved and we had to open registration for live a broadcast. It was a super inspiring event in the format of a panel discussion with one representative from each of the STEM fields. In the end, I talked about the impact we want to generate, speaking about my history, the experience I had in the SUSI program and about the organization I started.
At all stages of the project, I could see how essential the concepts I learned in SUSI were, from structuring concepts and leading meetings, to project implementation itself. Several times I consulted the notes I made during the program. In fact, to define the organization’s values, I modeled a dynamic similar to a Mission and Vision activity that we had in the first week of the SUSI program with FIUTS. After the event, many participants posted about their experience with the event on LinkedIn and my University published news of the event as well. The repercussion of the first event only reinforced the need for initiatives like this and that I chose the right path. With this event, more women felt inspired to help in this cause. Today we are 20 ambassadors of the organization and we are using social networks to empower and inspire other women as well. We meet weekly to strategically plan our next events and actions, in addition to maintaining engagement on social networks.
We started the organization in Joinville, but people from other regions of Brazil and even some SUSI alumni from other countries have shown interest in being included. So our project for the future is to expand and connect globally. It would be amazing to have STEM girls and women supporting each other even though they are from opposite sides of the globe.
In the future, I plan to continue Let’s Innovate and facilitate connections between students, startups and industries for the technological solution of real community problems. I work in industry today and I see how this idea meets future trends! I expect to continue my academic and professional development as well. I have some possibilities in mind! I am looking forward to the next challenges that I will face!