by Yamuna H., Angelica H., Greer S., Netta R.
Over the month of August, the WriteGirl interns were busy planning the very first WriteGirl Intern Mixer that took place on Thursday, August 16. The goal was to give the interns an opportunity to learn more about various career paths while at the same time, sharing the work we do here at WriteGirl with the women who inspire us. Each intern’s assignment was to invite 1-2 successful professional women in a field they are interested in. After much research, we narrowed down our special guests to these seven incredible women: Maria del Pilar O’Cadiz, a Project Scientist and researcher at UCI; Tabby Biddle, a writer whose work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times and NPR; Alexandra Armstrong, a self-employed lawyer servicing people from low-income communities; Alex Schaffert-Callaghan, the director of digital media at KPCC: Southern California Public Radio and a professor of Communication at USC; Juliet Flores, the South Los Angeles Representative for the Office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Vicky Deger, a costume designer in the entertainment industry; and Jennifer Rustigian, a public relations professional who works with clients to find new and exciting ways to reach their public relations and marketing goals.
Each of these women is an inspiration to WriteGirl and it was a great honor for us interns to be able to host an evening of learning and growing. All the interns can agree that the mixer was a huge success but the experience was different for each of us. Here is how this evening affected a few of us:
Greer, age 18: Between munching on mint melon salad and sipping ginger apple soda, I talked to some amazing women. Each had a unique perspective and a lot of their advice was surprisingly universal which was reassuring since I’m still undecided about my career-path (teaching? journalism? publishing? some other awesome thing?). I did get some fantastic field-specific advice from Alex Schaffert (journalist and communications expert) and Dr. Pilar O’Cadiz (Project Scientist at UCI). Both were practical and realistic but conscious of the fact that it’s overwhelmingly difficult to make such major life choices. They encouraged me to explore my options and deviate from the planned path every once in awhile. No matter what field they were in all of the women offered the same guidance: you don’t have to know what you want right now. As I go into my first year of college, that’s an amazingly freeing thing to remember.
Angelica, age 18: I was so excited to be part of the mixer and was thankful to be exposed to such graceful and inspirational women. Being a young woman trying to find out who I am and who I want to be, it was interesting to hear that these successful women were once in the same place. Most were undecided about their career paths until they found the career that made them feel it was finally where they belonged. Even though I had heard before that it’s not how you start but how you finish, it didn’t sink in until the guest speakers shared their stories about how they weren’t sure of who they wanted to be at the start of their careers either. They made it and so shall I. Ms. Vicki Deger was the person I was drawn to from the start, because her bubbly energy and easy-going character reminded me of myself. She is a costume designer who originally tried journalism but realized that wasn’t what she wanted to do. One thing I learned from Ms. Deger is that life is too short to stress over the small stuff, and you will know when you have found the career for you, because you will love it.
Yamuna, age 19: It’s okay if you don’t know what you want. It’s even okay if what you want changes after a while. That seemed to be the running theme among our amazing speakers at the WriteGirl Mixer, even though they came from such diverse fields as law and costume design. All of the speakers had changed their career plans at least once, demonstrating that flexibility is more important than certainty. As a second year in college, I was very grateful to hear this. When I tell people I’m majoring in both Linguistics and Gender Studies, the predictable response is a furrowed brow and, “What exactly are you going to do with that?” I’m still not sure what the answer is. There are many things I want to do, I just haven’t settled on one yet. As I learned on Thursday, that’s not a problem. In fact, college is not the time when I should be locking down on one path. One panelist, Alex Schaffert, told us that during college she filled her schedule with things like baking and sailing, though she knew she wouldn’t be a baker or a sailor. It’s important to try new things to nurture creativity and avoid getting stuck.
Netta, 22: A combination of excitement, nervousness, stress and sweat from running back and forth between the WriteGirl office and our new unit for the Intern Mixer (due to a broken A.C. on a hot August afternoon), overwhelmed my body as I, along with the rest of the WriteGirl team, prepared to host a panel of seven successful professional women for an evening of inspiration and career advice. As we were putting the finishing touches and bringing up the last tray of hummus and toasted pita bread, guests began to arrive. I had to shove my nerves out of the way and welcome each woman as she arrived. Before I knew it, all the guests had arrived and were mingling, mentees and professionals alike. It was time to open the event with a panel discussion where the interns and mentees learned more about each woman’s experience and how to be successful in her chosen field. I was the moderator! It was my first time moderating a panel discussion and though I was apprehensive at first, it turned out to be a lot of fun and overall, a great experience and skill to have under my belt. Each woman had specific tips for us but one thing they all emphasized was getting a college degree and pursuing our interests. The best piece of advice I received that night was to choose a career because it’s what interests me and it’s what I want to do not because I’m good at it or someone else wants me to do it. In the end, it’s better to choose something interesting and challenging that will keep you happy. It sounds cliche and it is easier said than done but at this point in my life, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to hear from these incredible women and be assured that I will find my passion and know where I am supposed to be.
At the end of the event, all the guests came back to the WriteGirl office for a tour and gourmet ice-cream — A perfect way to end a hot summer evening of empowerment and inspiration.