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Stephanie Rozek

A Conversation with Stephanie

What is your current job? Please list the title and briefly describe what it involves

I am the Executive Director of Hive Waterloo Region, a not-for-profit organization with the goal of increasing digital literacy, particularly for youth and marginalized groups. At present I am managing a campaign called Year of Code Waterloo Region, which runs until end of June 2016.My day-to-day work involves a lot of outreach, promoting STEM and the tech sector as a viable career choice to youth; teaching digital skills to students from 5-105; running events to engage the community around tech literacy and the possibilities it creates; creating partnerships and relationships with community organizations working for social change; fundraising; and managing a team of four plus many, many volunteers!

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

Like many women, I chose engineering, and specifically electrical engineering, to study because I was strong in math and science (and I heard electrical had a lot of math). I was equally strong and interested in music and the arts, but made the pragmatic decision to study in a STEM field as there are more potential career opportunities. I was also a little rebellious and wanted to take a different path than my parents, who’d both studied humanities. I do find however, that as my career has taken a circuitous path, I’m absolutely using both sides of my brain, and I’ve come to realize that having many interests and talents can be quite beneficial, rather than detrimental, as I originally thought.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Absolutely the people I work with. One of the best things is working with students, whether they’re young girls playing with Scratch or adults doing the Hour of Code for the first time. Hearing the exclamations of excitement when they “get” it, and make something work, is super rewarding and something I think a lot of teachers would empathize with.I’m also so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to mentor younger women and in some way, feel like I’ve made a positive difference in their lives. It’s not always easy to be a woman in engineering, and if I can help inspire someone to keep with it, that is the best feeling. Supporting and promoting each other is so important.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

In 2016, our team is celebrating National Engineering month in a number of ways! We are always running public events at our local libraries, teaching kids and adults to code; we’re starting a new pilot program for girls in select schools called HackerGrrlz; and we ran a very successful event in honour of International Women’s Day called Change the Ratio Waterloo Region, aimed at raising awareness of how we can work to promote gender parity in the STEM fields by actions at work, school, and in our home lives.

What advice do you have for young women who hope to pursue a career in your field?

Believe in yourself. Find at least one other person who will believe in you for those times when you can’t. Take risks, but calculated ones. Be impeccable in word and action; do the things you say you’re going to do, and do them well. Find role models you can model, and seek out mentors or sponsors (they’re different!) in your professional life. Have fun, as much as possible! Not every day is going to be sunshine and roses but if you find you’re not where you expected to be, it is perfectly fine to pivot and try something else. I’ve had numerous different career directions leading to today, and I finally learned that that’s ok.

Stephanie’s BiographyStephanie is the Executive Director of Hive Waterloo Region, a not-for-profit organization with the goal of increasing digital literacy, particularly for youth and marginalized groups. She is also the Director of Year of Code Waterloo Region, a one-year initiative in Waterloo Region from July 2015 to July 2016. A social entrepreneur by nature, she founded the ed-tech startup Hackademy Canada in 2013 and prior to that, the firm AvocadoDog Marketing.

Stephanie is an expert communicator and relationship builder who has worked with clients and companies locally in Waterloo Region and across North America, in industries including software development, healthcare, industrial automation, and academia. Her background and degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo give her a unique understanding of the tech sector landscape and how to make it more accessible to all groups.

Stephanie is a strong advocate for increased diversity and inclusion in technology among other issues. At present she is the KW Ambassador for TechGirls Canada, sits on the Women in Engineering committee at the University of Waterloo, mentors newcomers to Canada with the YMCA, and is a board member for the inter-arts collective Pins and Needles Fabric Company. She has worked at a leadership level with the Waterloo Region chapter of Canadian Women in Technology, TEDxWaterloo, and Engineers Without Borders Canada. She has received the KW Oktoberfest Women of the Year Entrepreneur award (2014), a Waterloo Region 40 under 40 award (2013), and was nominated in 2011 for a Women of Waterloo award.

Stephanie may be reached on Twitter at @srozek.

Learn more about Stephanie’s work Year of Code Waterloo Region – Change the Ratio Live Stream – Recording of “Change the Ratio Waterloo Region” event on March 10, 2016 in honour of International Women’s day.

 

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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