Striking the Right Note: How Music Led to My Career in STEM
At age 6, there were only 3 people in the world I’d talk to: my parents and my grandma. I was unbelievably shy. To help me become more outgoing, my mom and dad encouraged me to pursue opportunity after opportunity, which led me to discover music.
I started learning how to play the flute when I was 7 and developed a passion for it. With the flute in my hand, I was a completely different person. I became comfortable and confident in front of any crowd because I loved creating music. Every time I played, I got lost in the notes. My parents couldn’t believe their eyes.
I became a semi-professional musician several years later, touring rural Victoria with the Victorian Concert Orchestra in Melbourne and also playing in the Victoria Youth Symphony Orchestra (VYSO). At the same time, I was studying to earn my PhD in electrical and electronic engineering. I eventually became president of the VYSO, which taught me how to lead and be a team player. The skills I developed then helped me immensely throughout my career and positively impacted the work I do in networking and service quality management today. I still have bits and pieces of that shy girl inside of me, but my perspective is different. I learned the value of putting yourself out there and engaging with other people.
Ultimately, music led me to where I am today. I supervise a team of world-class researchers whose innovations help manage complex services and networks at AT&T. After I joined the company, I was told I got the position not just because I was a good mathematician or engineer, but I was someone who took the lead. The time I invested in learning and mastering music demonstrated my ability to take the reins.
In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to share some tips that I’ve picked up over the years that I hope will encourage women and young girls to nurture their interests. Here are 3 ways you can make your passions speak louder than words.
- Explore your interests. No matter what career you choose to pursue, take interest in other activities – whether it is debate, music, sports or theater. In doing so, you learn what makes you, you.
- Stay committed. Once you find something you’re passionate about, give it all you’ve got. Invest time into it. Your dedication can present new opportunities you didn’t know were possible.
- Take chances. Push the envelope a bit. It’s okay to step outside of your comfort zone. New experiences reveal your skillset and lead you down a path of constant growth.
These kinds of pursuits speak volumes about your initiative, commitment and ability to grow. It will also help you stand out from the pack when it’s time to apply for jobs.
My experience shows you can’t just rely on your education and internships to speak to your talent.
Let your dedication to your passions do the talking - it says more than you know!
Jen Yates is an Assistant Vice President at AT&T Labs, heading the Networking and Service Quality Management Research organization. Her organization is focused on inventing, prototyping and driving new technologies that enable new services, enhance reliability and address complex cross-layer issues across AT&T’s network.