On Friday, July 27th, the 1882 Foundation interns had the opportunity to attend a Women at Work mentoring session specifically organized for our cohort as we start our careers. Michelle, Linda, Margo and I met with experienced women in a variety of fields for an informational conversation on their experiences in the workplace and decision processes in shaping their career. We met with our host, Lily Cua, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Optoro, a reverse logistics company, along with Sojin Kim, a member of the 1882 Foundation program team and curator at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage; and Natalie Pappas, Relationship Manager at PNC.
The conference was an insightful look into the lives of professional women in 2018. We began with introductions from Natalie, Lily, and Sojin, who gave us an overview on their professional backgrounds. The rest of the conversation continued as a Q&A where they answered questions we had prepared prior to the conference, on topics ranging from deciding on a career path to challenges specific to women in the workplace. All three of them gave great advice on choosing the right career path, negotiating pay, networking, and more. They all stressed the importance of knowing your value as an employee so you aren’t tempted to undersell yourself to potential employers. This is an issue that many women, particularly those who come from an Asian background, struggle with. As the child of a Taiwanese mother, my siblings and I were often told that it was rude to discuss our accomplishments with people. If anyone was to praise us for something we did, we were encouraged to downplay the significance of the achievement in a polite manner. Natalie gave us a great tip which was to back up our professional triumphs with statistics so that there is numerical proof that points to our successes.
Overall, I am grateful that I had this opportunity to listen to Natalie, Lily, and Sojin. As a young woman who is preparing for the start of her professional career, the future can seem overwhelming at times. I am very appreciative that these women were able to give me some guidance to help prepare me for what’s to come.