From left to right: Caryn Harris, Margaret Thekkethala, Conny Chan
Every year the United Nations commemorates the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11th, a day which celebrates and encourages the participation of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) careers. Even though there has been progress in having women represented in STEM, women are still largely in the minority.
At Orion Health, we’re passionate about pursuing gender equality in our workforce and encouraging new generations of young women to pursue STEM careers. To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we wanted to feature three talented women in technology-centric roles at Orion Health and ask them about their careers.
Caryn Harris is our Principal Consultant in Edmonton, Canada. Caryn has been with Orion Health for over 20 years and has a masters degree in Physics.
Margaret Thekkethala is a Software Testing Intern, based in Auckland, New Zealand. She has been with Orion Health for 5 months and has a masters degree in Engineering Project Management.
Conny Chan is our Technical Solution Lead, based in the UK. Conny has worked at Orion Health for just shy of 20 years, progressing through a range of technical roles.
What made you decide to pursue a career in STEM?
Caryn: I have always been very interested in science and mathematics and have fortunately had a natural ability in that area. When I was at school, I always imagined I would be a scientist of some kind. My uncle had a successful scientific career, which was also in the back of my mind. The support of family and teachers throughout my years at school made a big difference, too.
Margaret: Since I was a kid, I’ve always inclined towards the sciences. By the end of high school, I was set on two main fields, either medicine or engineering. But, since I didn’t have the patience to pursue medicine, I jumped on the engineering wagon.
Conny: When I was a kid, my family ran a building materials manufacturing factory that I used to visit every week. I was fascinated by the manufacturing process and all these big machines. The big piles of end product ready to be shipped often amazed me, and I often envisioned how these would be put to good use.
What has been your biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far in your career?
Caryn: There is always more to learn! Don’t take anything at face value and continue to question what else could be a factor.
Margaret: Knowledge stagnation takes you nowhere. When I first started working, I naïvely thought that learning only what I needed for my job would be all I required to develop in the field. I quickly realised that science was constantly growing around me and that I needed to expand my knowledge base in related areas to keep up.
Conny: Perseverance in doing the right thing and staying open-minded for new ideas.
Tell me about an obstacle you’ve experienced in your career, how did you overcome it?
Caryn: Sometimes, people want to pigeon-hole you into a particular role; however, if that is not what you want to do, don’t be afraid to speak up. I never settled for what other people wanted me to do.
Margaret: Every different company has its own work culture, which can vary even more when comparing countries. The biggest obstacle I’ve faced thus far is adapting to a new company’s work culture when moving countries and companies. Starting somewhere new is overwhelming and challenging, but I’ve realised that being open-minded and flexible is the best way to ease yourself in anywhere.
Conny: I was the only Asian female in the early period of Professional Service Group UK, and sometimes felt isolated working in a male-dominated environment. I received a fairy doll for Secret Santa at my first company Christmas gathering. It was a sweet gesture, but it also highlighted that I needed to work extra hard to win the confidence of my colleagues and customers. Since then, I started sharing my views more and worked proactively by thinking outside the box.
How would you like to see the space for women in STEM evolve in the future?
Caryn: I have seen several improvements already throughout my career. As for future evolution, there should be continued encouragement of girls from an early age in STEM and mentorship engagement during their career.
Margaret: My evolutionary ideal is to see more women in STEM-related managerial positions. I feel that so many women are capable of being leaders but are not in those positions.
Conny: Regardless of position, leadership role or non-leadership role, all works by women in STEM would be recognised and credited.
What advice would you give to younger women looking to pursue a career in STEM?
Caryn: If you enjoy science and maths, don’t be afraid to do what you love. There are so many different opportunities these days. I didn’t quite end up as a scientist, but I have found a gratifying career with other enjoyable dimensions I hadn’t considered.
Margaret: Ignore stereotypes and keep networking! STEM is continuously evolving, and new career opportunities are created all the time. If you are interested in STEM careers, learn as much as possible and talk to as many people as possible to understand what may be available in the career market that suits your interest. A simple stereotype should not influence where you want to see yourself in the future.
Conny: Stay curious, ask questions and keep learning. Do not let anyone limit your curiosity, creativity, and capability.
Orion Health is proud to be highlighting and celebrating some of our talented women for this initiative. We are looking forward to doing more work in this space to promote our amazing staff.
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