"Follow your passion. Stay true to yourself. Never follow someone else's path unless you're in the woods and you're lost and you see a path. By all means, you should follow that." - Ellen DeGeneres
As a little girl I was beyond shy, but when I started learning flute at age 7, I discovered the one place where I could lose myself: music. Just a year later, I climbed on stage and played the flute in front of my entire school, and it flabbergasted my parents. My passion for music made me comfortable and allowed me to share a piece of myself with others.
As a young adult, I was able to find another passion in computer science, but it didn't happen automatically. I had a wonderful support system from family and loved ones who encouraged me down the STEM path. I grew up in Australia as one of four daughters, and our parents were our biggest cheerleaders. They placed a high value on education and provided us with one opportunity after another -- never discouraging us from pursuing our interests. Today, three out of four of my sisters are engineers. In my third year at university, something just clicked for me in a network technology class. I was absolutely fascinated with the complexity of computer networking and the potential technology could have on people's lives. I had found what I wanted to do.
Five years and three degrees later, I traveled to the U.S. with my PhD supervisor and stumbled upon a job opportunity. At first, I wasn't interested in the job. After all, my familial and educational support systems were back home in Australia. Why take the risk? But after some major contemplation and encouragement from my family and boyfriend at the time, I packed my bags and crossed continents to take a job with AT&T Labs -- Research.
Following my passion certainly paid off. What I thought was a huge risk was just the step I needed to take to advance my career. Both my personal and professional lives have flourished. The boyfriend who made the move with me is now my husband and father of my children, and I've been blessed with many wonderful opportunities since I left home for 16 years ago.
Today, my work revolves around massive-scale telecommunications networks -- leading networking and service quality management research at AT&T Labs and pushing the state-of-the-art in network technologies. When my team's innovations are deployed across AT&T's network, we feel a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that our work helps keep you connected to everything and everyone you're passionate about. It also happens to be a lot of fun for me!
As a mom to a newborn and two young children, a wife, computer scientist, engineer and leader, my goal is to become the same kind of supporter and champion for my children that my parents were to me. I encourage other parents, guardians and role models to let your children shine at whatever they're passionate about.
If they demonstrate a special propensity towards music or sports, let them play. Sing with them. Kick the ball around the yard with them. Cheer them on. Give them all the encouragement you can muster.
The same goes for their educational pursuits. From science fairs to spelling bees, help your children discover their passions. It might be STEM or something else. Whatever it is, give them the tools they need to succeed. Be there for them, and have fun doing it.
As my children grow up and discover their passions, I will help nurture their interests so that whenever they're faced with the decision to choose a path, they'll follow something that they truly love to do.