11/10/2014 01:13 pm ET Updated Jan 10, 2015

The Choice Is Yours: 4 Guiding Principles to a Fulfilling Career in STEM

In the early 1990s, when I was a few years into my career at AT&T, the company launched a series of commercials with the theme "You Will." The commercials showed concepts that seemed almost unthinkable at the time -- a look at what possibilities the future might hold -- while the narrator asked questions like, "Have you ever borrowed a book from thousands of miles away? ... You will."

Now, many of those things that seemed so amazing, like eBooks, GPS and video conferencing, are so common that most of us don't even think twice about them. That's why I love working in technology. It literally changes the world. What's not to love?

My story begins with math. In high school, I was a "mathlete," competing in team competitions around Georgia. One day, my math teacher pulled me aside and told me that the school was going to offer its first computer programming class and wanted me to take it. Keep in mind this was around 1980, when both computers and programming were pretty rare, especially at school.

I got pretty good at programming, but I still wasn't sure it was what I wanted to do as a career. When it came time to enroll at the University of Georgia, I went into the business school and found the perfect match: a Management Information Systems (MIS) major that combined my interest in computers and technology with business. I was hooked!

To choose a career in science, technology, engineering or math doesn't mean you have to have your head buried doing something like solving equations all day. Throughout my career I've done many things, from programming and systems architecture, to developing cool mobile apps and building tools that make things like using your tablet to pay a bill, or online shopping, a breeze. It's been thrilling to see these huge changes happen in a relatively short time, and I can only imagine what lies ahead. But all along the way, there are some things that have remained the same for me. Specifically, I've relied on four guiding principles to help build a satisfying and fulfilling career:

1. Be Bold and Believe: Sure, it's possible to reach a goal by taking small, cautious steps. But often you need to take a leap. It's doesn't need to be reckless, but it does need to be fearless.

2. Be Passionate, Positive and Prominent: The best part about this approach is how contagious it is. Whether you're talking to your peers or team leaders, a clear passion for what you're doing and a positive approach helps instill that same attitude in others.

3. Be Worth More Than You Make: Your contribution shouldn't be measured only in dollars and cents. This goes beyond being excellent at what you do, to include how you interact with colleagues, your reliability and responsibility, and dedication. Do more than people expect and they'll take notice.

4. Be Balanced: As the mother to a pair of teenagers, this one can sometimes be a challenge for me. There are constant demands from both work and family. Instead of allowing yourself to be pulled in a million directions, focus your devotion on your true passion, goals, and the people and things which matter most in your life. You'll then find that the balance often comes easier than expected.