Here’s How To Turn Your Passion For STEM Into An Exciting Career

by Erin Kelly
Mars, Incorporated

‘Women in STEM’ is a hot topic in today’s news cycle, as more and more individuals are recognizing the gender gap associated with professions in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries. As the movement to get girls involved in STEM fields gains momentum, it’s equally important to understand why this change is so important.

Leaving women out of the equation when it comes to science, math and innovation fields isn’t just unfair — it can deprive the economy of valuable insights, opinions and the potential for productivity growth. That’s why companies who cultivate an inclusive, female-empowered environment are vital to making STEM more accessible for women, thus creating a better, more productive world for everyone. One company that is stepping up to the plate in this department in a big way is Mars, Incorporated, a family-owned global pet care, confectionery and food business. Currently, women represent 42 percent of Mars’ talent pipeline globally, and their goal is to increase this by two percent each year.

We partnered with Mars to highlight some of the amazing minds that are contributing to a more positive future — and to show young women who are passionate about STEM the vast amount of opportunities available. Together, we found four successful women to share their best advice on how to turn your passion for STEM into a career.

1. Cui Wang, Global Microbiology Research Scientist at Mars Global Food Safety Center

Cui Wang

As a child, Cui Wang received the children’s encyclopedia as a birthday gift from her parents and was immediately drawn to the science sections, establishing her passion for biology early on. Yet she deviated from her plan to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry after several serious food safety incidents involving infant formula were reported after she had her first baby, prompting her to realize the importance and value of food safety. She made the switch to devote her career to conducting meaningful research to help secure food safety and health.

Today, she is a Global Microbiology Research Scientist at the Mars Global Food Safety Center, where she works with a team of 15 scientists, leading several research projects in the area of food safety. Wang emphasizes that as part of a unique and dynamic team environment, all members have the chance to take the lead on projects they are most passionate about — giving them the chance to make a real impact.

Wang advises young women to keep their minds open, follow their passions, and learn more about the many opportunities available.

“I wanted my work to have a purpose," she said. "I think the work that I am doing in food safety science research will bring long-term and continued benefits to not only the company, but the whole of society.”

2. Dr. Carla Lerum, Senior Program Manager Veterinary Systems Support, Banfield Pet Hospital

Dr. Carla Lerum’s job title is a mouthful, but it speaks to her varied roles and responsibilities — and the multiple opportunities her field allows. While she formerly trained as a clinical veterinarian, today Dr. Lerum manages operations at Banfield Pet Hospital's headquarters, "Central Team Support."

Although she’s always been an animal lover, it was her love for science and research, health care, and building things that made her think about veterinary medicine. The profession allowed her to incorporate her diverse set of interests while thinking critically and working with a hands-on approach. Today, her career gives her the opportunity to build her craft and consult across different teams and specialisms within the veterinary profession.

She encourages women with a passion for science to realize the seemingly limitless opportunities available in STEM, and to explore companies that offer flexible career path opportunities to try new things.

Her best advice for young women?

“Build key relationships early and often,” she says. “... Find what makes you happy, identify a mentor, and create opportunities to help you build your path.”

3. Stacey Espinosa, Global Product Development Senior Manager for Mints and New Benefits for Mars Wrigley Confectionery

Matt Schwerin for the Chicago Reader

When Stacey Espinosa was in high school, her brother told her that candy companies hired chemical engineers. A longtime lover of candy, Espinosa was inspired to learn more about, and eventually study, chemical engineering at the University of Utah.

“I [already] thought engineering was cool, and then I learned I would be able to add my lifelong love of candy to the conversation,” Espinosa remembers. “It sounded like my dream job!”

Today, Espinosa is the Global Product Development Senior Manager for Mints and New Benefits for Mars Wrigley Confectionery, which means she’s responsible for creating new and ingenious products within the Mars Wrigley portfolio. Together with a talented team of product developers, Espinosa collaborates with different departments in the business to bring the latest (and greatest!) delicious innovations to life.

To help change young student’s perceptions and educate them on what’s possible when it comes to STEM, she visits public schools in the Chicago area along with her female coworkers to share a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of Mars’ favorite candies. Being a part of a company that encourages teaching and mentoring others, as well as creating a space for women to be themselves and lead effectively, is important to her.

Her best advice to those interested in STEM is to realize not just what STEM can do for you (like offer exciting opportunities, a stable career path, competitive salaries and more), but recognize the value you can bring to the STEM industry.

“Your voice can enable a more diverse understanding of challenges and innovative solutions.”

4. Tina Blackmore, Science Engagement Partner at WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition

Tina Blackmore

As the Science Engagement Partner at WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, Tina Blackmore’s role is to help people understand why the research being done is exciting and important to the health of their pets. Blackmore partners with the research teams at Mars to get the word out about their findings, whether it's to pet owners or a university professor.

Although Blackmore has been an animal and science lover from an early age, her work as a teenager at a veterinary practice helped her to realize that being a veterinarian wasn’t for her.

Rather than get discouraged if a lifelong “dream” doesn’t pan out as you hope, Blackmore encourages individuals to stay true to what they enjoy and treat what may seem like bad experiences as growing experiences.

“There are so many jobs and careers out there in [STEM] that you don’t know about,” Blackmore says. “New careers will appear in 10 years that don’t even exist at the moment. … Everything you do or experience, the good and especially the bad, should be an opportunity to learn.”

This post is sponsored by Mars, Incorporated. Mars believes that more women in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business. Follow Mars on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.