Cool Girls with Tag: STEM

Marie Millan

2017-01-coolgirl-marie-headshotName: Marie Millan
Age: 20
Location: Champaign, IL
Occupation: Engagement Director

Marie Millan has always been connected. As an infant, her father’s job establishing cell phone networks led to her living in France, Belgium, China, the Philippines, Canada, and finally California, all before the age of eight.

The physical momentum that had her globe-trotting in Pampers must have had an impact on her childhood dreams. It was her exposure to the poverty and struggles of those all over the world that led to her realizing that innovation could be used to alleviate suffering. Not to mention that troubleshooting with toys was the sort of pastime she was drawn to. Initially she became fascinated with NASA and fantasized about becoming an astronaut.

“I would visit the Houston Space Station and my mom could hardly keep track of me since I would go gallivanting off to sit in the cockpits and do the training to prove that I could be an astronaut. I had all the different aircrafts and procedures memorized and wanted to experience zero gravity so that I could drink little balls of orange juice while floating around,” Marie recalls. “That dream though soon changed to me wanting to design and build cars.”

2017-01-coolgirl-marie-officeAs a student in University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Marie grapples with collaborating on group projects like building a walking/crawling robot, and has to be quick-witted and resourceful when calibrations and materials need to be swapped out while working in a group.

“In the end, it’s a tug-of-war kind of game, where you pull a little and others pull back, and the trick is to find a way to equate the tugs so that there’s a balance,” she says. Her ability to maneuver machines and personalities equally deftly is part of what makes her work shine.

Marie does more than planning projects and concocting walking robots. She has become the Engagement Director in MakerGirl, a nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire young girls to be involved in STEM projects and creative processes. Her task is to ensure that the curriculum highlights the benefits of STEM, while also remaining dynamic and engaging.

2017-01-coolgirl-marie-mustache

“It’s finding that middle ground where the girls know they are learning things such as supply and demand, design, and spatial concepts, while having fun, so much so that they don’t mind learning things that they might not regularly be so thrilled about,” she says.

Her father’s influence has made her more than a little sympathetic with those girls who might be coming to terms with being just as overjoyed by making machines as they are about making dresses. “My father told me I could do anything as long as I had the passion and determination to make it happen. He was the one who would tell me that my scrapes and bruises really weren’t that bad and that it was better to just laugh them off. That kind of mentality has helped me through some rough patches, especially being a woman in engineering and has pushed me to do things I didn’t think I would have been able to,” Marie confesses.

As for her own advice to those girls growing up in the age of apparatuses?

“Don’t be afraid to go after and be the change you want to be,” Marie says. “Be all of who you are: engineer, hacker, inventor, artist, designer, storyteller, leader, teacher. All of those qualities together are what make you unique and empowers you to be the one that implements change. Overall, never forget that you can do anything you can dream up.”

For her work in mechanical engineering and her work with MakerGirl, we think Marie Millan is a very Cool Girl!

Check out MakerGirl on their website makergirl.us and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Michele Madansky

2016-10-coolgirl-code-michelemadanksy-300Name: Michele Madansky
Age: 50
Location: Menlo Park, CA
Occupation: Market Research Consultant

When it comes to devouring data and ravaging research, Michele Madansky is at the forefront of her field. Not only does this marketing consultant study the details of advertising and metrics, she helped craft the Elephant in the Valley survey which exposed some of the less savory aspects of being a woman in tech.

Unsurprisingly, someone this talented seemed to come out of the womb with a knack for her niche. “I always loved math, and started programming in Basic and playing on my father’s mainframe computer when I was in middle school,” Michele recalls. “I always thought that I wanted to do something in STEM.  In my high school advanced chemistry class I was only one of two girls!”

As a result of tackling the one-two punch of an undergrad degree in applied math and economics and a PhD, Michele went on to apply her understanding of multivariate statistics and econometric modeling in legendary advertising agency BBDO’s Marketing Sciences department. Since then she has gone on to offer consulting work in a wide spectrum of spheres. “In one week I can be developing consumer insights on college students, new and expectant moms, business travelers and social media users,” she says.

Michele worked pro-bono on Elephant in the Valley after a former coworker at Yahoo! suggested she use her expertise with survey design and analysis on the project. The survey had crystallized after Trae Vassallo was subpoenaed to speak about her experiences during the Ellen Pao trial and this research became a collaborative project.  

“Although I did not have any personal blatant experiences with gender discrimination during my tenure in Silicon Valley I had seen many cases of unconscious and conscious bias, and was happy to help with this project on a pro bono basis,” Michele says. “Trae and I participated in a podcast with Kara Swisher from recode and were shocked and excited about how much interest was generated.”

Elephant in the Valley has sparked the passions of people beyond tech, and beyond gender. The illumination of the sorts of struggles women face in the tech world led to a new curiosity about the experiences of professional women beyond Silicon Valley.

“Based on the success of Elephant in the Valley, the 3% conference (http://www.3percentconf.com/) , which is focused on increasing the number of top women in creative positions in advertising asked me to help them with Elephant on Madison Avenue. I’m hopeful that all of this research about gender discrimination helps future generations of women in advertising and technology,” says Michele. (Elephant on Madison Avenue had its results unveiled by Michele during Advertising Week in New York at the end of last month.)

Between her two sons, both in high-school, and her love of tennis, Michele has a full plate beyond her consulting career. She has definitely moved beyond her formative years at her dad’s “big iron” computer. She reflects on how things have changed, and what this means to those young ladies transitioning to adulthood in the STEM field.

“When I started my career in advertising, most of the “quant geeks” were in the back room crunching numbers. I managed to do well because I had a great boss who supported me, but also because I was comfortable translating data into insights on behalf of clients. Now, there are a lot more opportunities for people with quantitative backgrounds, and they are often considered the rock stars of the agencies.”

For her marketing work and the role she plays in unmasking the gender gap in the professional world, we think Michele Madansky is a very Cool Girl!