By Renee Esses, WiTNY Intern

For the second Summer Conversation, my fellow WiTNY interns and I had the pleasure of hearing from a panel of women from Fjord: Design and Innovation from Accenture Interactive. Accenture is a global consulting service, and Fjord is their design and innovation consulting service, which “re-imagines people’s relationships with the digital and physical world around them.”

We were honored to be greeted by Tricia Barlow, program manager for Accenture’s partnership with WiTNY and Girls Who Code. We were then introduced to panelists Élida (Eli) Cruz, Sumeera Rasul, Lauren Oliver and Katelyn (Katie) Smith, who all work at Fjord and were more than willing to take the time out to talk to us. Leading the conversation, the Accenture interns, working at Morgan Stanley, Verizon, Express Scripts and American Express, posed thoughtful questions for the panelists. They covered topics such as maintaining a work-life balance, getting started in the field, and tips on brainstorming and working in groups. They also gave tons of career advice and personal advice to us young women starting out. Each of the panelists had so much insight that I will remember as I continue with my career path.

On work-life balance, Eli, who now has a 5 year old child, explained that you have to learn to adjust. At first, “I lived my job,” Eli said. But after a while, you learn that you have to set boundaries. Know your priorities and communicate them to those you’re working with. Katie added that “sometimes it’s not only okay to say no to taking on another project, but sometimes you have to.” Eli also advised us to have confidence in ourselves and our ideas and to be brave, which is extremely important when working with others. As Katie put it, “confidence and smiles go a long way.”

One of the most practical lessons that I learned, as Lauren emphasized, was the importance of communication. In the computer science and tech fields especially, Lauren’s advice is “don’t neglect your ability to explain your work, write an email… It’s your way of getting all that you worked hard on out there, to shine…” If you do great things but can’t explain them, nobody will know how great you are.

And on the topic of achieving great things, what I loved about Sumeera is the way she stressed that you can essentially do whatever it is you want. “It’s not really that hard,” she kept saying. “Find out what you want to learn and don’t worry about how you’ll get there... Really love what you do.” The path there won’t be linear, but what’s important is that you do what will make you happy and grow.

I earned my BS degree in multimedia computing from Macaulay Honors at CUNY Brooklyn College. This Fall I will be pursuing a master’s degree in computer science at Cornell Tech, and I am honored and excited to be receiving a generous WiTNY scholarship. I also now have a WiTNY summer internship doing research at Cornell Tech, providing me not only with work experience, but with the opportunity to meet a community of interns who are female CUNY students just like me.

Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York (WiTNY) is a new initiative between Cornell Tech and CUNY that is aimed at facilitating, encouraging, and enabling a significant increase in the participation of women in the tech fields in New York.

Some ways WiTNY is going about this is by offering financial scholarships and paid internships, as well as facilitating opportunities for young women in tech to connect with each other. This allows the women involved to create a community with each other, learn from interesting professionals in the tech fields, gain some real world experience working for WiTNY’s partner companies, and expand their education without having to worry about financing it.