About Aisha Lawrey
STEM advocate, Aisha Lawrey, has 25 years of experience on this journey. Working in industry, government, nonprofits, and education she knows how to engage many different stakeholders, at all levels. Her focus is on increasing the number of women and minorities in engineering. Aisha currently works for AWS (Amazon Web Services), as the Training & Certification Global Lead for Education Programs, AMER (North, Central, and South America). Her role represents all the Education Programs spanning K-12, higher education, and professional skilling, reskilling, and upskilling learners. The goal is to show multiple pathways to learners that lead to professionals joining the cloud workforce. Prior to joining AWS, Aisha worked at the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), Inc. as the Senior Director, Programs and Scholarships. She was responsible for planning, directing and executing all scholarships and program activities. She was also the Director of Engineering Education with the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME). She directed and guided the work of ASME in helping to shape the future of mechanical engineering and engineering technology. Aisha obtained a Master of Public Policy and Administration from Rutgers University and a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electrical Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. A New Jersey native, Aisha now resides in Maryland with her husband and 14-year-old twins.
What lessons have you learned in your STEM journey?
There are many life lessons and skills I learned in the STEM subjects. These have been helpful to my personal and professional development. Performance Character traits such as grit, creativity, and curiosity are also important lessons I have learned in engineering. These apply to the other fields of study as well.
As an engineering student, I explored more about my curiosity and about how the world works. This has helped me find simple ways to teach engineering concepts to young scholars through hands-on projects. Like I have experienced, as kids become more familiar with engineering, it becomes less intimidating and more inspiring for creative potential.
I have learned that I am just as good as everyone else. It has made my skin tougher because I have had many challenges along the way, being the only woman or minority in many spaces. One big lesson is that the world is full of endless opportunities in this field. You can do whatever you want with this degree. Engineering can jump into any other career field but other careers can't just jump into engineering.
What has been a critical factor in your success?
Keep Your Eyes On the Prize. A critical factor in my success has been focusing on the main goal of increasing the percentages of women and minorities in engineering. This goal has been my motivation to keep pushing when I'm tired or feel defeated. Doing that has absolutely contributed to my success making them the focus. For both women and minorities, academic and social support is critical. Although I didn't have role models that looked like me, I had support from my family and friends in STEM. I want to be that critical factor of success for the next generation of STEM stars.
Network Your Way To Success. I have definitely networked my way to success. It's what you know and who you know. When answering this question last year, I emphasized the importance of busting the math myth; a myth in which excelling in math was a prerequisite to pursuing a career in STEM. While this sentiment still rings true, I want to emphasize the importance of networking. Fostering meaningful relationships for your professional career is necessary to enter and succeed in a STEM field. Networking can be as simple as participating in school clubs, signing up for tech newsletters, going to your professor’s office hours, or even hanging out after the meeting is over to socialize with colleagues.
What advice do you have for students and young professionals in STEM?
Get Comfortable Feeling Uncomfortable. My advice for students (women and minorities) wanting to enter the STEM field would be to not be afraid to get uncomfortable. Oftentimes, you may find opportunities that you think you can’t do, but the truth is that you really can. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable and try things you’ve never done before, because you never know, it might turn out that you actually like it.
Push Past Stereotypes. Choosing to follow a path less traveled by those of your demographic will always be a difficult decision. Even more challenging, however, is sticking to that path as you’re continually faced with the actions and opinions of those who are implicitly biased towards maintaining a particular status quo. My best advice here is to succeed in the face of this opposition with as much grandeur as possible. Recognize that there exists in some, this internal bias but refuse to let it corrode your sense of self-worth and limit what you think yourself capable of. Bring to the table your unique perspective and hard-earned talents and no one can reasonably refuse you a seat. Or you can always just start showing up with your own seat too.