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Melissa Flowers

How would you describe your college experience?

I did not enjoy it at all!  Having a minor learning problem really added fuel to the fire, but I was determined to finish.  I struggled in a lot of classes; mainly because I worked full time and took at least four classes.  I did that for two semesters and realized that it was not very smart. Once I managed to juggle work, school, and family, it got a little easier, so I kept on pushing through. I realized then that time management and prioritizing were very important.

When did you know that you wanted to major in a STEM discipline?
When I graduated from high school, all I wanted to do was get a job.  While I was a summer hire, the opportunity knocked and I was accepted into a training program as a civilian with the Air Force.  Of course because I was a female, I was placed in a clerical position.  At the time, I was ecstatic because it was a full time job.  It was a blessing and I thank God for the opportunity.  After a couple of years, I became very restless. I starting thinking that it had to be more to this rat race.  So a new opportunity knocked and I moved down to Middle Tennessee in the early 90’s in a new position, same type of position, but it was a new one.  It pacified me for a little while and then I became restless again.  So I started picking up extra job duties.  First I started training co-workers on office procedures.  Then I started working with the different types of software and helping user’s with application problems. Finally, I started troubleshooting hardware and software problems.  The one that I enjoyed the most was working with the computers and that is when I realized a career in technology was for me. 

What is the most rewarding thing that you do in your job as a STEM professional?
Meeting great people and constantly learning.  Before I came to MTSU, I worked for TN Department of Health.  Working on campus has made me realize that all organizations work on different technology levels; the total infrastructure in different.  So I am constantly learning, and for me, that is good. 

What would you tell a middle or high school girl about careers in STEM?

There are a lot of obstacles out there, including peer pressure.  You have to be persistent and dedicated, because it’s not going to be easy.  If you feel that it’s something really what you want, don’t let anyone or anything get in your way.  Also remember that for any career to be rewarding, you have to have a passion for it and remember there is a difference between having a job and a career.

What should middle and high school girls be doing to prepare themselves for college and a STEM careers?
Middle and high school can be difficult, so priorities have to be set.  Peer pressure and the need to belong can get in the way of dreams and aspirations.  If you share your interest with friends and classmates and you get that snicker or some discouraging comment, stay focus. Remember that middle and high school are just stepping stones to towards your future.  Also, surround yourself with people that encourage you and share the same interest.  So… you may be called a geek or weirdo.  You have to focus on where you want to be 10 years from now.  Don’t let negative energy tear you down and cause you to lose focus. Remember, this is about you succeeding, not them. 

What advice do you have for teachers and counselors who are assisting students prepare for a STEM major and career?

Be a good listener, don’t judge a book by its cover and never discourage. Everyone has something to offer, even if it is not obvious.  I realized that you have a difficult job and sometimes you feel over worked and unappreciated, but remember, it’s all about leading and guiding the students in the right direction.

 

What career advice would you give to girls if you only had 2 minutes?
Don’t let anyone discourage you!

Take criticism and learn from it!

Constantly check yourself to make sure you are on the right path.

If you fall out of the wagon, get back in it and keep on moving!