Women in tech

What career advice would you give your 12-year-old self?

October 11, 2022 | By Vicki Hyman

Today we celebrate the 10th anniversary of International Day of the Girl, which recognizes girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face in reaching their potential.

Tech has the power to drive progress for all, so an imbalance in opportunities closes possibilities for girls and women – and can inhibit innovation that can benefit  everyone. But women comprise only 28% of the workforce in STEM fields, and men vastly outnumber women in STEM majors in college.

That’s why Mastercard launched Girls4Tech, its hands-on STEM education program for girls ages 8 to 16, with employees as role models and mentors. Eight years later, Girls4Tech has reached 2.5 million girls in 56 countries, and a new partnership with the online media company We Are Teachers will bring its cyber and AI curriculum to an additional 450,000 third- to seventh-graders in the U.S. by the end of 2023.

But building a more inclusive future only starts with STEM. We asked women across Mastercard and female founders from Mastercard Start Path, the startup engagement program, to share a piece of guidance they wish they could tell their 12-year-old self as she started thinking about ways she could impact the world. (Says Girls4Tech founder Susan Warner, “Girl, pay more attention in algebra and take that physics class, because you’re going to run one of the world’s largest STEM programs one day.”)

Here’s what they had to say:

“You are in the room for a reason. What makes you different makes you valuable. And the best investment you can make is in people; at the end of the day, a mark of a good career are the team members you were able to support, not the awards or praise that you win.”

Salah Goss, senior vice president, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

"Surround yourself with people that are better than you at something. Find mentors that inspire you — reach out to them and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You would be surprised by how many people are willing to help if you’re clear with what you’re looking for. Make sure to always pay it forward — always be grateful to the people who have helped you along the way and consistently look to see how you can help others on their paths ahead."

Raiha Buchanan, CEO and co-founder of Gigapay, a Mastercard Start Path company

“You’re not the center of everything. But everything can be impacted by you. So use your mind to think boldly, use your voice to speak wisely, and use your heart to act passionately to be a force for good.”

Jeannie Hii, vice president, Business Administration, Mastercard

"Be curious. Read, ask and try to solve those 'tough problems.' Don’t be so worried about choosing the perfect career. It is indeed an important life decision but it will not necessarily determine your future. Instead, focus on problem-solving and surrounding yourself with smarter people than you. Learn from them, experiment, fail, and try again."

Maite Muñiz, co-founder and chief product officer of Truora, a Mastercard Start Path company

"Try new things. Don’t be afraid of failure. Life is a jungle gym, not a ladder. You have to go around, up and down to get where you want to go, and sometimes it’s not the 'top.'"

Stephanie Meltzer-Paul, executive vice president, Loyalty, Mastercard

"If you can imagine it, you can materialize it, even if doesn’t yet exist. Never let anyone’s limited imagination or biases influence your perception of what’s possible for you. Lean into your fears, take up space, and find a community you can grow and be vulnerable with."

Jennifer Gomez, co-founder and chief marketing officer of oneKIN, a Mastercard Start Path company

“Chose a career you love and that makes you better person every day. Don´t be scared of making tough decisions and choosing a challenging career that seems hard to accomplish. There is always a solution for everything, so if you make a mistake, everything is going to be OK. Enjoy every step of the way. Life goes by very fast. Never give up on reaching your dreams — the sky is the limit.”

Viviana Quiñones, senior analyst, Business Development, Mastercard Strategic Growth

"You do you! Lean into what you know makes you uniquely you. Don’t let self-doubt stand in the way of your dreams and passions. Self-reflection is a powerful tool for success; self-doubt destroys your individuality."

Sasha Krstic, president, Mastercard Canada

"Stop apologizing. We should never be apologetic for our opinions or ideas. Even today I catch myself starting conversations with ‘I’m sorry …,’ which immediately reduces your equality in the conversation. We should teach the next generation of women in tech to be more confident and that mistakes are just challenging learning opportunities.

P.S. Not sure my 12-year-old self would listen."

Ann Herrera, director, Product Marketing, Product & Engineering, Mastercard

Vicki Hyman, director, communications, Mastercard