The future is bright: WE@BYU

A panel of female BYU alumni gave advice and encouragement to women students

Brigham Young University’s Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology hosted the WE@BYU: Women in Engineering and Technology Celebration on Thursday, March 29. A panel of women alumni addressed the engineering and technology female students present at the event, giving advice and encouragement.

Kellie Morgan, a graduate with a degree in Information Technology, advised students to get involved with research.

“Just before my senior year, I talked with a professor and he got me very involved in his research to the point where I published a couple papers while in school,” Morgan said. “It made me feel that much more a part of my major.”

Angela Trego earned a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD from BYU in mechanical engineering said that “life is about options, and going into engineering is going to create options for you. So realize that anything you do to create more options—though the decisions become tougher—the fact that you have a decision to make means you’re doing the right thing. Make sure to just keep moving forward with your engineering degree that will give you so many options, especially as a young woman.”

Nicole Stewart teaches and works with freshmen in engineering. She told students to not be afraid to talk to professors and TAs—that they love it when students come ask questions and that there is help and support available to all.

The event’s closing remarks were given by Sydne Jacques, owner of Jacques & Associates and chair of the Women's Initiative committee on the college's Advancement Council for Engineering and Technology. The theme for the celebration was: The Future’s So Bright, You Gotta Wear Shades! Jacques focused her remarks on that theme—taken from the song “The Future’s So Bright” by Timbuk 3.

“I just can’t explain how bright your future is,” Jacques said. “So I’m just going to read a few lyrics from the song: ‘I study nuclear science, I love my classes, I got a crazy teacher who wears dark glasses. Things are going great and are only getting better, I’m doing alright, getting good grades, the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.’ And that is your future and that is what we wanted the theme to be tonight….There really are no limits.”

Jacques went on to describe how she learned to live a life with no limits. The first step is confidence.

“This is my definition of confidence: confidence is only a belief that you can figure it out,” Jacques said. “That’s all it is…So you guys studying engineering and learning all the things that you’re learning, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t just be booming with confidence because you’re going to know how to figure things out.”

The next step is creating a personal brand. She challenged students to come up with three words that define who they are.

“My three words are happy, high-energy, and add value,” Jacques said.

To further increase success in personal confidence, she suggested a model for approaching life called Living LARGE.

“The L in large stands for listen,” Jacques said. “When I was starting my business, I hired a business coach and…the thing that he taught me that has served me the best was to be 100 percent present. How often are we really 100 percent present?”

The A stands for asking questions, and the R for respond not react. G is for generations, specifically the generations of engineers who have gone before and who new grads will likely be working with; different generations might communicate differently, but they all have something to bring to the table. And E is for managing emotions.

“How many of you are stressed with your lot in school right now?” Jacques asked. “It’s stressful, isn’t it? We have to do something to manage stress. Find ways to take care of yourself. How many of you have tried meditation? Just as we need to exercise our bodies, we need to help our minds learn how to take a break.”

Jacques concluded by talking about her own personal journey in finding where she fit in the corporate world.

She started out studying engineering at BYU-Idaho (then Rick’s College), went on a mission, transferred to BYU and switched her studies from engineering to math education. Her Book of Mormon class that first semester at BYU was so large the professor needed to find another room to accommodate the number of students. He found a room in the Clyde Building.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” Jacques said. “And at the end of that semester I was looking for a summer job. I walked out of my Book of Mormon class one day and there was a sign that said: Summer internship with the Forest Service--only civil engineers can apply. And I thought, ‘Forest Service, that sounds fun. Well I’m not a civil engineering major, but I have experience. I’m going to apply.’”

She was hired in spite of her math major status, and when she came back from the internship, she switched her major back to engineering, saying she knew it was the right path for her.

Jacques then closed with a quote from a talk titled "The Role of Righteous Women" by Spencer W. Kimball, asking the students at the conference to not only recognize how bright their future is but also to turn on their lights for others to see.

“‘Finally my dear sisters may I suggest to you something that has not been said before or at least quite this way. Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world…will be drawn to the church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness, and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy wayst—from the women of the world.’”

After reading that quote, Jacques joked that when she looked at the women present at the conference she saw women who were distinct, different, and who had the potential to be happy after finals were over.

“But I hope that you’re happy,” she said. “I know without a doubt that our Savior is returning to the earth and that we are here to help prepare for the second coming and that women have a great work to do and…engineering is a fantastic way we can use our influence. In our families and in our communities. People are going to be attracted to you as you go out and do the things you were born to do.”

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