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Brand Ambassador Q&A: Lydia Atangcho

Welcome to the first of (hopefully) many posts featuring some of our incredible Brand Ambassadors! This month we're highlighting Lydia Atangcho who, as you'll see, is a powerhouse of ambition, incredibly smart and just one of those people who after you meet you want to follow and see what she's up to. 

Get to know her below and then follow her gardening and cooking adventures on Instagram @seed2stove

1. You just graduated! Can you tell us more about what you studied and where you are headed next?

I just got a PhD in Chemical Engineering with a research focus in peptide engineering for cancer drug development. It was a long and arduous process and I am SO glad to be done! But I am really grateful for the PhD journey and the intellectual and personal growth that came with it.

I just started a new job this past week! I am working at Boston Consulting Group (Detroit office) as a Consultant. I will be a generalist but hope to get into public sector consulting as that is where my passion lies--specifically in health and education.

2. What advice do you give to BIPOC women in STEM? 

Many of us have that little racist, misogynistic devil on our shoulder that tells us we're not smart enough, talented enough, hardworking enough, etc because there are so few of us in our discipline and even less who we can look up to as having made it to where we want to go. That little devil manifests itself in the sea of mostly white and mostly male faces that fill our classrooms, lab spaces, workplaces, etc. Even though we know those are lies and that it's the society we live in that has created those falsehoods, it's still easy to question our merits when so few around us look like us. My advice is to seek out a community of similarly-identifying women in your discipline or similar disciplines and to seek out those role models because they do exist, even if not many. (You'll often find that even our role models have felt those same feelings of inadequacy in their journeys.) Having a group of people who understand your experience because they too are living it is so valuable. And it reminds you exactly how talented and DOPE they are, which signals to how talented and DOPE YOU are. I remember always being so impressed by my fellow black women PhD students and thinking, "wow, this institution is so lucky to have us". That is the mindset you have to adopt despite the imposter syndrome that lingers. You will succeed because you have made it this far against all odds. You know how to excel under the presumption that you can't, because that is the reality of being a woman of color in STEM. That resilience makes you all the more equipped to achieve greatness, and you will! Also make sure you make time and space to honor all facets of yourself! Never be afraid to be your full self.

3. What was the last bold or brave decision you have had to make? 

Deciding that I didn't want to follow the traditional career routes for a PhD in my discipline. Three years into my PhD I was certain research was not the long-term career for me--neither in an academic nor an industry setting. I took a leap of faith and decided to pursue consulting instead with the hope of getting into policy eventually. Check back in a few years to see how I made out!

4. What advice would you give your freshman year self?

Don't ignore your interests because they don't align with the plan that you've made for yourself with your parents' blessing. Success isn't defined by the types of degrees you got, especially if they don't make you happy. One day you're going to wish you had pursued those "nagging" interests way sooner.

Lightning Round Questions
  1. What is your favorite way to have Teffola? With yogurt and peaches OR on a creamy dessert!

  2. Favorite Instagram account to follow? right now, @embracingblackculture because seeing black joy, black excellence, and getting a good laugh is all I need these days

  3. Who’s your dream mentor? Prof. Paula Hammond (MIT professor)

  4. Plant mom or dog mom? Dog mom first, plant mom second

  5. #1 played artist on Spotify? Tom Misch