“Don’t forget the happy thoughts, all you need is happy thoughts” – Lyric from Chance the Rapper
Meet Mylene Tu! In high school, she was a finalist for a city-wide female student athlete award and received Female Student Athlete of the year in her high school as an all Ontario (OFSAA) tennis player and track athlete. In February, she placed 2nd at a pitch competition as a solo competitor out of other teams of people. On June 2nd, Mylene received an Empowerment Award from the Canadian Coalition to Empower Women and the Business and Professional Women Ontario for her efforts in connecting young women pursuing STEM provincially. She also had the honor of signing their Statement of Support, which welcomes the support of the UN Women and UN Global Impact principles.
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
To give you the clear-cut, baseline introduction: my name is Mylene Tu and I am a first-year engineering student at the University of Waterloo. To dive a little deeper, I am the founder of FEM in STEM- a female empowerment movement that aims to help bridge the gender gap by bridging young girls together. I am an advocate of doing all things with intrinsic motivation and believe that one’s passion and career path should merge in harmony without compromise. That in mind, I am a recent ‘tech-convert’ as earlier this year I confirmed the switch from chemical engineering to management engineering with a minor in entrepreneurship (this deals with the intermingling of technology and business). On the side, I am also the COO of Crossbow Miles Canada, an organization that helps empower women and girls in India. Lastly, I am a fan of the uncomfortable & unknown- you will most likely find me attending networking events, conferences, meet-ups, etc. about topics I have little to no background in. You could say I have a bit of an addiction to wanting to do it all- I never want to get too comfortable as I find that the most growth and development come from stepping outside of one’s comfort zone.
Fun fact: My favourite weather is the kind where it’s sunny out but raining. This phenomenon is called a sunshower, they’re really pretty and always make me feel inspired to do something.
What # would define your life journey?
#HustleHard (inspired by this button I got attending a networking event run by the League of Innovators)
Favorite website / app:
Lately, I’ve been really into using LinkedIn and creating a professional online presence. I also have been liking Medium for the freedom of expression. In terms of apps/tools that have really helped me with ideas, inspiration, and collaboration- Slack, Canva, TED.com, and design tools like InVision and Sketch are great. Also, TheForge.ca, DataQuest, Codecademy, and other sites like that are great technical resources.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
I’ve got to say that one of the first people that come to mind aside from my mom or sister, is a lady I met at the first ideathon I ever attended. I remember meeting her and thinking, ‘wow this woman is so inspiring, it’s amazing how she has it altogether’. Her name is Timiebi Aganaba-Jeanty and I just knew I had to connect with her so during the second day of the event, I was fortunate enough to work alongside her. Just by seeing the confidence she possessed, the way in which she presented herself, and her organization, I admired those qualities greatly. I think aside from what I just mentioned, something she indirectly taught me was that I am not to young or incapable to make an impact. At the end of the event she had told me that I inspired her; being so young and filled with ideas it was working with young females that made her sure she wanted to teach as a professor. In fact, she noted how in the beginning of the event I was so new to all of this and so ready to be told what to do, whereas by the end I was able to find my way and freely lead by example. This really impacted me as she is someone who I found extremely inspiring and the fact that I was able to inspire her meant the world to me… And that is when I began to really grow my ideas and feel capable of doing so.
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
Growing up, I never had much exposure to STEM as I grew up in a smaller city in Ontario. I knew I liked sciences and mathematics but didn’t know what to do with that. My parents suggested engineering and that seemed like such a foreign term. Two words: Automotive industry. That was basically the extent of my knowledge of engineering considering my city had a heavy focus on the automotive industry and that’s what my parents worked in. Nonetheless, I gave it a shot and ended up realizing how much more ‘engineering’ meant when I moved to Waterloo.
I fell in love with the problem solving aspect, I knew I loved the program but at the time it seemed like the program didn’t really love me. In other words, I was living the story of a once top female student athlete- to the bottom of the class, uninvolved university student. I faced failure for the first time within only 2 months of university- it wasn’t just one midterm, or two, it was 3 failures. Imagine being so fresh into the next chapter of your life, feeling like you don’t belong without even doing the extracurriculars you loved. So I took a day to myself- I went out into the park behind my residence and explored and reflected alone. Now I’m not saying ‘go out and find yourself in a random forest’- I’m saying, don’t be afraid to take a day to yourself and explore something new on your own (honestly, you find a lot of cool things that way). After that day, I made the decision to email the track coach and ask if there were any way I could still join the team. As expected, I was told the odds weren’t great but to come out to the time trials anyways and work towards a goal for next year. I went out and to my surprise, I made the varsity team. I sat with the academic advisor, got a tutor, and even though there were so many things that seemed to go against me, I persevered and passed the term having also landed a co-op job in Toronto.
When I moved to Toronto, I didn’t have much family or friends around, so I spent my time attending workshops, conferences, and ideathons. These left me feeling inspired and that in combination with my first-year experience lead to FEM in STEM. Since I broke into tech (an industry I never really realized I was missing out on) I have been determined to fill the gaps in the transparency of opportunity and hope to diffuse the entrepreneurial mindset and STEM focus of Toronto and Waterloo, to smaller cities.
I can confidently say that if it weren’t for the challenges I faced in that quick 8 months, I would not have been able to grow into a quarter of the person that I am now as so much has changed since.
How do you cope with procrastination/burn out?
Growing your ideas from just a thought, to something that will make an impact isn’t easy. It takes a lot more work than I ever imagined (even though I never knew what to expect initially). Something that helps me is to not feel guilt in taking a step back or taking time to relax. Always be proud of your current progress and don’t sell yourself short of what you’ve done- take care of yourself and you will get there. The ideation journey is so ‘up-and-down’ and you really just have to recognize this and know that you will get where you want to be.
(Additionally, I want to convey to anyone reading this that they can reach out to me at any time! I love taking conversations further, hearing about others’ stories, sharing my insights, and giving people the opportunity to establish a connection with someone they barely know.)
To be honest, I have no clue what my ideal job is yet. I have certain factors and thoughts on what needs to be present within the job but other than that I really like the idea behind not knowing what my future career may end up being. As cliché as it sounds, life is so variable and things change so quickly; you never really know where it’ll take you next. As a general basis though, I do know that I want it to be a job I am passionate about, one that keeps me on my feet and challenges me (in a technical sense and to be a better person), and one that allows me to make an impact on people or share my knowledge. I want it to be something I love/am so passionate about that I don’t feel the need to call it a ‘job’.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Get as much exposure as you can, diversify your network, stay authentic, and never let the fear of being too young or inexperienced keep you from even taking the first step forward. Also, don’t be afraid to ‘walk alone’. By that I mean, going out to networking events and such has so much personal gain to it. You really enable yourself to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people, not to mention you are so much more focused on the content presented at these events and can better internally process the topics discussed and develop an even interest in them.
Learn more about Mylene Tu and Fem in STEM:
Personal Site: mylenetu.com
FEM in STEM’s info:
Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/femiliarize/