Don’t Let Excuses Stop You: STEM Pioneer Urges Young Women to Embrace Challenges on the Road to Achievement

STEM Pioneer Urges Young Women to Embrace Challenges on the Road to Achievement

Rhonda Dibachi, the CEO of HeyScottie and a seasoned STEM professional, taps into her rich experience to provide five essential pieces of advice for aspiring STEM professionals aiming for success. This contributed article delves into Rhonda’s personal journey, spanning from her beginnings as a nuclear engineer to becoming a tech founder and CEO.



First a note to introduce myself:  I’m a long time veteran in STEM: I’ve been a nuclear engineer, manufacturing consultant, a tech founder and CEO, with a focus on AI and data in the manufacturing industry. Throughout my career, I’ve been a steadfast advocate for women and underrepresented minorities in STEM.

I’ll share my personal experiences and insights for those aspiring to make their mark in STEM careers. If you don’t think you fit the physical mold of a STEM person, consider the following:

Cultivate Knowledge! 

Get Smart, Be Smart: STEM fields are intellectually demanding, but they’re also fair in that your brainpower is your currency. You don’t have to be a nepo baby to succeed. Your background, your parents’ professions, none of that matters here. What counts is your ability to think, learn, and innovate. This is your ticket to success in STEM. As such, you need to make sure you’re smart as can be.  I know people who have used YouTube to get themselves an electrical engineering degree. Khan Academy and free online courses from Harvard, Stanford and others allow anyone with the will to learn. Have fun learning!  Have fun being smart!

But smarts aren’t the only thing you’ll need, you need to bring those smarts to the table, which leads me to tip #2…


Many STEM professionals have a hard time collaborating, wanting nothing more than to go in a corner and do their assignment and not listen to anyone’s feedback. I managed a shy guy who loved to come in off hours because “it’s quiet and I don’t get distracted”.  I had a really hard time getting him to understand that we needed to communicate continually to complete a project.  If he went off on a tangent, he wasted a whole day of work before I was able to redirect him.

Same goes for remote work.  You need to collaborate – you will learn quicker, you will end up smarter, and you will be that much more effective.  But if you’re just starting out, you might be intimidated approaching older, smarter guys.  The easiest way to do that is tip #3.

Contribute by asking Questions! 

I’ve seen brilliant young women go unnoticed because they do not speak up. We all know too many STEM “bros” who love the sound of their own voice in meetings – don’t be like them.  If you don’t know what to say, ask questions!  Ask for clarification, ask for opinions, ask for direction.  If you’re tongue-tied, just repeat what the other guy said with a question mark at the end.  When you ask questions, even those that seem simple, you often unveil insights that others have overlooked. This is crucial in STEM, where innovation often comes from questioning the status quo.

But what to do if you’re smart and collaborating and contributing but you’re still not feeling like you belong?

Cut the Excuses:

Don’t let your race or gender or your identity be the easy way out.  Let me give you an embarrassing example of what not to do.  I was really having a rough time in my Material Science class in college (face-centered cubic, anyone?); it was hard, I was struggling.  I mentioned it to my friend saying the professor was hard on me and that he was prejudiced.  “The professor just doesn’t like women.” I said.  My friend replied, “Oh, really? That professor gave me an A.”  Was I mortified!  Blaming my gender was the easy way out.  After her bombshell comment, I stopped assigning blame, hunkered down and pulled a C.  Don’t give yourself a reason not to try, don’t give yourself an easy excuse for failure.

Create New Opportunities. 

If you unwittingly find yourself in a toxic, misogynistic or racist environment – leave.  I left a lucrative position after a reorg when my new boss didn’t take me seriously.  I could have gone to HR and complained, but instead I opted for the even more lucrative position of co-founding a company that I helped take public.  And the boss?  Never gave him a second thought.

Embarking on a STEM career is not an easy path. It requires hard work, smarts, and the energy to stand out. But for those willing to embrace these challenges, the rewards are immense. You have the opportunity to innovate, to solve real-world problems, and to pave the way for the next generation of diverse STEM professionals. Remember, your journey in STEM is your own story – make it one worth telling.



About  Rhonda Dibachi

Rhonda Dibachi is the co-founder and chief executive officer of HeyScottie, an artificial intelligence-powered platform delivering superior sourcing options for manufacturing finishing services,  She is also American business executive, entrepreneur with several success startups and an enterprise which went public, and author.   She started her career as a nuclear engineer and is now a champion for AI and sustainability in the manufacturing sector.  Rhonda has served as a Board Trustee and Advisor for a number of educational, non-profit, government and educational organizations.

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