Name: Breenae Washington
Alma Mater: Missouri University of Science & Technology
STEM Career Path: Engineering Management w/an emphasis in Management of Technology
We want to know who Breenae is, and how you became interested in exploring an information technology career.
BW: I am a motivated person whose passion is fueled by life experiences and the idea of lessening the load for the future generations to come. I am a St. Louis MO native with humble beginnings. I discovered a passion for math and science at a very early age, but I had no clue the opportunities it could unlock. Luckily, several of my teachers recognized my strengths and encouraged me to pursue a career in STEM. That reassurance led me to the Missouri University of Science & Technology. Following graduation, I joined Mastercard as a member of their college hire program. Throughout my tenure with MasterCard, I have held several positions including Project Manager, Agile Coach, Systems Analyst, and Release Train Engineering. Today, I am a Product Development Manager for the Cyber Security & Intelligence team supporting Mastercard Identity Check. I am as dedicated to giving back to my community as I am to my career. I am an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® where I’ve had the opportunity to help our youth develop their passion for innovation and technology, like so many have done for me. One of my proudest accomplishments to date is my recently self-published STEM/STEAM inspired children’s book, The STEAM Queens, created to help expose girls to the opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math at an early age.
Walk Us Through Your Typical Work Day as A Product Development Manager.
BW: As a Product Development Manager, supporting cutting edge authentication solutions, there is no typical day. My focus is dictated by the pulse of the industry and I have to have the agility to shift my attention when and where needed. I currently manage two products, one that is being sunset and one that is being introduced into the market. With each comes its own challenges. Daily I have address customer concerns about how one system will be decommissioned seamlessly so that customers don’t face any gaps with functionality while simultaneously working to develop and design new functionality to give them a more holistic solution and a pleasant user experience. My day could include tasks like creating web content to educate different user types in the ecosystem, conducting product demos, identifying new use cases for product functionality and new features, etc.
You have a book; The STEAM Queens, tell us about how it will make a positive impact on your community.
BW: The STEAM Queens is certainly one of my biggest accomplishments to date. When I was a little girl, I had no idea what an engineer was or what they did. I was fortunate enough to have great teachers who believed in me and planted the seed. Even with outstanding test scores in Math and Science, I still found myself questioning my abilities because I didn’t see any other Black Female Engineers. That feeling stuck with me throughout college and even the start of my career, until I stopped looking for validation and started to trust myself. Now I am on a mission to pay it forward. Through, The STEAM Queens, I am hoping to give young girls the courage to celebrate diversity and the confidence to give Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math a try. It has already had a positive impact on my community because it has given young black girls a character they can see themselves in. It has also introduced concepts that some find scary in a fun and simple way. I hope to continue to build on these concepts in future stories.
Being an author and an IT professional can be very demanding here do you find inspiration to keep going?
BW: Being an author and an IT professional certainly keeps me busy, but understanding the opportunities STEM/STEAM can expose young girls to gives me that extra boost to keep going. I can relate to where they might be, and am a walking example of where they could be. Every time I see a picture of a young girl with my book, I am fulfilled. This is what walking in your purpose feels like and its worth the long nights and early mornings. My small contributions give girls, and their parents, hope. For some, they don’t get that feeling from anything else, and it inspires me to continue to do the work to help them understand the power they already possess. I am fortunate to love both, so that makes it a lot easier.
What other measures can we take as a community take to inspire more women/girls to pursue STEM?
BW: In the age of technology, there are so many resources we can leverage to inspire more women/girls to pursue STEM! Also, everyone has access to some form of technology, which means you literally have the world at your fingertips. Look for STEM events in your local communities. You can also take advantage of programs like Scratch, that offer free age appropriate curriculum to teach children coding principles. Or follow platforms like Ladies Love STEM on social media that show positive representations of women in STEM fields.
Can you recall the most interesting part of your career thus far?
BW: The most interesting part of my career thus far would have to be the different roles I have been in over time. I have been with my company for almost 7 years, and I have taken on a new role roughly every 2 years. Each of these roles have been vastly different but my ability to adapt and come up to speed quickly has been one of my strengths. It’s one of the more interesting things because when I started I certainly suffered from the impostor syndrome, but with each risk I took I was able to shed a layer of that stigma. I was not only proving to my colleagues that I was worthy of the positions, I was more importantly proving to myself that I was capable. As the tables have turned, today I am often sought out for new roles and I get to define my own career journey.
What has been the best Advice You Have Ever Received?
BW: The best advice I have ever received was to never be afraid to ask questions, no matter how silly they may seem. I know this sounds cliché, but many people find it intimidating to simply ask questions. Being the one in the room to question the status quo helped me to gain my bearings in a fast-paced industry and get up to speed a lot faster than trying to figure it out all on my own. It also gave me confidence. Most people sitting at the table with you often have the same exact question playing over and over in their minds and are too afraid to speak up. Ask questions until you understand. People want to help those who want to help themselves.