GE Women in STEM: From Pac Man to GE Power Services
As a child, Michelle Wu loved video arcade games like Pac Man; then she fell in love with computer programming while at university. But it was during an internship at GE that Michelle witnessed a scene that cemented her trajectory as a computer science engineer.
During a staff meeting, she saw several senior-level women discussing IT issues with business leaders. “It was really inspiring. I knew that I could be like them and that this could be my career as well.”
“The internship gave me exposure to seeing women in STEM -science, technology, engineering and math- fields sitting at the table and discussing complex issues with top corporate leaders. This is what I aspired to do , and I realized this was a company I really wanted to work for.”
Michelle earned a BSc in Information Systems and Operations, with a minor in Computer Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, and an MBA from the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University in New York.
Java made her smile
“I loved Java and C++ — all the programming classes. They made me smile, because as child I would go to the video arcade to play Pac Man. When I did computer science, it was a way to return to my early enjoyment of playing computer games.”
Today, Michelle is Chief Information Officer & VP at GE Power Services – Middle East & Africa. She focuses on leveraging the power of digital to help GE improve internal productivity, generate cost-out opportunities and enable enterprise intelligence, security and employees’ user experiences.
She also leads the Women in Technology initiative for the GE Women’s Network in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. The GE Women’s Network program has three pillars: retention, recruitment and diversity.
The women-empowerment mentorship program supports GE’s global initiative to employ 20,000 women in STEM fields by 2020. This includes fields such as computer science, engineering, product management, and manufacturing.
Already, across the MENAT region, GE employs more than 300 women in STEM fields. These female workforce numbers are growing, driven by GE’s diversity initiatives and efforts.
‘Recognize your accomplishments’
From her participation in these mentorship programs, and her own mentoring over the years, Michelle said that too often young women “don’t give themselves enough credit. They generally begin the [mentorship] discussion by talking about what they need to do better – never on recognizing their accomplishments.”
Her advice to young women looking to enter STEM fields is: “Give yourself credit. Look back and recognize your accomplishments. Don’t start with what you need to develop further, give yourself that affirmation first. This is really critical.”
Coach, mentor, sponsor
A second key piece of advice she shares with young women is to begin building their professional networks as early as possible. “This was advice given to me by a mentor, and was something I was late to build. This means finding a coach, a mentor, and a sponsor. Doing this will help you progress anywhere.”
The coach will ask you powerful questions to think deeper and help you navigate how you can reach your goals. The mentor, as someone with a lot of experience in your field or in your company can give you advice that comes through wisdom and experience. The sponsor is someone quite senior who is willing to put their name next to your name and advocate for you for promotions or help you gain more exposure.
“I was late in beginning this and I saw that my peers, mainly male peers, began this much earlier and I watched them move faster in their careers.”