This My Story/My Advice post features Cecily Kovatch, Senior Director at Ash Reuse Applications & Innovation Covanta. The My Story/My Advice project highlights women in STEM that are persisting in STEM fields and making a difference. It also gives their personal advice to the next generation of young women looking for encouragement to persist in STEM.
I always was interested in math and science, but upon entering college, wasn't sure which major to pick. I took biology, chemistry, and physics, but none felt right. Then I took a geology class. Upon seeing the professor's slides of bridges and dams I saw the applicability of geology to real world situations that I could work in and problems I could solve. The practical, hands on nature of the subject matter excited me.
I desired to work in the field environment so I joined Schlumberger Oilfield Services, as a Field Engineer working on oil rigs. I discovered hydrocarbons in Brazoria County, Texas that had never before been produced, winning the prestigious Wildcatter Award. I later became more interested in the business side of energy, and after gaining my MBA, moved to the financial services side where I built and ran the Energy, Industrials & Basic Materials group at an independent research firm.
This financial perspective was phenomenal, but eventually I missed getting my hands dirty. I moved back to an operational company, this time in renewable energy, another passion of mine. We operate 45 power plants that convert garbage into electricity. In addition to leading our innovation program, I am executing one of our key innovation projects, the beneficial reuse of the ash that is left over after the combustion process. Its back to my geology roots to solve a real world problem while also incorporating my business acumen and market analysis to create a profitable business. It's very rewarding. My work is doing something good for the world. And even outside of work I enjoy using my STEM skills to understand the science behind nutrition, sports performance, and optimizing metabolism.
Be mindful of your career path, but don't map it out too far in advance. After graduating college, I thought I would go back for a masters in geological engineering. After working a few years, I found that I was more interested in the business aspects of the energy industry, so an MBA was the better move. And do something that excites you, challenges you, and gives you purpose. A college classmate made a profound statement to me a few years back. He said "with your science degree you can do something meaningful for the world." I thought a lot about his message, and made sure that my work is meaningful every day.
Check out more inspiring stories and useful advice from women in STEM here: http://bit.ly/1I2ZaJQ