Interviews with leading tech women about their careers and lessons learned

EP 08

Dr. Karen Panetta

Engineering Dean at Tufts University


A career disappointment could have been the end of a dream for Dr. Karen Panetta, Dean of Graduate Education at Tufts University and President-Elect of IEEE engineering honor society Eta Kappa Nu. Instead, she turned the difficult experience to good. President Obama honored Karen with the nation’s highest award for engineering education and mentoring. But, Karen didn’t stop there. Her innovative Nerd Girls program, produced with IEEE, shows what young women can accomplish in technology. In Episode 8, Lauren talks with Karen about how she took a difficult situation, used it to propel her to new levels of success, and now is paying it forward by encouraging women to follow their “change the world” dreams.

Balance pride and humility

Don’t be surprised if your accomplishments and awards are met by silence. Celebrating your own success elevates women in technology. State the facts of your achievements. Share it out to the world when something significant happens for you.

Promote other women

Helping one woman in tech helps all women in tech. Women are not out for themselves. Show your support for others, and there will be a multiplying effect. Disrupt stereotypes. Women in tech are not just “pizza-eating nerds playing video games in the basement!”


Be a part of solving the bigger problem. Build up women. Invite other women to support your endeavors. The technology pie is growing. The tent is large, and women in tech can all fit. Women need to keep a growth, rather than a scarcity mindset. Changing the world will require both men and women to engage with each other in the space that’s big enough for all.

Allow the negative to make you stronger

Negative events happen. Negative people will try to bring you down. Failure is a part of learning in both engineering and in life. It’s what engineers do. You can respond with resentment, revenge, and blame, or you can use your energy in positive ways. Turn these events into transformative moments. Remember and lean into what you’re made for. Do what you love.

“Engineering is all about making mistakes and learning from failure. It’s funny that we, as women, sometimes in our own careers, when something doesn’t go as planned, and we have a setback or a failure, women tend to want to give up, and I think that’s not what engineers do.”
Dr. Karen Panetta

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