#WomeninSTEM: Stepping Stones from One Career to Another

*Reposted from Energy.gov. Writing Credit: Allison Lantero; Video Credit: Matty Greene*

Meet Cheryl Martin, Acting Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) and the latest profile in the Energy Department’s #WomenInSTEM video series. Her work focuses on catalyzing the advancement of transformational energy technologies that will allow the United States to stay at the cutting edge of technological innovation.

Cheryl’s love for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) began in high school, where she wrote up lessons from her chemistry class in the school newspaper, creating cost-benefit ratios of experiments from class. This interdisciplinary love of communicating about the business of science carried over as she pursued higher education.

Cheryl majored in chemistry for her undergraduate degree, and while continuing to study chemistry in grad school, she spent a significant amount of time “sneaking out” of her lab to the business school so she could learn how to apply what she was studying to the marketplace. Cheryl went on to spend 20 years in the private sector -- from research and management in the chemical industry to venture capital. Her experience with industry, small companies and startups -- understanding the technologies they’re trying to drive to the marketplace -- provided the perfect transition to ARPA-E.

Cheryl says that her job as Acting Director of ARPA-E is an opportunity to “be a part of a startup in the government” that focuses on early stage energy technologies. At ARPA-E, Cheryl looks at transformational projects to explore the uncharted territories of energy technology to generate options for entirely new paths to create, store and use energy.

There are many challenges to overcome in the energy field, and it’s important to have a diverse set of voices in STEM careers to meet these demands. Cheryl recommends that young women include all the skills they have -- those gained at formal jobs as well as through volunteering or nonprofit organizations -- when they take their next career step. These skills form the stepping stones that lead from one career to the next. And with a solid grounding in STEM, the opportunities are endless.