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The team at Chemours is passionate about the power of chemistry- it can do some pretty impressive things and they want to use it for good and to create a better world. Taking on the world’s toughest challenges is part of who they are. In Episode 12 of #PeoplewithPurpose, host Steve Amsden sits down with Rosalie (Rose) Becsey, Plant Manager; Jasmine Smith, Key Account Consultant; and Amber Wellman, Director, Sustainability, to discuss their passions for science, career paths, and advice for women and diverse talent considering a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Personal Journeys to Success and the Importance of Diversity

Rose Becsey is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy with a degree in aeronautical engineering, a passion she developed traveling to visit family as a child (and a little Top Gun influence too). Her father was an engineer, and she knew engineering was the path for her. The daughter of immigrants, the importance of diversity was also modeled for Rose from birth. She appreciates the value multiple perspectives bring to the table when everyone has the opportunity to contribute. “Chemours really fosters that culture,” she says, “I think the company really recognizes that having different backgrounds… allows us to see things from different views and makes us that much better.”

Jasmine Smith developed an interest in pharmacology while working at Rite Aid in high school. During her freshman year at Delaware State University, she did an internship in a lab and realized that she could see herself pursuing chemistry as a career. As an African American female in a field where only 4% of chemists are black (as of 2021), she points out that when voices and experiences are missing, the innovation necessary for scientific breakthroughs us lacking.

“How can we get more black voices at the table? How can we get more female voices at the table?” she asks, pointing out that Chemours does an excellent job making everyone feel welcome, offering scholarships to support minority and underrepresented communities in the sciences and making a firm commitment to get females into leadership roles. “It’s in our DNA to speak up when we see someone’s voice isn’t being amplified or someone doesn’t feel comfortable to speak up,” she says, “That’s the core of who we are as a company and it just makes it that much safer to show up as who you truly are.”

Amber Wellman grew up in a rural area where less than 10% of the population earn a bachelor’s degree and she didn’t have many examples of advanced education and science. What she did have was an insatiable curiosity since early childhood and teachers who inspired her. In fact, her high school chemistry teacher inspired her decision to pursue chemistry in college. Amber earned her bachelor’s degree at a small college in West Virginia, continued on to graduate school at the University of Tennessee, and went on to earn a PhD in chemistry. Amber is passionate about diversity of thought and discusses how vital it is to work together to overcome societal challenges like decarbonizing the economy, combating climate change, and preserving national resources. “We’re not going to do that unless we innovate and partner in ways that we’ve never done before,” she says, “It’s not just about people being present, but that they’re at the table with a voice.”

She also discusses allyship and how Chemours employees are encouraged to join Employee Resource Groups. “It doesn’t have to be the women’s network because you’re a woman,” she says, “So I’ve joined other resource groups because I can be an ally. Even if I’m not LGBTQ, I can be an ally and say, ‘I’m here to support you and I want you to show up fully for work.’” It’s so important that everyone feels safe showing up at work and being their authentic self each and every day.

All Paths are Different and Often Unexpected—Yours Will Be Unique to You

What exactly does an aeronautical engineer do at a chemical company? Rose talks about how Chemours recognizes people for the skills and talent they bring and doesn’t label them based on degree or qualifications. Her degree demonstrated her ability to learn. She’s experienced a range of positions within the company and had the opportunity to develop many skills along the way.

Jasmine’s experience has been similar. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in statistics but doesn’t have a background in business. Working at Chemours has allowed her much room to explore and grow professionally. The company’s rotational Commercial Development Program helps employees transition easily into business roles. “You’re given on-the-job training, you’re collaborating with different functions, different individuals at different levels to give you the skills that you need to be a robust business professional,” she says, “I’m finishing up my first rotation in sales and soon I’ll transition to a marketing role. I’m just super grateful to have this opportunity because there’s a lot of grace given… at the end of the day, we’re a team. We just want to contribute to the success of the business and the larger company.”

She envisioned spending the rest of her days in a lab after earning her PhD in chemistry, but Amber discovered a much broader world awaiting her at Chemours. She appreciates the opportunities to try new things and the company’s fantastic female leaders who are always willing to help each other out. “I quickly saw a network of particularly female scientists and female leaders who were willing to talk to me about their career paths and I realized nobody’s the same,” she says, “Finding what you love is super important, but also finding what you don’t love can be really important along the way too.” She points out that there is no right or wrong career path.

Advice for Women in STEM and Early Career Talent

Amsden asks the women what advice they would offer women considering a career in STEM and each offers useful advice based on her interests and experiences. Jasmine loves journaling, and she encourages early talent to keep a career journal where they can write out questions and things they learn along the way. She discusses her experience overcoming imposter syndrome, the importance of asking questions, and why you must never lose your curiosity and innovativeness. “Always remember to tap into that curiosity,” she says, “because at the end of the day, the only bad choice that we can make in our careers is one that won’t stretch us….Try anything and everything. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t know what you’re interested in and the world is literally at our hands… There’s literally nothing you can’t do.” When you try new things, you’ll learn about opportunities that might not even be on your radar.

Rose shifts focus to advice for women in the military considering a career in STEM. She warns them there will be hurdles along the way, but don’t be overwhelmed by them. Even if you don’t have a degree yet, there are possibilities for you at a company like Chemours if you’re interested in STEM. Chemours’ tuition reimbursement program is a great option for pursuing your degree to become an engineer or whatever else you’re dreaming of becoming after your military service. “Try different things,” she advises talent at every stage of their career, “Be open and be curious.”

“I think back to a book that I read several years ago and there was a quote there that has stuck with me: Whatever you’re not changing, you’re choosing,” says Amber. “I don’t accept that women can’t excel and advance in STEM. I don’t accept that women who come from rural or underserved areas can’t do great things. So when you look around and say, ‘Hey, I don’t choose that. I’m going to change it,’ go for it. We can do hard things.” To early career talent, she says, “Stay curious. Be engaged. Ask questions. Don’t accept the status quo, because if you’re not changing it, you’re choosing it. Be curious and keep pushing.”

Listen Now

Be sure to catch the entirety of Episode 12: Voices at the Table- Careers in STEM for Women & Diverse Talent at Chemours for more of this riveting discussion. If you haven’t followed us already, be sure to subscribe to #PeoplewithPurpose wherever you get your podcasts.

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