A Seat at the Table: Data Scientists Dish on Working in STEM at 3M
Mar 26, 2018
  • At 3M, we want all employees to use their talent in bold ways that matter. Here, women in STEM inspire us every day by asking tough questions to find life-improving answers. 

    We recently asked two of our female data scientists to sit down with each other and chat about what drew them to 3M and data science, their experiences at 3M and what it’s like working as a woman in STEM. Both are employees at our Corporate Research Systems Lab. Jennifer Schumacher is an advanced research specialist with seven years under her belt at 3M, and Theresa Meyer is a software research manager with 14 years of 3M experience.

  • Why did you go into STEM, and how did that choice lead you to a career at 3M?

    Jennifer: Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be an author. But freshman year of high school, I took literature and biology and learned that I was better at technical writing than creative writing. I started to realize the power of science and that there was so much more to be solved. I began college as a chemical engineering major but switched to bioengineering when I toured a lab that was implanting electrodes into brains to record neural signals.  
    I started at 3M as an intern when a manager from the Corporate Research Systems Lab found my grad student profile online. My thesis was on human vision, which I didn’t think 3M did any work with. I found that wasn’t the case, however, as during my internship I worked on several experiments to help optimize safety garments, traffic signs, etc., for human vision. A few years later, I started as a full-time employee.  
    Theresa: I fell into a STEM career. I was always good at math and everyone told me to be a math teacher, but I always knew teaching wasn’t for me. I fell in love with a programming class I was taking because I got to solve problems that help people, and this coincided with the dot com boom, so the combination of both cemented my career path. 
    I ended up graduating with a degree in computer science, and the job I was offered at 3M was in the Research and Development area, working on new technology development. I was so excited to work with really smart people, creating products that would improve people’s lives.

  • How would you describe your job to a seven-year-old?

    Jennifer: As you grow up, you are taught how to do certain things by the people in your life. In my career I’m the teacher. I write software code that teaches a computer to notice and find things faster than humans. 
    Theresa: I develop software, kind of like the games you play on your iPad. But instead of games, we develop applications that improve people’s lives. For example, we work on applications to help people get and stay healthy. 

  • What does being a 3Mer feel and look like to you?

    Jennifer: We’re all science nerds who get to geek out every day at work. 

    Theresa: I used to picture 3Mers as older gentlemen with gray hair and beards wearing faded yellow badges, flannel shirts and jeans. But then I started working here and found that it is not like that at all. I forget how big of a company 3M is because it’s right in my backyard. Then I remember that it’s a Fortune 100 company and we work in the Corporate Research Systems Lab, and that’s a big deal because we have a lot of opportunity to influence the future of the company.

  • Describe your career at 3M in three adjectives.

    Jennifer: Stimulating, empowering, challenging. 

    Theresa: Surprising, anticipating, diverse. 

  • Have you ever thought about leaving 3M? If so, what made you stay?

    Jennifer: I once heard Astro Teller, founder of Body Media and director of Google X laboratories, talk and was inspired because Google X has some of the same principles as 3M.  I stay at 3M because I feel like I can still make a difference here. Plus, ethics are big here and I love Minnesota. 
    Theresa: Yes, but 3M has recognized the value I bring to the company and my “get it done” mentality. I worry that if I go somewhere else they may not recognize that as much. 

  • What have you been most proud of during your time at 3M?

    Jennifer: I am proud of overcoming the unforeseen challenges of traveling around the world with 200 pounds of equipment and successfully conducting experiments in each location. I am also proud of starting a new technology area (Artificial Intelligence) at 3M. I am very excited to see how we will advance innovation at 3M in the coming years! 
    Theresa: Building two research labs. I’ve worked over the last six years to help build the Artificial Intelligence lab within the Corporate Research Systems Lab, and the Data Science Lab within our Health Information Systems Division. And now I’m back in the Corporate Research Systems Lab, working to build our Software Research team and capabilities. I love hiring great people and building high-performing teams and culture.  

  • How can people be more of an advocate for women in their careers?

    Jennifer: Be supportive. Give them opportunities to speak. Ask for their opinions. Make space at the table for them.  
    Theresa: Recognize that the demands from a social perspective are different for women vs. men, especially with respect to family. For example, me needing to leave work at a specific time doesn’t mean I’m not passionate. It just means I’m trying to balance everything.  

  • Have you ever been the only woman in the room? What advice would you give to other women in STEM finding themselves the sole woman at the table?

    Jennifer: All the time. Don’t be afraid to speak up. If possible, find advocates to help you find your voice and echo your ideas. Women echoing each other’s ideas is important so people listen and take them seriously. 

    Theresa: I find myself in that situation a lot. Be confident because you’ve earned your place at that table. Don’t focus on the fact that you’re the only woman.

  • What has been your experience with 3M?

    Through our Women’s Leadership Forum and other efforts, 3M is working to attract and develop female leaders at every level of the organization and accelerate the inclusion and advancement of women globally. Jennifer and Theresa’s stories are truly inspiring and at 3M, we want to make sure all of our employees’ voices are heard. Whether you’re a candidate who has interviewed with 3M or a current employee, we’d love for you to anonymously share your experiences with us on our Glassdoor page

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