Make Your Mark is a national contest sponsored by Bayer and Glamour. The objective of this contest is to “find and celebrate” women who are making their mark in a variety of ways such as:
• Pursuing artistic expression
• Working toward attaining knowledge through education or research
• Innovating entrepreneurship
• Performing physical achievements
• Committing themselves to philanthropic endeavors
Make Your Mark not only looked to acknowledge the remarkable things women are doing, but their ability to inspire others, as well.
I had the delightful opportunity to interview the winner of this contest, from Chicago, Jenna Blanton. Jenna is 28, and works for a global technology entrepreneurship program geared toward young women ages 10-23, called Technovation.
My interview with Make Your Mark winner Jenna Blanton:
1. Vicki: First of all, Jenna, congratulations on your wonderful achievement and recognition as the national Make Your Mark contest winner.
Jenna: Thank you so much! I think you really do things like this because you’re really passionate about them and not the necessary recognition. When it does happen though, and it’s out in public, it’s bigger and fantastic! It was a wonderful experience!!
2. Vicki: Let’s go back to the beginning, Jenna. What inspired your interest in science and technology?
Jenna: I started off as a very curious little girl, and was fortunate enough to have parents who saw that in me, and let me explore my own career path. I was always outside digging in the dirt, looking at worms, and collecting bugs. That passion for the natural world and how it works is definitely what led me toward a career in science. It certainly wasn’t easy for me because I really don’t have any female role models in my immediately family that work in sciences, so I kind of had to carve my own path in my family, but I was really lucky to have people around me that said , “If you want to do that, go ahead….we support you.” So it did all start as a very young child!
3. Vicki: That’s really very good that you received all of the support that you did. At the point when you started to know you were going to be starting to further your education, etc., did you feel that this was your calling and keep going forward?
Jenna: Actually, not really. I had a passion, as well, for Radio which also stems from my passion for technology. I went into communications in my college career, and declared myself a communications major. My parents were totally happy with that, and happy I was a first generation college student in my family. They were thrilled that I was furthering my studies, and career. I hadn’t seen myself directly in a professional roll in science, and didn’t exactly know what that looked like. I then was encouraged by a friend who was taking an environmental science biology course. She told me, “I think you’d really like this and should sign up next semester!” So I did. I took the course and fell in love with what we were doing in the lab, and what we were studying. I never thought of it as work. It wasn’t till later in my college career that I called my parents and told them that this (science) was actually what I wanted to do. Initially they were a bit taken aback , but became very supportive. I had never made a direct correlation , as a younger person, that I could truly have made a career and make a life out of studying science.
4. Vicki: That’s fascinating, Jenna, and a very inspiring story. You truly found your way back to where you were meant to be!
Jenna: Yes… it’s true. I maintained my degree in communications, and a double degree in communications and environmental science. People would always say to me, “What are you going to do with that?” It may be surprising to some, but not to me that I have made a career by talking about my passion and doing my passion for science and engineering! I’ve dedicated my entire career to talking with people about how important science and engineering is for our country, especially in regards to women and young children. I’ve really come full circle and have been able to put these two things together and it’s really exciting.
5. Vicki: I think it’s very impressive and so synchronistic! You’ve now won the $5000 scholarship, a trip to New York to be part of the Glamour Women of the Year Event, and, be featured on a promo page of Glamour Magazine! How did you feel when you found out you were the winner?
Jenna: Oh my gosh… I got the call and it took a minute to kind of sink in. I found out in October, and the ball started rolling so quickly, and again it took me a moment to realize everything that was going on…. in such a good way!!! I had been working so hard, and working with my colleagues and a national huge publication and group saw value in what I was doing and wanted to celebrate that. I was absolutely thrilled to be a part of it all, and you know that’s what major markets are all about! It’s about women supporting one another and celebrating their uniqueness and success. I was thrilled to be a part of such a wonderful campaign! Again, we need women that are doing great things into a national dialog! It’s so much fun sharing that with my family and sharing the opportunity. And gosh, it’s just amazing going to the store and picking up a magazine and your face is in there… It’s just unbelievable!
6. Vicki: The video you created as part of your entry into the Make Your Mark contest is exceptional. Your on-camera presence and presentation is truly inspiring!
Jenna: Thank you, that’s so kind. It was really an interesting experience. I’m normally a person behind the scenes, or on my computer trying to make programs or things like that happen. There were probably around 15 or more people buzzing around the room when we were doing the video, and I’m used to usually being “one of the people buzzing”. This time being the “main event”, and in the spotlight…. I had to “pinch” myself a couple of times It was great!!!
7. Vicki: You sure did a wonderful job, Jenna! Having won this contest, I’m wondering what some of your future aspirations are for your venture, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)?
Jenna: I’ve dedicated my entire career to bringing the conversation about how important engineering , specifically, is to young people, and getting that interest exposed at a young age!! I think a lot of girls and women, when they picture an engineer say, “Oh, it’s someone in a lab coat”. Or they visualize , especially a computer scientist, as somebody in a dark cubicle not having very much fun. That’s completely contrary to what science and engineering is all about! It’s incredibly inner disciplinary, it’s fun, it’s collaborative and above all, it’s creative! I really want to dedicate all of my work to communicate those specific points! For instance, just because you may see yourself as a “possibly” artistic person, but you’re “kind of” good at math…You could be a Design Engineer!! It’s connecting these points for children and young women specifically early on so they can condition themselves and seek out opportunities that will enhance their journey into a career in engineering !!
8. Vicki: What a very interesting theory Jenna! In closing, would you like to share some specific points to those young gals who may be curious and thinking about engineering as a career, but just aren’t sure?
• If you don’t know something, but are really interested put yourself out there!
• It’s ok to fail! (Failure is a huge part of engineering, and as a lot of people know you may not always get to the top on your very first try!)
• Be very persistent! (Put yourself in situations where you may feel that you’re under represented , but just know there are a lot of women out there that are doing that.)
• Find support networks! (Make Your Mark sponsored by Bayer & Glamour is one example!)
• Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!
Vicki: Ongoing success, Jenna! Thank you very much your informative and exceptional interview.
After reading Jenna’s interview, take a moment to visit http://www.glamour.com/make-your-mark and view Jenna’s video and Glamour Magazine promo page. Jenna truly has “made her mark”, and we wish her ongoing success with all her endeavors in 2015!
Congratulations Jenna Blanton !!
(Any quoted or paraphrased information in this article was obtained by a provided fact sheets regarding the “Make Your Mark” contest. Much gratitude to Jenna Blanton for taking time out of her busy schedule for this very inspiring interview.)