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How can STEM education empower young women? A conversation with Lena Fedda, creator of Algerian STEM Girls _By Aya Boussaid

  • Tell us about yourself; Your background, your field…

           I am Lena, a final-year electrical engineering student at the Higher School of Advanced Technologies in Algiers.

  • Outside of academia, what do you do? Hobbies/downtime activities?

           Outside of Academia, I am the owner of @algerianstemgirls on Instagram, where I create STEM-related informative content in an engaging way. I am also a writer on “Medium” where I write articles about my other interests besides STEM. My other hobbies include reading;

I am an avid reader, with a deep passion for literature and fiction, and drawing sketches sometimes.

  • Can you tell us about your journey into electrical engineering? What made you interested in this STEM field?

        Growing up, I was that “curious” kid who would ask an annoying amount of questions wondering about anything and everything. When I started school, I was overjoyed that I was finally going to school to learn and feed my curiosity, which led me to take an interest in all the subjects, following up to high school where I was a mathematics stream student. The students of our stream are mostly found pursuing engineering degrees, so it was only natural for me to pick an engineering school, but at the same time I was into electronics, so choosing electrical engineering made more sense to me.

  • Besides your studies, you are also managing an online community called: “Algerian STEM Girls”, tell us more about it and what inspired you to create a STEM community for girls? 

           Algerian STEM Girls to me is the equivalent of the baby that its mother is proud to show off. I created this account back in July 2020. We were in the middle of a pandemic with a lot of free time on our hands, I remember being anxious that I was going to waste my time, so I decided to do something productive and create this account to do something I genuinely love which is learning new concepts and sharing them with people who share the same curiosity or interest. At the same time, STEM representation was lacking - almost non-existent in Algeria, let alone women representation, so when I was choosing a name for the account, I opted for one that would ensure the representation of Algerian girls/women in STEM fields.

  • As a student, you often have limited time and resources. How do you manage to stay organized with your Uni work and your STEM community?

        Indeed, being a student and a content creator and trying to manage the two at the same time can be exhausting at times. In my case, the challenge is even harder because I go to a higher school of engineering which means a tighter schedule and constant pressure. Thus,

when it comes to combining the two,

I always prioritize my studies, once I’m completely done with my schoolwork, I try to make a post.

  • What advice do you have for other students who aspire to take on such big projects while pursuing their education? 

       Something I’d recommend for anyone in STEM who wants to create content is that you have to set your priorities right (which in this case are your studies) without neglecting your other interests at the same time to avoid any potential burnout.

  • Your STEM summit is a notable achievement. Can you share what inspired you to take on such a huge project and what did you want to achieve through it? 

        The virtual summit was the 1st series of online sessions I did during the 3 years of Algerian STEM Girls. When you are a content creator in STEM and want to do something unusual you’re very limited in what you can do other than regular posting, but online sessions are very common, and since this account was created I wanted to do something of this sort. Luckily I could do it around the same time as the account’s 3rd anniversary. As for what I wanted to achieve; I basically wanted to help in making a bridge between Algerian women specialists from different STEM backgrounds to share their experiences and introduce their fields to the girls who are still studying and seeking more information. And if you noticed, all the guests were females, that wasn’t a coincidence, I aimed to highlight Algerian women in STEM as well through this event.

  • Reflecting on your achievements, what do you believe are the most valuable lessons you've learned as a student and as a leader in the STEM community?

        As I reflect on the past 4 years between university and leading an online STEM community, some of the important lessons I’ve learned are:

● Don’t compare yourself and your journey to anyone else’s because it’s pointless, each person follows a trajectory tailored for them only.

● You can’t be perfect, and you can’t do everything at once. Give yourself and your mind a break when needed, and you don’t need to be productive all the time.

● Be clear when it comes to your priorities, and try to remain as organized as you can, it’ll save you a lot of time when school’s pressure elevates.

● Sharing won’t do any harm; a pattern I unfortunately noticed is that people in STEM tend to gatekeep resources and opportunities. As someone who uses their platform to share these kinds of things, I can guarantee you that no one will take an opportunity from you if you share. And if you fear rejection remember that rejection is redirection.

  • What advice do you have for young girls who are interested in pursuing studies in STEM?

       Some advice I’d like to give to STEM girls whether in high school/ still in university :

● Don’t pick a major just because it’s trending or you’ve heard securing a job in that field will pay well. Make sure to choose what you’re truly passionate about to give your best, and endure any potential inconvenience.

● Take your studies and grades seriously, you’ll need them when applying for opportunities and scholarships.

Grow your network and don’t neglect social activities or events outside STEM.

  • Can you share any future aspirations for yourself and your community, where do you see it going? and what plans do you have in store for it?        As for my future aspirations regarding myself and my content; This year will be my last year at university, and I am hoping to graduate with honors and work on an interesting thesis. Content-wise, I envision Algerian STEM Girls focusing heavily on educational reels explaining hard concepts in an enjoyable way to the general audience.

  • Anything else to share?

       Finally, I’d love to thank ALWIS for giving me this opportunity to express myself, and for their constant support towards my content. It’s really heart-warming knowing that you have this huge network of Algerian WOMEN scientists supporting my initiative. I would recommend to every STEM girl to join ALWIS.

_Interviewed by Aya Boussaid; ALWIS Volunteer | ALWIS Writing Team

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