MBA alumna shares 3 tips for women interested in STEM careers

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

By Shabari Basu, MBA '13

(Originally published in the Charlotte Business Journal)

It has been a very interesting journey for me as a leader in the renewable energy industry.

I love what I do for many reasons.

First, I’m working in an exciting industry that is growing and developing.

The growing support and acceptance of renewable energy within our community is very encouraging. Unlike with fossil fuels, there are several challenges of integrating these variable resources into the grid since it’s hard to predict how much energy resource will be available at a certain time.

The unpredictability is challenging for planning and budgeting of energy generation, but very rewarding to see implemented and to measure the results.

Second, I’m seeing more women taking interest in my field — gradually. There is a dearth of women in technical fields, but I hope to see more women enrolling in science and engineering programs in the future.

Diversity in the workplace is very critical for innovative thinking. Women bring great perspective to the table — and that is important for any business.

Yet, there are still challenges for women professionals, especially those in high technology and the sciences. In order for us to see more women in upcoming fields like renewable energy, it’s important to focus on science and technology for women in universities.

However, enrollment for women in college and graduate studies in such fields has been dwindling compared to other fields.

The good news is that several universities and colleges have focused technical degrees that cater to high demand fields in the industry such as sustainable energy. These kinds of programs are important for women — and really all future professionals.

Strong technical degrees, along with adequate exposure to opportunities and networking with successful professionals in such pioneering areas, are vital for those entering the workforce today.

Since receiving my master of business administration (MBA) degree from University of North Carolina - Charlotte in 2013, my own network has grown in Charlotte and beyond.

While pursuing my MBA, I learned that the softer skills such as organizational behavior, change management and expectations management are very critical to being successful professionally. Being in a technical field, one often gets sucked into the minute project details, ignoring these equally important items.

For women who are interested in technology or science careers, I have several tips to share:

  • First, do not hesitate to explore a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-based career. We need more women in science and technology. Women can excel in this business on par with men. All of the opportunities are accessible for women to explore. You must have this belief in order to succeed.
  • Second, consider joining a women’s support group at your company or in your community to create a network of women professionals and share experiences. A network is vital to your success. Programs like #NextGenCLT are excellent starting points.
  • Finally, continue to learn and broaden your horizons. My background was in a STEM education, which I augmented with business education at UNC Charlotte. The important thing is to continue your education through your life.

Like in my field of renewable energy, I see much growth ahead for women in business.

Shabari Basu received her MBA from UNC Charlotte's Belk College of Business in 2013. She also holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in space sciences from California Institute of Technology. She is the technical director in the renewable energy (wind, solar and battery storage) department at Duke Energy. In 2016, she was named an honoree of the Charlotte Business Journal Women in Business awards.