Q&A with Victoria Steele
The Gator Career Consultant Q&A Series aims to create a diverse collection of career experiences through highlighting University of Florida (UF) alumni.
Victoria Steele graduated from UF in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. She is currently a principal software engineer at General Electric Appliances, where she develops firmware for induction cooking and motor control inverters.
Steele also earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. The UF Career Connections Center spoke with Steele on her experiences at the university and her career journey as an electrical engineer.
Did you ever use the C3 or attend Career Showcase during your time at UF?
I went to the career resource center quite a bit. I used their resume and interview prep services and went to almost every career fair starting my freshman year. I obtained my job with GE Appliances by attending a career fair.
How did you feel about attending Career Showcase your first year?
My freshman year, I went right in the fall semester when I got there, and I kind of wandered around like a deer in the headlights. It was really overwhelming, but then, by my last semester, it was honestly really fun and invigorating. When I was actually seriously looking for a job, I already had some co-op experience because of the CRC, which was really cool. By then it was really fun talking to recruiters, getting dressed up, and having your resume game plan ready. It was awesome.
Did you get your co-op through Career Showcase?
I actually did seven internships. I started out in the Department of Transportation for Lee County, which I got through a connection through my high school. Based on this experience, I decided that civil engineering was not for me, and I switched to electrical engineering. I interviewed with GE appliances through the CRC my sophomore year. I joined GE Appliances full-time in 2013, so my job now is definitely because of Career Showcase.
Can you share the skills you developed through your involvement in student organizations?
I was involved with SWE (Society of Women Engineers) primarily and a little bit with Women in Electrical and Computer Engineering (WECE). For SWE, I actually chaired one of their organizational events for incoming freshmen. The event is called eSwamp. When all the incoming freshmen engineering girls came in over the summer, we would organize a day down at Lake Wauburg where they would do canoe races and all sorts of other icebreaker activities. Honestly, I think that experience has made me really interested in bringing more women into STEM, which is one of my personal goals. It also helped me understand how to interact with new people that are coming into our organization, how they might be nervous or uncomfortable, or what their fears are. It was really a great opportunity to just be involved with an upcoming generation of new engineers.
What advice do you give to women in STEM?
I absolutely love my job. I love my career. There are so many opportunities for you as an individual to grow. I think being in a STEM field really means being independent and courageous, and it’s really empowering to be a woman in this field.
Do you ever suffer from imposter syndrome?
I work in a field called power electronics, which is part research and development and part product development. When I’m in the office, I sit between two PhDs guys that have over 20 years of experience. One of them has been writing code since I was born. Every day, I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth, but I think what’s important to remember is that I have skills that they don’t. I bring something to the team that they can’t bring. I am the only woman on the team. I’ve been the only woman on the team for five years now. That in itself is a position of power.
Is there anything that you know right now about your career path that you wish you knew while you were in UF?
I think one of the things that I really wish I hadn’t focused so much on when I was a student is being absolutely perfect and knowing the right answer all the time. I absolutely had to have a perfect grade. When you go to the workplace, you realize that you are not going to know the answer all the time, but you were equipped to find the answer, and it is okay to make a mistake.
What career accomplishments are you proudest of?
When I joined the group that I am on, it was really kind of a disparate group of individuals. Everyone worked in their own silo. Everyone wrote code in their own silo. Nobody really communicated. Since I have joined the team, one of the things that I have worked really hard to do is to make us more cohesive and interactive. From a software development perspective, to bring up the current coding standards and make sure that we’re really operating as a unit instead of 10 different individuals. I personally feel that I have worked and contributed to making that happen. And I’m proud of that.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Be bold. If you’re thinking about going to the Career Showcase, do it. The earlier you get out there and start exploring options, the earlier you figure out the right path for you. Interning, co-oping and working part-time are all really important experiences to help you develop as a professional. Those experiences make sure that not only are you finding a job, but you’re finding your calling.
Want to share your experience with other Gators? The Career Connections Center is recruiting Gator Career Consultants.