May Interviews - #WomeninSTEM

The Interview - Dilesha Stelmach

  • Name: Dilesha Stelmach
  • Age group: 26-30
  • Twitter: @MzMachLovesSTEM
  • STEM Field of Study (or profession): Group benefits underwriter

Do you have a favorite quote? What is it and who is it from?

Do or do not; there is no try. - Yoda


Personal Experience

Q: What was (or is) your favorite subject in school and why?

Dilesha: “Science and Canadian Law - I loved that science seemingly answered the questions of the world. Canadian Law allowed me to identify what parts of Canadian society I wanted to improve. This happened to be health and the environment which I didn’t know how to harmonize until I became an adult.”

Q: What was your daily routine like (in school, work, or at home). How might this have impacted/influenced your participation in STEM?

Dilesha: “I am not an overly regimented person. I like to switch things up but as a child I always read a lot. I used to climb trees and read up there which was a lot of fun. By the time I reached high school, I had transitioned to a fully French immersion school where all subjects including gym was conducted in French to a school that allowed you to take 60% of you school subjects in French. The transition was very difficult and being that I was in a new township I became very discouraged.”

Q: Describe the first time you heard about STEM, why was this an appealing thing to be a part of?

Dilesha: “The acronym had not become apparent to me until I was already working professionally. I had applied to be a part of the board of directors for a not-for-profit called hEr VOLUTION that advocates for STEM education. I was attracted to the concept because I could have really used a mentor in my grade 8-12 years.”

Q: When was the first time you became actively involved in STEM? Do you recall a specific project or initiative?

Dilesha: “Definitely with hEr VOLUTION - our first initiative that I was involved with was our think tank back in 2016/2017.”

Q: How have your beliefs, motivations and aspirations changed over time? When did a career in STEM become a priority or choice?

Dilesha: “My beliefs changed during my first real speaking engagement. This was at TDSB’s first STEM Conference for girls called the Metamorphosis Conference. There was a little girl who was a girl of colour, who asked me how I dealt with being the only woman of colour in the room. I looked over at my panel mates none of which were women of colour and I told her that I remind myself I deserve to be here. That sparkle in her eye motivated me to be more visible which I rarely am. I often prefer to lurk in the shadows, afraid of being too loud/flashy or seen.”

Q: Who has served as an ‘influencer’ in your path to a STEM focused education and/or career?

Dilesha: “I didn’t really have an influence to my path in STEM. However my influencers for STEM advocacy are definitely Doina Oncel (hEr VOLUTION) and Tamar Huggins (Tech Spark).”

Q: What is your dream job? Can you see any roadblocks or challenges which might be influenced by your gender?

Dilesha: “My dream job would be as a Founder/CEO of a tech start up. The tech space seldom has women, much less women of colour so I have a lot of obstacles to overcome. The biggest one being my fears and apprehensions.”

Q: Are hobbies in STEM important? What about hobbies in general? Can you share some of your hobbies that may (or may not) have contributed to your STEM involvement?

Dilesha: “I love sports, reading, school and of course rugby which I no longer play but still enjoy.”

Q: Has there been any point when you (or someone close to you) wanted to give up STEM (work, hobby, both)? What made you stay?

Dilesha: “All the time. I always want to leave STEM. It is exhausting always having to prove your worth. I genuinely love analytics, telling a story through data, trend monitoring etc. so I continue to come back.”


Women in STEM Impact

Q: What does STEM mean to you?

Dilesha: “STEM - means privilege. It is a viable way to make a living but it is also access to answer to our questions. It is the future and shaping of our society’s prosperity and it is the key to what is to come.”

Q: Can you recall any times when you questioned your involvement in STEM because of your gender?

Dilesha: “As an adult no, as a child I didn’t even think it was a true option.”

Q: Can you talk a bit about some of the specific ways you have advocated for change? If so, please tell us more about the successes and challenges you faced?

Dilesha: “I am the chair of hEr VOLUTION, we provide access to ground breaking programming. I am also a Director at Tech Spark another organization that provides STEM access to those otherwise shut out of the STEM fields. A part from that I actively research and write papers, speak at conferences, mentor and really try to trail blaze paths for young girls.”

Q: Do you have a network of women in STEM around you to share knowledge and remind you you are not alone? If so, how did you go about creating that network?

Dilesha: “I DO - I have a phenomenal group of very social, helpful, empowering women that I have gathered simply by being social. I am always willing to let them know I want to connect and stay in contact. I don’t fear hearing no.”

Q: Do you have a mentor or friend who inspires you? How/Why? (someone you know personally)

Dilesha: “Tamar Huggins - Mostly because we are approximately the same age and she has been able to be such an incredible force in the Tech space. She is also so incredibly willing to mentor, assist, collaborate. It is phenomenal.”

Q: Are you involved/can you recommend any organization(s) that support Women in STEM (shoutouts)?

Dilesha: “hEr VOLUTION and Tech Spark for obvious reasons. I truly believe in what we do”

Q: Can you name any women who have made a strong impact in the STEM community? How has their impact made an influenced your life?

Dilesha: “Science Sam - Samantha Yammine is a complete idol of mine. She is a Neuroscientist PhD canadiate, a speaker and overall strong, positive, amazing woman. She really inspires anyone around her and again she is one of those women that do not mind helping a sister out. She is always willing to do SOMETHING to assist.”

Q: Are there any (YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc…) influencers out there who inspire you regularly? How/Why?

Dilesha: “@science.sam (on instagram) and @hiNicoleAnthony (on twitter)”

Q: Top three changes which could make life easier for Women in STEM?

Dilesha: “Access, Representation, Mentorship”


Advice to the younger you and women considering a career in STEM

Q: Which achievement do you look at and think “I’d love to go back in time and tell younger me that this was possible”?

Dilesha: “Being one of about 3 individuals without a PhD or MA to have my paper accepted at a conference tackling the Global Status of Women and Girls”

Q: Did you ever stay at a place where politics got in the way of curiosity, technical progress or personal growth? How did you realize, and at which point did you decide to move on?

Dilesha: “I think we all do this and it is very normal especially if the job is somewhat comfortable by other measures. I stayed about 8 months longer than I should have in a place that sought to stunt my personal growth. I moved on when my coworkers became noticeably snarky about me going back to school. Often purposely scheduling meetings on the ONE day that I had an alternative schedule of 11-3 knowing the other four days of the week I was working 7-4.”

Q: If you could go back and change one thing in your STEM path, what would that be?

Dilesha: “I would have pursued a science career - particularly research science.”

Dilesha: “Do not let your inner fear stop you from you goals and desires. The only person who can TRULY tell you no, is you.”

What’s Next?!

As a reminder, this week, we will be meeting with Estefannie Explains it All aka @estefanniegg who is a skilled maker and amazing YouTuber. Make sure to check out Estefannie’s Instagram and YouTube channel before the interview. To read more about the upcoming livestream, and to learn how to participate, be sure to checkout the 96Boards OpenHours website! Countdown and instructions on how to join can be found there!