Tea Talk: For Women’s History Month, 3 Fermilab employees discuss their career journeys

On March 24, in honor of Women’s History Month, about 90 participants tuned in virtually to hear short talks from three outstanding employees about their career journeys.

The theme for the Tea Talk event was #ChooseToChallenge and was inspired by this year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme.

The three speakers, who have diverse backgrounds and roles at the lab, recounted their stories and gave advice valuable to all lab employees.

From left to right: Martha Michels, Ketevan Akhobadze and Shaorui Li.

From left to right: Martha Michels, Ketevan Akhobadze and Shaorui Li.

Martha Michels, deputy chief operating officer, talked about her over-30-year career with Fermilab and the various technical and management positions she has held. Michels joined Fermilab in 1990 as a student and has since moved between divisions and sections, as well as projects, providing Environment, Safety and Health support and evolving business practices. Most recently, she moved into the deputy COO role to assist with improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the business operations more broadly at the laboratory.

Ketevan Akhobadze, education facilities coordinator, shared how Fermilab’s welcoming environment helped her when she moved to the U.S. from the country of Georgia, at a time when she had just started her family. Her message to anyone who considers a career at Fermilab is that they will find a home here, even if far away from their home country and family. Akhobadze, who holds a Ph.D. in physics and mathematics, encourages young girls to pursue STEM careers.

Shaorui Li, principal engineer and quantum ASICs group leader, is new to Fermilab. Having had experience working as an engineer both in the private sector and at another national laboratory, she enjoys the broad-range and innovation-oriented aspects of the research carried out at national labs, compared to the more product- and task-oriented engineering work in industry. Her advice is that it is important to publish and make contributions with good impact in collaborations for career advancement.

Valerie Higgins, Amanda Early, Maura Barone, Eileen Beno, Monika Lasota, Shaorui Li, Laura Rogas, Julie Saviano and Dawn Staszak organized the event. The Tea Talk was hosted by the Fermilab Women’s Initiative, or WI, and Fermilab Society of Women Engineers, or fSWE.

If you are interested in subscribing to mailing lists of the WI, fSWE or other lab resource groups, please email Dawn Staszak or Valerie Higgins. Please reach out to the Women’s Initiative Board if you have suggestions for future Tea Talk speakers.