Why She’s Amazing
Elizabeth Engele and Julia Haried don’t want to be princesses. They want to be more.
In August of 2014, a Social Entrepreneurship class at the University of Illinois was challenged with a simple question – “What bothers you?”.
Elizabeth immediately had an answer to that question. On a campus that offered limitless opportunities for female students to make anything of themselves, she noticed and found herself and others often discussing meaningless, non-opportunistic topics. She hoped there was more to campus life and her future career. Julia agreed and quickly drew from her past research about the lack of women in C-suite positions. Their conversation evolved from “what bothers you?” to “why is that?” and “what can we do to change these issues?”.
Led by Elizabeth and Julia, four classmates created MakerGirl based on this initial conversation. MakerGirl is a mission driven program that strives to inspire young girls to be active in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). MakerGirl sessions are led by university STEM women and teach young girls (ages 7-10) about 3D design and printing, women leaders in STEM fields, innovative companies, cutting edge technology and much more.
Elizabeth and Julia want girls to take an active role in shaping tomorrow’s technology by saying “Yes!” to the challenges of today.
We had a chance to ask Elizabeth and Julia a few questions. Something tells us that these remarkable women are just getting started!
“Be you — you’re beautiful and amazing
the way you were made!” – Elizabeth Engele
Q & A
Q: When you were a young girl, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
A: Elizabeth: I wanted to be an architect. I really like the creativity and practicality of building design.
Julia: When I was a young girl, I wanted to be whatever my brothers wanted to be, no matter where that took me. I am the youngest of three children with two older brothers; there is an eight year difference between my eldest brother and a five year difference between my younger brother and me. So, I was a swimmer, a painter, an artist, a lawn mower and a Lego builder in addition to having my own interests in dancing ballet and dolls.
Q: What did people think when you told them that?
A: Elizabeth: Specifically, my brother really liked the idea of me being an architect because he had loved all of the drawings that I did of homes, shops, restaurants and more.
Julia: I have no idea what people thought because they didn’t tell me, and I didn’t ask.
Q: Did people call you “princess” when you were a little girl and, if so, how did that make you feel?
A: Elizabeth: My family did call me a princess, partly because I was the only girl in my family and had two brothers. It made me feel special and more like a girly girl, both of which I was okay with.
Julia: As I recall, people didn’t really call me princess very much if ever. We did go on a trip to Europe when I was eight years old and stayed on a street called Avenida Princessa and my mom called me “Princessa” for a while after that. Having my mom call me that was nice because it brought back very interesting memories of Barcelona and of Spain. My friends and I were not princesses, we were hard working and committed to academics, swimming and dancing. However, we did play a lot of dress-up. Much of the dress-up was historically based because the American Girl Doll franchise was selling historical costumes, and my friends and I had some of them. My first dress-up costume was made by my mom; it was an historically accurate costume from the 18th century based on the clothing worn in Williamsburg, Virginia. I did not play princess nor was I called princess.
Q: How did you become interested in founding a STEM-focused non-profit?
A: Elizabeth: I think it’s important for girls to realize that they have the capability to be “makers”. From there, I started looking more into the “women in STEM” problem and realized that there was a perfect segue between the two and the idea that I had for 3D printing.
Julia: I had no plan or intention to start a non-for profit or STEM-focused education program. My co-founder and I met in a social entrepreneur course, and that is where the idea originated. With that said, I grew up with a nuclear engineer father and a Northwestern University graduate mother, so STEM was not too big of a reach.
Q: What did you have to do to accomplish this?
A: Elizabeth: Work hard and find the right team members (starting with Julia).
Julia: We have had to plan, organize, plan again, organize again and be brave. We have had supportive people around us to coach us through this including our professors, family members and friends. This has been and continues to be a team effort.
Q: Did you have a mentor or role model who inspired you?
A: Elizabeth: Our social entrepreneurship professor, Noah Isserman, encouraged the project by challenging us to think about what bothered us and then to create a program to counteract the issue. From a young age, the women in my family have encouraged me to go out and see the world.
Julia: Yes, my “Auntie” Candace is my mentor, and she is a powerful role model for me. She is honest, hardworking, intelligent, dedicated, loving, beautiful and fun! I have watched her grow in her career, and she now has a global communications position for Hyatt Hotels and travels all over the world. She is also happily married and is raising a delightful five-year-old daughter. In terms of her career, I think she has far surpassed her own expectations. She is constantly planning family get-togethers. She is the glue that holds us together. As a young girl, I wanted to be like her and now do more than ever.
Q: Did your family and friends support your aspirations?
A: Elizabeth: Of course! They love the idea of MakerGirl and support me in all aspects of life.
Julia: YES! My mom and dad are my advisors and coaches. Sometimes they know me better than I know me and see what I can do long before I do. They make me look good; it’s like there are always in the balcony cheering me on. With MakerGirl, I run my ideas and others’ ideas past them. My mom, dad, brothers and aunt are always there for me. It is very empowering. Through MakerGirl, I have formed many, many new friendships, and they support and get behind the mission of MakerGirl with their time, talent and, sometimes, money. They are amazing.
Q: Did you think about being called a “trailblazer” for choosing this path?
A: Elizabeth: I did not and still do not. I think it’s important for everyone to work on what they are passionate about. In my opinion, that is not a “trailblazer” mentality — it is simply more efficient and overall better for the individual and the world.
Julia: I think it is a high compliment to be called a trailblazer. We, as women, are horrible at taking credit for accomplishments for which we deserve credit all the time. We are rife with denigration. I don’t know of many organizations going into inner-city and rural schools to even up the STEM playing field for girls. I think that is trailblazing, and I like it. All of us working on MakerGirl hope that this is just the beginning of stemming the tide and having far more women active in STEM fields in the future.
Q: What motivates you?
A: Elizabeth: I’m motivated my new challenges, some of those at which I fail. Every time I push myself out of my comfort zone and see what I am capable, I consider that a success. I’m also motivated by hearing other people’s stories; I love to learn about how others have overcome adversity to become successful.
Julia: I am motivated by life. I have an insatiable curiosity for new places, restaurants, experiences, etc. and challenges like getting into a great MBA program and working at a great company like Deloitte which I will do in the fall. I attended a Jesuit high school in Chicago, and we were steeped in being “women and men for others”. That is ingrained in me. I am also competitive and, in that way, my family and friends motivate me because I want to keep up with them. I want to be the best I can be.
Q: Of what are you most proud?
A: Elizabeth: I am most proud of graduating from a large university that none of my immediate family members had graduated from. The size of the university alone was over 12x the size of my hometown. This was a huge stepping stone for me and set the tone for what I wanted to get out of the rest of my life.
Julia: Right now, I am most proud of my MakerGirl team of 22 University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, students for raising $32,000. We all went out of our comfort zones to achieve and surpass our Kickstarter goal. I am really proud that these young women are headed on the road this summer and will be traveling around the country bringing this incredible program and opportunity to girls who otherwise would never have it. We kicked off our summer at a school in the Little Village neighborhood in Chicago which is known for its gang violence. I was so proud of my team. They did not let the reputation of the neighborhood stop them from bringing 3D design and printing to two classrooms of fourth grade girls who would never have had this opportunity. I am proud to be instrumental in that. I am also proud that I just earned a Masters in Accounting Science degree from the University of Illinois, which some say is the best accounting program in the country.
Q: What would you like people to learn from you?
A: Elizabeth: Anything is possible with a little hard work and creativity!
Julia: Ask for exactly what you want and more. Keep asking until you get a “yes”. If someone says “no”, figure out how to turn it around and make it a “yes” and keep asking. Also, choose to make whatever you are up to fun.
Q: What three words would you like people to use to describe you?
A: Elizabeth: Curious. Generous. Creative.
Julia: Hard-working. Smart. Fun-loving.
Q: What do you want people to know about you outside of your accomplishments?
A: Elizabeth: I believe in kindness. If there is no kindness or love, there are no accomplishments. This is something I’m learning gradually.
Julia: There is no replacement for kindness. I work very, very hard to be as kind as possible and to be straightforward at the same time. This is never easy, especially if something is not going well. I work hard to have people feel good working with or being around me. The following quote by Maya Angelou really speaks to me – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Q: Given the choice, would you do it all again?
A: Elizabeth: Of course, but why would anyone want a second chance?
Julia: Given the choice, I would do MakerGirl all over again. This has been a tremendous learning experience, and there are some opportunities involved in the process that may have taken years to get to like hiring a lawyer to create MakerGirl as a 501(c)3 and inviting people to be on our board. I would do it again, and it would be much bigger, and I would be much braver.
Q: Who do you follow on social media that shares your passion for encouraging girls to enter STEM fields?
A: Elizabeth: Julia Haried, Stephanie Hein, Sona Kaul, Manisha Singh, Lauren Wenig and Pree Walia
Julia: @Ultimaker, @Preemadonna, @Engeltwin2 (ElizabethEngele), @BarackObama, @Goldibloxs
Q: If you could eat lunch with one person, whom would it be?
A: Elizabeth: Frances Chan
Julia: Sheryl Sandberg
Q: Which woman would you choose to have on U.S. currency?
A: Elizabeth: Harriet Tubman
Julia: Marie Curie
Q: What advice would you give to a girl who right now wants to be just like you?
A: Elizabeth: Don’t be me! Be you — you’re beautiful and amazing the way you were made!
Julia: I would tell a girl who wants to be just like me that you must work hard to be successful. You may fail along the way, but those failures may turn out to be the most incredibly unpredictable successes. Be unstoppable, energetic and delighted with everything you do!
Bonus Question: What question would you ask the next Modern Day Trailblazer we interview?
A: Elizabeth: What is your advice for making every day valuable?
Julia: Why do you think girls loose interest in math and science in early middle school?
- Elizabeth is currently reading a book called The Immigrants by Howard Fast about the first immigrants to San Francisco. She recently moved there.
- Julia’s go-to karaoke song is “Our Song” by Taylor Swift.
- Both Elizabeth and Julia prefer vanilla over chocolate.
- Julia’s favorite quote is “It is not what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” by actor and playwright Moliere.
- Both Elizabeth and Julia are too busy to binge watch TV!