Celebrating International Women's Day on the Impact Team
March 8, 2019
On the Impact team at Vulcan, women are working on different aspects of our projects in a variety of roles - as biologists, project managers, grant managers, engineers, designers, analysts, and directors, just to name a few. They are protecting African wildlife, saving coral reefs, fighting climate change, stopping illegal fishing, and much more. This International Women’s Day, we want to highlight three of these outstanding women: Rebecca Ng, Paulina Gerstner, and Sailaja Yelamanchili. Impact team member and software engineer, Gracie Ermi, connected with each and collected the information shared below.
 

Rebecca Ng, Portfolio Manager

Rebecca_600x400.jpg Gracie: Tell me about yourself!
Rebecca: I grew up in Toronto and graduated from the University of Waterloo with a BSc in Environmental Science and minors in ecology and biology, and an MSc in Aquatic Ecology from McGill University.
During non-work hours, I wear many different hats: photographer, potter, curler, Nordic skier, SCUBA diver, swimmer, mother, wife and partner. I LOVE that I live in the PNW, and on most weekends you can find me and my family outside, camping, skiing, or paddling our canoe.

Gracie: What do you do at Vulcan?
Rebecca: Prior to Vulcan, I worked at the World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C. leading wildlife conservation efforts in Southeast Asia. I now manage the marine wildlife and ocean health portfolio on the Impact team, and focus on conserving sharks and rays around the world. My work largely consists of trying to actualize Paul Allen’s vision to solve complex problems and do good in this world, through innovative grant making and partnerships with various groups.

Gracie: What makes you proud of the work you do?
Rebecca: I see my work as an ingredient to a complicated recipe. Without it, the recipe might taste not-quite-right. I’m proudest when I see my “ingredient” contributing to make a recipe even more delicious –contributing to the greater good and having a positive impact in this world.

Gracie: Tell me about a woman whose work inspires you.
Rebecca: How do you even choose? There are so many inspiring women out there – Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle, Wangari Maathai to name a few—each giving a voice to the voiceless, and each empowering others to make positive contributions. But Ruth Bader Ginsberg stands out for me. She represents determination, strength in the face of adversity, and fierce intellect. She is, simply put, a bad ass. And she inspires me.

Gracie: What main change would you like to see for girls in the next generation?
Rebecca: I would love to see girls in the next generation be empowered to say, think and do what they want, without fear – of judgement from others, of failure, of not being good enough.
 

Paulina Gerstner, Project Manager for the Allen Coral Atlas

Paulina_350x400.jpgGracie: Tell me about yourself!
Paulina: I’m originally from Boston, and moved to Seattle a little over three years ago. I was first drawn to Vulcan because of the local community giving, impact investing, and Ebola work they were doing in Africa at the time, because I’ve always been excited by international development. Since moving to this city, I hate to admit that I have become a coffee snob. Particularly, cold brew – I make my own at home and am always looking for ways to improve my recipe. Outside of work I love to travel, especially to less developed countries. My absolute favorite is meeting locals during my travels and swapping stories about differences in tradition, ideology, culture, etc. In both my personal and professional lives, I thrive on connecting with others.

Gracie: What do you do at Vulcan?
Paulina: I’m the proud Project Manager of the Allen Coral Atlas – a game changing global, dynamically updated, high resolution map and monitoring system of the world’s shallow coral reefs. It’s an amazing and challenging project that stretches my brain every day. I direct a giant team of incredibly smart and diverse people, ranging in expertise from software engineering to satellites to coral reef ecology. In my role, I am responsible for everything related to timelines, budgets, milestones, and people – both on the engineering side, and on the strategy team side.

Gracie: What makes you proud of the work you do?
Paulina: I am immensely proud of the giant feat that my team pulled off in launching the Atlas in such a short amount of time. I think it speaks to the scrappiness and “do-it-for-the-corals” attitude that we seem to have, and continue to have even as we go beyond the minimum viable product. The team is so fired up about addressing the problem that they consistently go above and beyond to get the work done. On the personal side, I am proud to be a part of this team and proud of how much I have grown along the way.

Gracie: Tell me about a woman whose work inspires you.
Paulina: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She has an amazing way with words and writes incredible books. They are inspiring just as beautiful pieces of art alone, but they also bring to light issues of inequality based on gender and race. “Americanah” was easily the best book I read in 2018.

Gracie: What message do you think is important to share with young women thinking about their future career?
Paulina: Speak up! It took me a little while to find my voice in a group of strong personalities and opinions. When I did, though, people started coming to me for my opinion and expertise. I wish I had done it sooner, no matter how uncomfortable it felt at first. Also, Be a sponge - learn as much as you can from those around you and never stop growing your skillset. You never know where your future will bring you and what skill might come in handy.

Sailaja Yelamanchili, Quality Engineer

Sailaja_450x330.jpgGracie: Tell me about yourself!
Sailaja: I was born and brought up in India, studied Bachelors in Computer Applications, moved to United States and have been working at Vulcan for 12 years. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family & friends, listening to music, watching movies, reading, crafting.

Gracie: What makes you proud of the work you do?
Sailaja: As part of my job, I ensure the quality of software products developed at Vulcan are the best and feel proud to be contributing in making the world a better place: Saving Wildlife, Oceans, Corals etc..,

Gracie: Tell me about a woman whose work inspires you.
Sailaja: Mother Teresa

Gracie: What advice would you give to a woman starting out in your field?
Sailaja: Have willingness to learn and explore.

 
Although we couldn’t profile all of the fantastic women who work at Vulcan, we celebrate each of them, today and every day. And thank you so much to Paulina, Sailaja, and Rebecca for sharing your thoughts and stories!
 
Women-of-Impact_1000x500.jpg
Group photo of some of the fantastic women on the Impact Team after our last All Hands.
About the Author
Gracie E.
Research Software Engineer II
Gracie has been with Vulcan for about a year after earning a master’s degree in computer science from Western Washington University. Gracie is excited to have the opportunity to apply deep learning for social good as a software engineer in the Vulcan Machine Learning Center for Impact. She hopes that her work can inspire others, especially women and girls, to pursue computer science as an avenue to make change in their communities and around the world.

Category Tags
General
OnlyAtVulcan
Women in STEM
About the Author
Gracie E.
Research Software Engineer II
Gracie has been with Vulcan for about a year after earning a master’s degree in computer science from Western Washington University. Gracie is excited to have the opportunity to apply deep learning for social good as a software engineer in the Vulcan Machine Learning Center for Impact. She hopes that her work can inspire others, especially women and girls, to pursue computer science as an avenue to make change in their communities and around the world.

Category Tags
General
OnlyAtVulcan
Women in STEM
Build a better future
Working at Vulcan