Insights and advice for making unbiased study and career choices

June 20, 2024

Choosing a career and study program is an important decision in everyone's life and should be free of stereotypes or unconscient biases. Sophie, high school student/intern, and Neethu, R&D test engineer, share their experiences and give valuable tips for young women interested in a career in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

Sophie - high school student in an internship

Sophie is a 17-year-old high school student specializing in physics and mathematics. She is part of the University of Bern's young talent development program. In her free time, she enjoys playing the drums, taking photographs and reading books.

 

How did you discover your spirit of discovery for the STEM subjects?

As a child, I loved looking at the stars and visiting the observatory with my parents. This sparked my curiosity to learn more about the universe and I bought books accordingly. This is how my interest in physics - especially astrophysics - was born. As a result, I decided to major in physics and mathematics at secondary school. 

What fascinated you most during your internship in the R&D team*?

The insight into different professions was very exciting for me, as I was able to talk to different people, from test engineers, physicists and electricians to software and hardware engineers. This has given me a better idea of the different professions. Previously, I learned a lot about the fields of study at school, but I was never able to imagine exactly what the job is really like in a company. And I think it's great to get to know women like Neethu in this professional role. Another highlight was the X-ray. I took my analog camera with me and got pictures of it.

What do you take with you from your internship experience into your everyday school life?

I now know that I want to study physics when it comes to choosing a degree course and career. I have also realized that, in addition to specialist knowledge, soft skills play an important role in professional life, such as explaining ideas and solutions or presenting work progress.

X-ray image from Sophie's analog camera.

   

*An R&D team is a group of experts responsible for conducting research and development activities to create new products, technologies, and solutions. They identify opportunities, develop ideas, conduct experiments, analyze data, and collaborate with other departments to drive innovation and improve existing products and processes.

“The internship gave me exciting insights into everyday working life and I now know that I want to study physics.”

Sophie, High School Student

Neethu Maliakal

IXM R&D test engineer, Internship supervisor
Flamatt, Switzerland

Neethu Maliakal – the R&D test engineer

Neethu studied mechanical engineering at ETH Zurich and started her first job as an R&D test engineer at Comet after graduating. As part of the internship, she accompanied Sophie on her career and study choices and gave her an insight into STEM professions. In her free time, she enjoys playing volleyball.

This is the first internship for high school students to be offered at Comet. What made you decide to mentor the internship?

For me, it was a great opportunity to give someone Sophie's age an insight into the world of work. I recognized myself in Sophie, as I have similar interests to her and entered a technical profession as a woman. There weren't many women in this field when I was studying and I think it's important to take advantage of this opportunity and encourage women to work in this field. And having only recently graduated and being relatively new to the field, I think I can give a good insight into the profession and have some understanding.

What could you contribute to the success of Sophie's internship?

In the previous interview, I found out what Sophie's questions and interests were and planned the internship based on this in order to offer her as many answers and insights as possible. Two aspects were important to me: on the one hand, Sophie should gain experience of what it means to work in a company like ours, how to communicate with each other or ask for help - in short, soft-skill topics.

And on the other hand, Sophie should gain an insight into STEM professions. To do this, I set up sessions with team members in different positions so Sophie could ask questions and follow her curiosity. Since Sophie is particularly interested in studying physics, I also organized conversations with physics graduates who studied at different universities and were therefore able to show the differences between the courses.

«Comet Flamatt is an ideal place for an internship because the development and production takes place in one building. This means that the pipeline from idea to finished product is visible and therefore offers a unique opportunity to follow and understand the entire process.»

Neethu, Test Engineer

“I've learned that having a degree doesn't mean I have to stay in this field. I can always continue to develop and pursue other career paths. This has reduced the pressure in my career decision.”

Neethu, Test Engineer

How did you decide to study mechanical engineering?

I took a rational approach and considered my interests at school to find out that I have a talent for and enjoy math and physics. When it came to choosing my study program, I went to information days to find out about different courses. As the engineering course is mathematically oriented and also includes the physics and mechanics that I knew from school, I opted for this course.

What advice would you give young women on choosing a career or study program?

A course of study should first and foremost be enjoyable and interesting. Specifically for women: Don't be intimidated by technical professions and subjects. Just give it a try and take the opportunity to study that the Swiss education system in particular offers. If the interest is there, but there is concern that it is too tough, try it anyway. And it doesn't always have to work out on the first try - don't be discouraged and don't jump to conclusions.

Could this be you?

We are looking for ambitious and passionate people who want to collaborate to make a difference.

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