Julia Haried is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of MakerGirl and also works full-time at one of the largest public accounting firms in Chicago. MakerGirl is a nonprofit organization working to bridge the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by educating girls ages 7 to 10 about STEM through 3D printing. The MakerGirl vision is for all girls to live as unstoppable forces who say "Yes!" to the challenges of tomorrow. MakerGirl workshops foster creativity, spark enthusiasm, and ignite a passion for STEM education and careers.
Julia serves on the auxiliary board of Chicago Council of Science and Technology (C2ST) and has been featured in FORBES, Inc.com, WGN, TastyTrade, and others. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy and a Master of Accounting Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
How did your educational trajectory and past professional experience shape your current work at MakerGirl?
My educational trajectory has been out of the ordinary. After a year with an undecided major at the University of Illinois, I was accepted into the business school, where I majored in accounting and also earned a master’s in accountancy. While earning these degrees, I also completed three summer internships, which included working at Rent the Runway and Teen Vogue in New York City. These internships influenced my interest in public accounting, startups, and technology, and eventually led me to my current position doing auditing and assurance for high-profile accounts, including a Chicago Major League Baseball team, leading law firms, and a Fortune 500 aerospace and defense client. When I was in college, it was hard to draw the line between my education and my professional experience. I was always developing myself in both arenas.
My internship experiences were seminal events in my career. At Condé Nast, I worked in production at Teen Vogue, often catching glimpses of Amy Astley, the magazine’s former Editor and Chief. At Rent the Runway, I created a finance internship and saw the inner workings of a technology startup. Plus, I met the two women founders, Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss, who were and continue to be inspiring and grounding at the same time. These experiences shape my work with MakerGirl in many ways. When applying for the internships, I learned to think on my feet and not to be afraid to ask for things, even if they had never been done before. While working those internships, I learned to be flexible and self-reliant. These experiences drive me at MakerGirl and at the public accounting firm where I work because I saw how women can and do succeed if we are given the opportunity. However, I could not help seeing the other side of this in terms of how few women were doing so.
How do you hope MakerGirl will change the learning landscape?
MakerGirl will change the learning landscape by having it be exciting and cool to pursue an education in a STEM field and then a STEM career. Boys have had the advantage in this for a long time and there is absolutely no reason for women to not see those opportunities as being open to them. I think MakerGirl will be a catalyst for this change.
What broad trends do you think will have the most impact on learning in the years ahead?
Including girls in everything is a broad trend in learning that I see for the future. People are becoming more aware of the statistics and of what it takes for women to pursue an education and career in traditionally male-dominated fields. A broad trend is having parents see futures for their daughters in these fields and encouraging them to pursue careers in STEM. My new baby niece will know she can be an engineer or scientist or programmer, and will be enthusiastically encouraged to do so if that is what she wants.
What is your next big project?
In addition to MakerGirl, my next big project is to become a CPA. To do this, one has to pass four tests. I have passed three already and will pass the fourth one this spring. I am currently studying for the final test during all my free time. This has been a daunting task while starting my career and running MakerGirl. After I pass my test, and after we have a big celebration, my next big project will be to blow the lid off of fundraising for MakerGirl so that we can expand this important mission to include tens of thousands of young girls. My co-founder, Elizabeth Engele, and I always have our eyes on funding our non-profit. We spend thousands of hours planning events, Kickstarters, etc., to insure that our programs continue to be offered across the country. Last fall we hired our first CEO, Stephanie Hein, and we are making sure she has everything she needs to succeed. We have all of our incredible university volunteers to recruit and support as well as an advisory board to manage and maintain relationships with. We are continually getting the word out about investing time or money into MakerGirl and enrolling girls into our programs.What advice do you have for girls today?
Be kind, be bold, and be excellent in whatever you choose to do.
Who are the most interesting or inspiring people you are following on social media? Who are three people you recommend we feature in New Learning Times?
Social media can be really informative and fun. I look for interesting, informative, and educational people and content to follow on Instagram and LinkedIn (my main sources of social media)! My favorites include Katie Kirsch (@katiekirsch) from Girl Possible, who also co-founded her project during her time at university and now works full-time somewhere else (similar to my co-founder Elizabeth Engele and myself). Another favorite is Jenny Fleiss (@Jenny_RTR), the co-founder of Rent the Runway (which was recently valued above one billion dollars!) and who is now the co-founder of CodeEight, a startup within Walmart. As the law of averages theorizes and as Jim Rohn says, you become the average of the people you spend the most time with. Social media is now a part of this equation too.
Image: Courtesy Julia Haried