Inventing Your Own Path
The annual Women’s Leadership Program at SMTA International features two leading engineers.
by Priyanka Dobriyal, Ph.D.
SMTA International returns to an in-person format this year, with a virtual option, and the Women’s Leadership Program is in-person on Tuesday, Nov. 2! The past 18 months have been a time of reflection and transition for many of us. Many professionals are reassessing their career goals and career paths. In keeping with this trend, our 2021 WLP theme, “It’s good we are not all the same,” was chosen to encourage attendees to explore career transition options.

The WLP this year will focus on the success stories of women who have created varied career paths, applying core technical strengths to a variety of areas and succeeding consistently. Hear how their diverse career experiences have contributed to their long-term success. Our two distinguished speakers have blazed unique career paths and will share their stories with the audience.

Gayle Schueller headshot

Dr. Gayle Schueller

Dr. Gayle Schueller, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer at 3M, is recognized as a positive change agent at the crossroads of technology and business leadership. She started in 3M’s corporate laboratory and has over 25 years of technical and business leadership experience. She has led a broad range of businesses from electronics to healthcare to consumer industries. Her leadership spans technical and business teams around the world, including Europe, Asia, Latin America and North America. Gayle’s previous assignments include directora general and VP for 3M Mexico, one of 3M’s largest and most vibrant subsidiaries, VP Global Sustainability, covering all 3M businesses and geographies, and VP R&D and Design for 3M’s multibillion-dollar consumer business, including global technology development, customer technical engagement, strategic direction, and new product design and commercialization.

Amanda E. Mikhail began her career at IBM in 1999 as an engineer in hardware development. During her time at IBM, she served as a project lead managing a $1.5 million budget guiding multiple teams through expedient program delivery and became a product development manager, where she led a team across many US states through significant product development commitments. Mikhail is an inventor on more than 25 US patents and was the second female in IBM Rochester’s 50+ year history to receive an IBM Master Inventor award. In 2014, Mikhail left IBM to join Mayo Clinic. She currently serves as the administrative lead for research for the Mayo Clinic Department of Medicine, addressing the needs of patients through strategic discovery, translation, and application of capabilities. Mikhail also serves as co-chair of Mayo’s Covid-19 Research Task Force and co-leads the DERIVE initiative: Departments Engaging Research for Innovation.

Amanda Mikhail headshot

Amanda E. Mikhail

As we reflect on the particularly challenging times we have faced in the past 18 months, it is more important than ever to consider our own well-being, physically, mentally and emotionally. Incorporating mindfulness practices in your daily routine is recognized for its benefits to your health and productivity. Meditation is an essential mindfulness practice that can increase calmness and physical elation, improving psychological balance, and enhancing overall health and well-being. We will be joined by Tiffany Kari, St. Louis County health promotion coordinator, a motivator, teacher, and health and wellness enthusiast. She is full of energy, a lover of wellness, and passionate educator on all life topics. Tiffany has over a decade of speaking experience, event coordination, behavioral change coaching and educating, as well as fitness training. She will share valuable insights on establishing a meditation practice in your own life and how it can reduce stress.

Our popular Speed Networking returns to its “Table Topic” format, where attendees can choose from a variety of discussion topics hosted by SMTA leaders. This session will benefit all attendees by extending your network and helping you design your future. Interested in gaining new perspectives by speaking to experienced leaders, young professionals and a variety of peer attendees about topics related to your career and success in the workplace? Speed Networking will provide you with the opportunity to share experiences and knowledge in a group setting on several topics of your choosing. In keeping with our theme of transitions and growth, topics for this year include:

  • Finding your strengths: personality analysis
  • Identifying mentors and cultivating sponsors
  • Reinventing and accelerating your career path
  • Breaking through unwritten stereotypes
  • The importance of strategic thinking
  • Achieving positive outcomes from tough situations

Attend this session to develop your network and learn how to leverage their knowledge for career success and satisfaction. You may want to consider if you should avoid or invite disruption and how often. You can ask yourself why you are considering disruption or change. You may want to consider the advantages of constancy versus taking a risk on change. Transitions could be a catalyst to propel your career forward. Risk-taking may not always end in success, but not trying may have even greater risks. Each transition is unique and requires a unique strategy, with the experiences of others assisting you along your path.

An Ice Cream Social Connection Reception will conclude the Women’s Leadership Program this year. This annual gathering provides a relaxed atmosphere to continue the conversations from the earlier segments of the WLP, fostering new and renewed connections across the SMTA community of organizers, speakers, exhibitors and attendees. Explore new flavors, as well as old favorites, to top off an engaging and energizing session with industry colleagues. Just like ice cream, it is good we are not all the same!

Ice cream comes in many flavors, and everyone typically has a favorite or two. How boring life would be if all the ice cream in the world was vanilla with no sprinkles or toppings. Nothing is wrong with good old vanilla, chocolate or strawberry, but imagine a world without rocky road, pistachio or butter pecan. I shudder at the thought. Join us as we mingle and celebrate the different flavors of people in our industry. (Don’t be surprised to find a couple of nuts in the bunch.)

Favorite Quotes from WLP Organizers
  • “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou (Elizabeth Benedetto)
  • “Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it by use.” – Ruth Gordo (Debbie Carboni)
  • “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt (Marie Cole)
  • “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford (Priyanka Dobriyal)
  • “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (Tanya Martin)
  • “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz (Jessica Molloy)
  • “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller (Michelle Ogihara)
  • “Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it.” – David Star Jordan (Karlie Severinson)
  • “Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality.” – Malala Yousafzai (Julie Silk)
  • “Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t be afraid to stand firm on the decisions that you make. Trust yourself. Believe in your instincts. Do what works best for you. Stay true to yourself and be good to yourself. Allow every decision that you make to empower, enrich, and add value to your life!” – Stephanie Lahart, author and self-help guru (Sherry Stepp)
Speed Mentoring Topics
  • Breaking Through Unwritten Stereotypes: Good Old Boys Club, hosted by Chrys Shea, Shea Engineering Services, and Sherry Stepp, Kyzen
  • Identifying Mentors and Cultivating Sponsors, hosted by Marie Cole, IBM, and Jessica Molloy, Zestron
  • Importance of Strategic Thinking, hosted by Martin Anselm, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Tanya Martin, SMTA
  • Relentlessly Reinvent and Accelerate your Career Path, hosted by Julie Silk, Keysight Technologies, and Amanda E. Mikhail, Mayo Clinic
  • Positive Outcomes from Tough Situations, hosted by Mike Konrad, Aqueous Technologies, and Michelle Ogihara, Seika Machinery
  • Find your Strengths: Personality Analysis, hosted by Debbie Carboni, Kyzen, and Priyanka Dobriyal, Intel
Priyanka Dobriyal, Ph.D., is technical program manager, Datacenter, Silicon Photonics, Intel (, and an organizer of the Women’s Leadership Program at SMTA International.