Don’t be Afraid to Fail

By Anika Lalmansingh.

‘Do Not Be Afraid to Fail’ was the take-home message of the third Maryland Mentor-Protégé session on January 14, 2014. The evening’s topic on innovation and leadership was centered on learning how to accept failure as a natural and necessary part of long-term success in your career and life.

Fig 1
Fig 1

During her introduction, Maryland Program Chair Carmen Radelat talked to the protégés about the relationship between successful innovators and leaders and their ability to embrace their fears and learn from their failures. She emphasized the fact that failure is more the rule than the exception through the amusing graphic displayed in Fig. 1 (the real path to success). The sooner you are able to accept this, the quicker you can pick yourself up and move on to the next challenge.

Carmen also showed a video of young girl scientists and engineers presenting their projects during the White House Science Fair in February 2012. Some of the young budding STEM innovators expressed incredible words of wisdom for other future innovators.

Maryland Proteges
Maryland Proteges

Irene Lane, Founder of Greenloans and GIT Steering Committee Member, moderated the panel discussion between Paige Smith, Ph.D. and Natalie Leach, Ph.D. as they shared with the protégés the ways in which they have turned failure into positive learning experiences. Dr. Smith is the Director of the Women in Engineering Program in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland and Dr. Leach is Assistant Professor of Biology at Northern Virginia Community College in Manassas.

Addressing the protégés, Irene then asked them to share a time when they had to face an incredible challenge. One young protégé wowed the room when she described how she applied for an internship with a biomedical company. Hearing nothing back from human resources, she decided to go straight to the company CEO. However, before calling the CEO she researched the company’s product and put together information on how she could be an asset to the company based on her skills and knowledge of the product. Knowing that she had nothing to lose, she embraced her fear, called up the CEO, and presented her case. Her hard work and refusal to accept failure was rewarded with the internship she wanted!

Drs. Natalie Leach and Paige Smith
Drs. Natalie Leach and Paige Smith

The take-home message of the evening was voiced by Dr. Smith when she emphasized the fact that you should not let the fear of failure stop you from pursuing your dreams. She explained that the most important thing to do is to take time afterward to reflect on the situation, which will enable you to gain wisdom from the experience and apply that new knowledge to future endeavors.

What fears do you have about your future? When have you turned failure into success? Could you do what our protégé did to get the job or internship of your dreams?

GIT Announcements:
1. GIT will hold the annual Sharing our Success program at SAIC on April 24 in Tysons Corner, VA (more information to come).
2. WITEF and George Mason University will award scholarships for GIT Protégés to attend an all-girl summer game design course. To qualify, protégés must complete a GMU survey ( Contact Vera Lichtenberg ( for program questions and see the Summer Game Institute website for general information.

Other Events:
1. DiscoverE will host Girls Day on February 20 (
2. University of Maryland will hold the Women in Engineering Dream Conference on March 1 in College Park, MD (
3. Maryland BioGENEius Challenge with April 21 deadline (

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