Failure As Fuel for Success

Meet software engineer Dr. Teresa Vasquez — one of the mentors at our 2022 Women's Leadership Summit!

Dr. Teresa Vasquez, affectionately known as "Dr. T," was born to a Guatemalan immigrant and Creole woman from Louisiana. Her father always said that he “wanted a football player, but what he got instead was the best blessing in the world…a daughter.” Actually, he actually got both -- Dr. T played women’s professional football too!

Her mother died when she was five years old, leaving her father to raise three young children. Dr. T's dad ignited her passion for problem solving as a child, helping her with electrical and mechanical engineering projects. She credits these experiences as the start to her passion for technology and software engineering.

DR. TERESA VASQUEZ: Hi, I am Dr. Teresa Vasquez, but you can call me Dr. T. I lead technical teams to success by being myself and helping people feel valuable. A lot of what I do as a technical leader depends on how I can encourage and support other engineers to be their best selves. We all need someone to believe in us and I do that by using my technical skills and passion to build things. I use math and science to build logic and engineering and technology to help people meet their goals. There is no better feeling than getting to help someone, which in turn helps me. 

PLAG: Share a recent interaction with another woman or girl that you found inspiring.

TV: I was questioning my purpose and one of my mentees became my mentor. She spoke life into me and encouraged my journey by reminding me of my success and impact. It helped me to get out of my slump and to refocus my vision and goals. 

PLAG: What difference would it have made for you to have had Play Like a Girl in your life as a girl or young woman?

TV: If I had a resource like this, I would have been able to achieve my calling more quickly with fewer mistakes. As a girl, I did not have many, if any, women mentors in my life and Play Like a Girl would have been a huge part of learning and sharing my real self earlier in my career. 

PLAG: What does "ready for any field" mean to you?

TV: 'Ready for Any Field' means seeing the beauty in the abstract and knowing that no matter where you end up, your journey and experiences are important and that STEM is the foundation for every professional career you’ll ever pursue. 

PLAG: Why is sisterhood (or women supporting women) important to you?

TV: We know each other’s pain and fears especially in STEM careers. When we share information, we grow more confident and can support others more. Sisterhood brings a level of intimacy and knowledge that can propel us toward our goals - together. 

PLAG: What is the best piece of advice you've received from a woman role model, mentor or colleague?

TV: "You can do anything because anything you love and touch will turn to gold." 

PLAG: What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

TV: I'd tell little T to not shrink to fit in. Take up all the space you need because your courage will inspire others once you find it.

PLAG: What advice do you have for younger girls who want to follow in your footsteps but may be afraid to ask for help (mentorship or guidance)?

TV: [bctt tweet="Fear is the killer of creativity and innovation. Failure is the path to success. Beyoncé said it best: “I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it. I dream it, I work hard, I grind 'til I own it...” --says Dr. Teresa Vasquez" username="iplaylikeagirl"]

The grind is your journey and if you want it, you can have it. All you have to do is grab it. You can accomplish it, but you need to “get in formation” and get support for what you want so you can get there faster. Don’t be afraid of rejection and use your youth as an advantage because someone will always want to help you along your journey.

Believe that you are valuable because you are. WE NEED YOU more than you’ll ever know. You are a part of OUR story too and by allowing fear to keep you from getting in the game, you’re impacting us all because we need your unique self so that we all can win. Help us by asking for help. 

Follow Dr. T on Instagram and join Play Like a Girl in our mission to build a diverse pipeline of women in STEM by encouraging girls everywhere to embrace failure as fuel to build confidence and be #ReadyforAnyField. ⚡️


Win a chance to be mentored by game changing women in Nashville! Tell us how sport has prepared you to succeed in any field by submitting your original photos, videos or art via Instagram or Twitter using #ReadyforAnyField. No purchase necessary. Void in AK & HI and where prohibited. Open to legal residents of 48 contiguous US & DC. Starts 2/21/22; ends 2/28/22.

STEM for Girls: Reimagining the Future

When girls engage in STEM, everyone wins.

There’s a gap between girls and boys when it comes to their interest in and their pursuit of STEM subjects. No surprise here, but there’s also a gap in the number of women and men in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields like coding and cybersecurity among others. Why do you think that is?

An ill-informed argument might suggest achievement: “Boys are just better at STEM subjects than girls.” No, that’s not it. A large body of research shows that girls perform as well as boys in math. And in fact, middle school girls pass algebra at higher rates than boys. 

Another misguided position might point to the toys we give our kids when they’re young. But it’s way too simplistic to say the STEM gap exists because girls play dress-up with dolls and boys play with things that go vroom. That’s giving a bit too much weight to playthings. (And come on, we all know that Barbie has worked in basically every STEM field over the years!)

So why is there a STEM gap for girls? It doesn’t have to do with the test scores or favorite toys—it’s stereotypes, cultural norms and societal pressures that make girls think they can’t dream big. Girls aren’t less capable than boys. But the world around them can make them think that’s true. The media reinforces it. Books on library shelves don't exactly refute it. Even grown-ups who love the girls in their lives can unwittingly recreate this horrible untruth.

Ask any kid to draw a mathematician and you’ll probably get a picture of a man (and he’ll probably be wearing glasses). This is a very basic way of pointing out that, historically and culturally speaking, we collectively see these types of jobs as being held by men.  

“The self-limiting beliefs these stereotypes create can snowball to affect a girl’s trajectory and future career choices,” according to Barbie’s Dream Gap Project. “They may even discourage women to pursue prestigious careers, especially in fields that value brilliance.” 

And therein lies the benefit of STEM for girls and the answer to “Why STEM for girls?” Because when girls engage in STEM, everyone wins.

What happens when girls love STEM, too

The benefits of STEM for girls are far-reaching. For starters, engaging girls in STEM can help stimulate their imaginations and foster creativity. Yes, many different forms of play can do that but STEM encourages girls to flex these important muscles through the lens of discovery.

Exposure to STEM also can help boost girls’ confidence and resilience. The more girls explore STEM subjects and are exposed to female role models in STEM fields, the more confident they become that STEM is a perfect fit for them. Resilience, meanwhile, is tied to the experimentation side of STEM. The process of designing and building, testing and failing (the engineering design process, by the way), helps instill the important lesson that failing is OK and actually helps lead to success.

This is a Play Like a Girl principle our mentors teach girls like Carwyn, Maria, and Arianna and her sister in our Meet + Mentor program. They know that failing means you're trying. So keep trying. And also keep learning. Because the more you learn from your failures, the closer you come to your successes. 

When girls engage in STEM, they’re also more creative thinkers, better problem solvers and are more confident in their own abilities. And those qualities will transfer to their adult lives—whether they pursue careers in STEM fields or not. These skills will naturally filter into every college classroom, locker room and C-suite.

STEM for girls and the Play Like a Girl mission 

At Play Like a Girl, we envision a world where the playing field is level and every girl reaches her full potential. We deliver programs to leverage the skills girls gain from sports to propel them into male-dominated careers in STEM. Our programs include girls-only camps and sports clinics, hands-on STEM education, makerspace workshops, mentoring opportunities with inspiring female role models, corporate field trips, and powerful girl-centered messaging.

When we give our girls the opportunity to meet a female engineer or a female bat conservationist like If/Then Ambassador and Play Like a Girl mentor Dr. Kristen Lear, we’re not discounting the hard work done by men in those same roles. Instead, we’re saying, “If you can see it, you can be it.”

When we get a group of girls together to geek out over a STEM topic, we aren’t saying, “No boys allowed.” Instead, we’re saying this is a space just for girls because we want to create and cultivate a sense of belonging that for too long has been missing for them in these male-dominated subject areas.

There may be a time in the future when we don’t need to carve out special programs dubbed “STEM for girls.” (When that time comes, we might be out of a job!) But for now, we believe it’s critical to give girls a dedicated community wherein they can explore their unlimited potential--and have the support of other brilliant girls and women like themselves.

And that critical work is at the heart of our efforts here at Play Like a Girl. Take a peek to see our mission in action.

Play Like a Girl Hits The Ice

Play Like a Girl Camp strikes again! This time, our super exciting sports destination was the Ford Ice Center, where we had a seriously chilly and extremely FUN afternoon of ice skating.

We started the day off with an inspiring career panel — seriously, girls, the discussion was filled with major info — where we had a chance to meet six amazing women behind our favorite hockey team, the Nashville Predators, before being treated to our own little pizza party. They do EVERYthing for Smashville. In fact, Rebecca King, Senior Director of Community Relations, was hugely responsible for us being there.

We learned about a variety of careers from communications and social media to creative services and corporate partnerships. Before hearing from them, we really had no idea that we girls could do all of that in a male sport. I won't lie...we were a little shy! So, Dr. Kim and our parents asked all the interesting questions. But I promise we learned a lot.

When asked about failure, the ladies encouraged us girls to embrace failure as fuel to build our confidence and keep playing, learning and growing--both on and off the rink. A few talked about the challenges they face being women in a male-dominated workspace. "Often, I'm the only woman boarding that plane. The only woman in the locker room. At times this season, I've had to remind myself that I'm there because I'm qualified. I'm there because I'm great at my job, and I happen to be a woman," said Natalie Aronson, Corporate Communications Manager, who highlighted the important and unique qualities that women offer in the workplace as well as the critical role that male advocates play in the advancement of women in the sports industry.

Next, we gathered in teams of 3-4 for a quick STEM lesson and reaction time test. Using a yardstick and help from teammates, we learned about the importance of quick reflexes and response time in the job of the "goalie" on a hockey team. As you may know, the goalie's job is to prevent the opposing team from scoring a point by stopping the hockey puck from entering the net. Goalies need to have the ability to react extraordinarily fast when a hockey puck is whizzing towards them at 90 miles per hour, or they'll come up toothless, lol.

Resting our arms in the air, we held our thumbs and index fingers about an inch apart while a teammate held the yardstick so that its bottom end was between our two fingers. Without warning, the teammate holding the yardstick dropped the yardstick. And we closed our fingers to catch the yardstick as quickly as we could, repeating the activity until everyone had a chance at it. After each rotation, we wrote down the number of inches the yardstick fell before we caught it and calculated the average to see who had the quickest reaction time.

We learned that an average person catches the yardstick at around 6 to 8 inches. This is a reaction time of .177 to .204 seconds. That's pretty fast, right? But to match the reaction time of a professional hockey goalie, who needs to stop a puck traveling at 90 mph from 20 feet away, we would have to catch the yardstick at 4.5 inches! A hockey puck traveling at 152 feet per second will travel 20 feet in .152 seconds. That's about 1/10th of a second. It was a fun activity but we'd better keep practicing with our yardsticks if we ever want to become a goalie!

Finally, we laced up our skates and hit the ice. Some of us literally hit the ice. (Kidding! Or am I? I’ll never tell.) With the plexiglass surrounding the rink, the smell of stinky feet from the ice skates, cheers and flashing lights from cameras on the sidelines and the slick, shining ice, we might as well have been in a game at Bridgestone Arena. Oh, and did I mention that Gnash hit the ice with us too?! It was sooooo much fun!

After making several rounds (and several Boomerangs; we can’t help ourselves!), we removed all the layers and took it straight outdoors to the playground. We also replaced some of those calories we’d torched on the ice — our butts were feeling it from all the falls — with ice cream and slurpies after playing with new friends under the hot sun.

We want to say a huge thank you to our partners at the Nashville Predators and Predators Foundation that make fun camp days like this possible and to Ford Ice Center for hosting us at their magical ice rink! If you want to get in on our next super fun STEM and sports camp in September (Trust us, you do. It’s gonna be goooood.), then make sure to subscribe to our email newsletter here or in the footer of any page on our website.