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.

Success is a Mindset

Women’s Leadership Summit keynote speaker Merary Simeon on gaining confidence and paying it forward

It’s finally here. In just four short days, we’ll be saying, “Welcome to the 2021 Women’s Leadership Summit.” In the weeks leading up, we’ve been sharing the stories of some of the inspiring women (and men!) who will be sharing their wisdom with us on Friday.

You’ve heard from Jesse Lovejoy, Amy Bream, Katie Goyette and Linda Hope. Now it’s time you get to know Merary Simeon, a former Play Like a Girl board member, a human resources executive at PepsiCo and one of the nicest, most encouraging, most courageous women we’ve ever met.

Merary will be delivering the keynote address on Friday, and from what she’s told us, we better have the Rocky theme song queued up. “I want women to recognize that they already have everything they need to succeed,” she says. “I want them to understand that they own their own narrative. I want them to know they were made to change the game!” 

In addition to speaking, she also is lending her time and talents to our Executive Auction, which gives lucky winning bidders one-on-one mentoring sessions with executives, athletes and other leaders.

We caught up with Merary last week to learn more about her professional journey and the central role mentorship has played in her life. Catch the highlights from our conversation below and then get your ticket for the Women’s Leadership Summit.

On working at PepsiCo

While the last year has been a great awakening for many companies that previously placed little value on diversity and inclusion, Merary says PepsiCo has been focused on these issues for a while. In 1947, the company created its first Black sales team. In the 50s PepsiCo named the first woman to its board of directors. In 2006, an Indian-American woman, Indra Nooyi, became only the fifth CEO in the company’s history. Today, women represent just over 40% of the company’s managerial global workforce, and the goal is to hit 50% by 2025.

“We believe that we thrive because of our diversity,” Merary explains. “We still have work to do, but I’m confident in the work this company [PepsiCo] continues to do to empower every woman.”

One of those ways is through a pair of employee resources groups—one for all women and another specifically for women of color. In addition to being a community where women (and allies!) can connect, learn and celebrate together, it’s also a way to influence workplace policies and the company’s impact in the community. In celebration of Women’s History Month, these groups chose to highlight Play Like a Girl, and for every $25 employee donation, the company will match it. (Thanks, ladies!)

If you’re at a company that offers ERGs, Merary encourages you to get involved—even if you don’t identify with that community group. If your company doesn’t offer them (many small- and mid-sized workplaces don’t), she encourages you to seek out this type of community in other ways. “There are many community organizations that have women networking opportunities,” she says. “Play Like a Girl’s Women’s Leadership Summit is a great example.”

On finding her confidence

In addition to being an executive at PepsiCo, Merary is also a sought-after public speaker and leads transformational workshops for women. But she didn’t come by these talents easily. While taking college classes, this Puerto Rican native also was learning English. She spent some of her early career suffering from imposter syndrome—the belief that she lacked what it took to succeed while feeling undeserving of the praises she received.

“It’s not easy to stop listening to the negative voices,” she says. “If I would have believed some of the things people said to me about where I would be today, I would not be here today.”

She credits mentors with helping her beat the feelings of inadequacy. My mentors played a powerful role in helping me see in myself what I couldn’t see by myself. Now I know you can’t wait for permission to invest in yourself. You can’t allow anyone to bully you with their limited imagination.”

On being a mentor

Even early in her career, Merary found ways to pay it forward. She started by meeting with students at her former high school. “English was a second language for them,” she says. “I didn’t know English that well at the time and I was going to college. They saw me trying. We all have the opportunity to empower others, no matter our career level. You do not need a title to inspire.”

Despite taking on more responsibilities at PepsiCo, Merary still teaches a monthly leadership course at a local church to empower undereducated women to become entrepreneurs.

And of course, Merary is looking forward to meeting her mentee from the Executive Auction.

“I’ve never been part of an event like this and I’m really looking forward to it,” she says. “I can’t wait to meet my mentee and help show her how capable she is of realizing her full potential.”