Panelists (left to right): Renee Tarun, Phillis Palleschi, Stefana Muller, Shreya Mathur and Marissa Schuchat

Panelists (left to right): Renee Tarun, Phillis Palleschi, Stefana Muller, Shreya Mathur and Marissa Schuchat

On December 13th, Students, Alumni and Industry Professionals joined Long Island Women in Tech (LIWiT) at the Queens College Tech Incubator hosted event “Breaking into your Career in Tech“. A panel of prestigious women technology and business professionals discussed a variety of careers in technology. They explained both how to get started early in your education and how to pivot into tech mid-career.

The panelists ranged in background and experience shedding light onto the business and technology overlaps in their jobs today and what careers are available to those studying computer science [tldr; not everyone ends up a software engineer].

Kashfi Fahim, a Queens College CS Masters student commented that many of the students in the audience were immigrants & first-generation college students.

“[We] are adept at Googling answers. But, last night, we all felt a profound sense of trust in the advice and insights generously doled out by the accomplished industry professionals, engineers, and entrepreneurs on the panel. To many of us, last night helped illuminate the difference between reading possible answers from search results and getting the real answers from mentors,” Kashifi wrote.

Renee Tarun, VP of Information Security @ Fortinet gave some background on her career and explained how she wished she didn’t shy away from the subjects she disliked in college. After suffering through her Database Administration course in university (and immediately selling the textbook after it was through), Renee had written off this area of tech as she entered the workforce. Little did she know that Database technology would end up helping launch her career into information security. She shared that a subject in school is academic at best but once the practical application comes into play, you may end up liking it.

Queens College Event - Stefana Muller speaking to studentsOur next panelist, Phyllis Palleschi gave insight into the enterprise network monitoring world with her work in sales at NetScout Systems. She equates her background helping run the family business with her success in a sales career. While she didn’t expect to end up in the tech industry (she focused initially on marketing and business), Phyllis has spent the past 20 years in the highly competitive area of networking software. One big takeaway was that building her network of people she can trust has been instrumental to her career. Her open and honest attitude has helped her grow meaningful relationships with top technologists across the industry.

Shreya Mathur, Product Marketing Manager at IBM, helped provide practical advice for networking when socializing at events isn’t your thing. “Se

Audience at the Queens College Event

t a KPI [Key Performance Indicator or Goal] for each event and try to meet it,” Shreya shared. “I set my goal to meet and get business cards from 5 new contacts at each event. Then I try to set up a follow up meeting with each person that I meet.” The other panelists found this to be a great way to force yourself out of your comfort zone while actually expanding your business network. Shreya originally started her career in finance and recently shifted into technology. Some days she’s focused on all marketing and messaging and then other days it’s SQL Queries, Javascript, Python and Search Engine Optimization. She gave great insight into how a role in “marketing” may not just be words and messages, but requires a keen understanding and employment of technology. Shreya was also able to answer questions from the group on how to take on new technology trends like blockchain and AI.

Audience at the Queens College Event

Operations Specialist and self-proclaimed ‘utility infielder’ for the digital team at StoryCorps, Marissa Schuchat helped shed light on how a less social technologist can get their big break in tech. As a recent career-changer who came from a philosophy degree to a Bachelors of Computer Science, Marissa took on internships across the tech spectrum to find her niche, from web development, to IT support to Product Management. She got a few big breaks through internships but it wasn’t until she came out of her comfort-zone and did a “speed-mentoring” session that she was able to break into an enterprise tech role. She also recommends students to get involved at various levels. Marissa has spoken at tech conferences such as Grace Hopper and won the BE.IN Hack Brooklyn Innovation Challenge. All out of her comfort-zone but very fulfilling activities.

Students and recent graduates in the room spent over 2 hours gaining career insight from the panelists and many stayed after to exchange business cards. The feedback from the event was tremendous. Here’s what a few attendees had to say:

“The evening was filled with great stories, honest advice, and sagacious wisdom. The conversations presented an informed look at the many opportunities available in the tech industry”, said Kashfi Fahim

I am so glad that I got the chance to attend and meet all of [the] wonderful women in tech. It was definitely inspiring and encouraging, said Karina Ibragimova, CS Student at Queens College.

“I found your comment about converting a large failure in your past to an extreme positive encouraging. I took all of your comments to heart.” – Gillian Newton, LIWiT member and IT Professional.



Stefana Muller – Founder of Long Island Women in Tech and Vice President @ Opsani.


Renee Tarun – VP of Information Security @ Fortinet
Phyllis Palleschi – Strategic Account Manager @ NetScout Systems
Shreya Mathur – Product Marketing Manager @ IBM
Marissa Schuchat – Operations Specialist, Digital and Technical Innovation @ StoryCorps