Meet Meryle and Larisse Almirañez, the sister scholars who defy expectations every day, and rise above the challenges they face as women in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field. Meryle is a recent BS Business Administration graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman. Meanwhile, her older sister Larisse is currently a 4th-year student at the University of the Philippines Manila taking up Computer Science. Through Edukasyon.ph, they became recipients of the For The Women (FTW) Foundation scholarship, which aims to give women skills in Data Science.
With the tech field growing, more opportunities are opening up in the industry. However, there are financial and social barriers which can discourage women from pursuing this career path.
These obstacles, however, did not stop the Almirañez sisters, who chose to pursue their passion at whatever cost.
Meryle first came across the FTW Foundation scholarship on her Facebook newsfeed. She had been following Edukasyon.ph’s Facebook page for scholarship news. After hearing about the opportunity, she shared the information with Larisse. Finding the opportunity was just the beginning. Since they knew how limited the slots were and how competitive the selection process would be, they took time to prepare for the application and interview.
“I reviewed and rehearsed answers to possible interview questions like, ‘Tell me about yourself.’” Larisse shares. For her, the difficulty came from the application’s introspective questions, which is why she painstakingly prepared for the interview.
Meryle struggled differently, on the other hand. She knew she wasn’t as well-versed in the skills required. First, she evaluated what she wanted to gain from the scholarship: “The greatest challenge is my total lack of programming or coding experience!” she says. “But I was resolved to learn however hard it may be because I know the scholarship will help me achieve my career goals.”
Despite their initial anxieties about the process, the opportunity was too good to waste. While the first few steps were daunting, they soldiered on. After the first leap, everything followed.
Reaping the rewards
While the program offered the sisters intensive training in advanced courses, the most rewarding takeaways came from outside the classroom.
Meryle notes what the FTW scholarship provided them with. While they did learn “technical knowledge (coding, machine learning) [and] soft skills training through actual experience (presenting effectively, interview skills), [the] most notable is the strong support and motivation from the founders, instructors, and classmates, for me to be confident that I am capable.” Along the way, Meryle was also inspired by the overall culture of helping one another. “The general environment of thoughtfulness really transcended among us scholars.”
Even after finishing the program, the scholars and founders are still in constant contact. They share job opportunities, free and paid learning, networking events, interview tips, even advice regarding career and life decisions.
“Aside from all the Data Science learnings, I got to be connected with an amazing group of people.” Larisse shares similar sentiments. “The founders, directors, their friends, my classmates, and also my current employer! All these people inspire me with stories of their own, and stay true to our collective passion of women empowerment.”
In true fulfillment of the foundation’s mission, above being provided with the skills needed to expand their career horizons, they ultimately walked away from the experience with better lives.
The Next Move
With college completed, Meryle plans to take her learning further. She recently got a job as a Data Analyst for Category and Channel Development in Unilever Philippines. But she was quick to share that this was not the end goal.
“I will be starting work as a data analyst, and will hopefully slowly transition as an all-around data science expert in the fields I am interested in. My biggest dream is to apply my interdisciplinary learning to improve our country’s urban planning, specifically our transportation system, and to help alleviate poverty.” While she knows she has a long way to go, Meryle is full of optimism and hope for what’s in store for her, and what she can do to help our country.
As for Larisse, if anything, finishing the classes made her even hungrier for knowledge. She shares, “I plan to still continue on learning because there are still so much I want to know. The best way to do this is through experience because there are things that you can only get from being there and solving real-world problems.”
Being well-equipped with what they need for the future, these girls are ready to take the world by storm. With clear goals in mind, and passion to drive them forward, there is no doubt that they will make an impact in whatever they choose to do.
Words of Advice
With significant experience under their belts, Meryle and Larisse are ready to share some words of wisdom to future FTW scholars and women in STEM.
Larisse kept it short and sweet. “For women interested in FTW Foundation’s scholarship, just go for it! They cater to a diverse set of backgrounds so wherever you come from, you are welcome. You’ll meet a lot of amazing people and concepts!”
Meryle adds, “To you girls who have the same passion for growth, keep learning! Be confident because you are capable.” She also encourages women in STEM not to be afraid to take risks.
“We need more women in STEM, not because there are more men than women, but because our country needs more people in the sciences.”
Larisse reassures young women, “Sometimes, the sciences can be tough for our gender, but our times are getting better and more accepting.” She jokes and says, “If someone mistreats you, just tell us.” However, she adds, “Kidding aside, just enter the STEM field because we need you, we need a lot of different perspectives, and diversity would help here.”
Meryle and Larisse are living proof that anyone is capable of pursuing their passions—and there are people who will help you get there. You just have to make that first step and seize opportunities that come your way.
Move one step closer to your dreams.