From Chemistry to Law to Tech
Annie Rogaski : COO at Avegant
Sponsored by Serendipity
I have this vivid memory of going to a weekend event in seventh grade for moms and daughters that was all about science and engineering. I remember soldering a circuit board at that conference and being so affected by the fact that I was surrounded by girls and mothers. When I got to high school, the math department had four teachers and three were women. I always got a female math teacher throughout my high school years and I just thought it was normal for girls and women to do math. All my teachers were very involved in making sure that the students enjoyed learning math and that had a huge impact on my decision to go into STEM.
I went to UC Santa Barbara and got my Bachelor of Chemistry and was the only woman in my major, which was not an easy experience. There was this one time when a classmate planned to have an overnight party at his house and I remember thinking to myself ‘I don’t know if it’s a good idea for me to attend.’ Even though there were only 15 of us in the major and we were all friends (and I trusted everyone), I didn’t want to put myself in that situation. I opted out of that party. All of my other classmates went and it became a significant bonding experience for everyone that I felt like I had to exclude myself from. It was difficult to participate in those sorts of activities because I was the only women in the group.
I wanted to go to graduate school for Chemistry so I did some undergraduate research. I remember sitting in the lab all alone for hours and hours taking data from the spectrometer. Despite being an introvert, I realized I didn’t enjoy sitting in a lab all by myself all day. That experience prompted me to change course from a graduate degree in Chemistry to Law school and I got my J.D. from the McGeorge School of Law. I used my background in Chemistry and studied a lot around environmental law and eventually ended up in patent litigation where I was working closely with technology. Often, I was explaining scientific or technical concepts to jurors without backgrounds in those fields. Even though patent litigation was a heavily male-dominated field, I enjoyed my work because my background allowed me to take the deposition of a technical witness or expert because I could speak their language.
After spending years as a litigator, I wanted to be closer to technology. So, I ended up going back into tech and am now the COO for Avgent. I handle a lot of my company’s recruitment efforts and I am struggling to find more female candidates for our job positions. I am very proactive and reach out directly to each woman I want to hire because I want to create a diverse pipeline but even then ,I find it challenging. At Avegant, I found the best company culture I’ve ever been a part of. It is still quite male-dominated, but I’ve never felt like an outsider because I am a female. Women would thrive in our environment and I’m passionate about getting more women on board.