Hi, and welcome back to the #STEMBabes series!
During this series, I will be featuring a woman doing cool things in her own STEM-related field. This is in the hopes that they will be able to answer any questions you might have about navigating the world of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering as a female. There are so many girls succeeding and truly making a difference in their respective industries, and I hope getting to know some of them better will help/inspire/motivate girls out there who are getting ready to embark on a similar path.
For this installment, I had the opportunity to interview YouTuber, influencer, and all-around boss-babe Natalie Barbu! Not only is she currently working in the industry as an Industrial Engineer, but she is also an entrepreneur (she runs the fab store Shop Barbu with her sisters), and a YouTuber with over 136,000 subscribers. I’ve been following her videos for quite some time, so it was an honor to get her perspective on being a female in engineering.
Keep reading to learn more about Natalie!
1. Name, Age, Major, Graduation Date?
My name is Natalie Barbu and I was an Industrial Engineering major at NC State and I graduated in May 2018!
2. What drew you to Industrial Engineering? Is there another major you once considered, engineering or not?
I knew what Industrial Engineering was through my parents, since they are both industrial engineers. But, I never knew what I wanted to do until about my Junior or Senior year of high school. As I was thinking of colleges, I was always leaning more towards engineering focused schools since I had always loved math and solving problems and thought engineering may be a good field for me to go into. When I started researching more into Industrial Engineering, I realized how broad it is and how every company needs an Industrial Engineer. I loved how the purpose of IE’s is to make things more efficient and for companies to run more smoothly. After looking into it more and seeing how many career possibilities there were with this major, I decided to pursue it. I had always wanted to go into a fashion field (I know- totally different!) but, IE was the only major I was seriously considering!
3. What was it like trying to balance a successful YouTube career with your coursework? Do you have any regrets from your undergrad?
I am the type of person who loves being kept busy so balancing YouTube and my coursework was exciting for me since I always had something to do. I did not think it was as difficult to do as some people may think because in college, you are not in class for that many hours a day which made it easy for me to schedule time to film. It also really tested my time management skills and I really had to prioritize school and YouTube versus social life a lot of times. But, I do not regret any of it because I truly love what I do.
4. Stereotypically, engineering majors (boys or girls, for that matter) are not known for being creative & social people – how do you think rising STEM professionals can break that image?
I actually never thought about those stereotypes for engineering majors until I started telling people that was the field I wanted to go into. Truth be told, I may not have wanted to go into it as much if I thought of STEM majors the same way a majority of people view us. Growing up, my parents were both STEM majors. My mom was a social, smart woman who loved fashion and makeup and also was an Industrial Engineer. I never saw her as “different” for being all those things and an engineer. I just saw her as my mom who also happened to be an engineer. I think what scares many girls from wanting to pursue a degree in STEM is because it is known as a male-dominated field. Thus, there are not that many women role models in STEM. Once more and more people realize you can be smart, driven, hard-working, enjoy math and science, and also creative, fun, social, and love fashion, too – there will be a breakthrough in women in engineering. An engineer does not need to fit a mold – it is just another major! Your gender is the last thing that should determine what major you want to pursue.
Once more and more people realize you can be smart, driven, hard-working, enjoy math and science, and also creative, fun, social, and love fashion, too – there will be a breakthrough in women in engineering.
5. What has your experience was a woman in STEM been like? Do you think you’re ever treated differently because of your gender?
As a woman in STEM, I do not believe I have been treated differently in my classes or with my peers. My major actually had about 40% girls which was one of the most females in an engineering major. However, once I started posting videos about being in engineering, I realized how many people were fascinated and also, how many people had an opinion on it. Being on the internet, you can experience a lot of hate and negativity. All of a sudden, guys were finding my videos and leaving comments about how unsuccessful I will be and how I will probably fail out because there is no way I have time to make videos and yet also study and get good grades. That is definitely when I realized there was a problem and more and more girls should pursue STEM so we don’t have this stereotype anymore.
6. As a recent graduate, what are some things you’ve struggled to adjust to now that you’ve stepped away from the academic life? Do you have any advice for rising seniors (like me!!)?
I still feel like I will be going back to school any day now when in reality I start my job in consulting next week. It still hasn’t fully hit me! But, my advice is to enjoy your senior year because it truly goes by so fast. Say yes to social outings with your friends and do all the things you love to do one last time. Apply for jobs early because it will be a stress to have one before you graduate- but seriously, don’t worry if you don’t have your life figured out. No one really does.
7. Finally, if you could tell your freshman-year self anything, what would you tell her?
I would tell her that if it doesn’t matter 5 years from now, don’t lose sleep or stress out over it. There were so many times I felt like having a breakdown in the library because of a final or a project or things gone wrong and feeling like I have too much on my plate. But everything in the end will be fine. If you have to retake a class, retake it and learn from it – there is no point in dwelling on things that you can’t change and won’t matter in 5 years. Smart people can fail tests, too. And a bad grade does not determine who you are! Everything works out in the end. Have fun – these will be some amazing 4 years.
A huge thank-you to Natalie for sharing her story as a #STEMBabe, and for all of the amazing advice! If you have any questions for her, feel free to reach out here in the comments. Stay tuned for the next #STEMBabes post!