To celebrate all the incredible women in science who are trailblazing, helping recruit even more women in science, and becoming role models for girls just beginning their own journeys, we’ve designated January as Raising Nerd’s Women in Science Month.
February 11th is International Women & Girls in Science Day, so please join us in honoring these amazing women by sharing their stories and reminding every girl you know that with the desire, access, and a little persistence, they can do anything!
“The opportunities for girls are the same ones there are for boys,
they will just have to be prepared to work way harder for it. “
Chemical Engineer & Professional Distiller
Nicole Austin holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from Manhattan College and worked for six years in the environmental engineering industry. In August 2010, Nicole joined Kings County Distillery. Translating her chemical engineering background into a distilling role, her responsibilities at the distillery included recipe development, production, safety, quality control, and sales.
Self-taught in the area of spirits production, Nicole is now directly responsible for the aging and blending of the American Distilling Institute (ADI) 2012 bronze medal-winning Kings County Bourbon Whiskey as well as the Chocolate “flavored” Whiskey, one of the distillery’s most popular products. Kings County Distillery also produces a highly acclaimed corn whiskey, which achieved “Best in Category” at ADI 2011 and a bronze medal at ADI 2012.
What advice would you give to girls interested in pursuing your specific field?
The same advice I would give to boys, which is don’t worry too much when you are just starting out about planning your whole life and getting it right. I started by picking what I was told was the most difficult college major that I thought I could do, and figured I could always transition to something easier if I couldn’t hack it… against the advice of my guidance counselor, by the way, who thought I wasn’t “disciplined” enough for Chemical Engineering.
Turns out my guidance counselor was a jerk and I ended up in every academic and leadership achievement society there was. Lesson here for parents (and teachers), try not to confuse boredom with a lack of discipline or a “problem”. To kids, pursue areas in school and in work that you have an interest in and figure out how to make it pay later (that said, I strongly recommend picking an area of focus that at least have some confirmed jobs that pay real money out there in the world, because it’s nice to have a house and food and you need those while you’re looking for the dream job). You never know how the world will change and what kind of opportunities might open up as the post-college years tick by. Craft distilleries were not even a thing that existed when I was in school, but by pursuing the most useful degree that I had genuine passion for I was positioned to take advantage of those opportunities when they came around. People generally start out in the obvious jobs and then find something that fits them better over time, so keep that in mind and don’t stress if you don’t have a whole life plan at 16.
“Success is built incrementally of small moments”
Talk about the challenges you faced as a trailblazer in your field … or … Tell us about a time where you failed and how you overcame it?
So many…where to even start? The most challenging thing about it is the grind. There’s no magic moment where you’ve said or done the right thing and suddenly everything is working out now. Success is built incrementally of small moments; the one person at an event of hundreds that you convinced to buy your product, the pump problem you fixed that day, the employee who delivered way more than you expected. Or at least I think it is; I’ll update this post when I get there 🙂
Where do you anticipate the next big opportunity for girls in your field and what can they do to position themselves for success?
The opportunities for girls and the same ones there are for boys, they will just have to be prepared to work way harder for it. My best advice to girls is try to find a healthy way to deal with the stress, because it will always be there. The pressure to be perfect, to prove that you belong there, to try to figure out which “type” of woman in STEM you are, to deal with the inevitable harassment and then deal with the inevitable feeling that however you dealt with it was wrong or not good enough…if you don’t figure out a healthy way to manage that stress you’ll be in, it will keep you from succeeding all on it’s own.
To read more about our tribute to the Women of Science, click here.