Mbadika: Meet Netia McCray and Her Limitless World of Ideas

Netia McCray grew up watching her parents make their dreams become reality. Her mother and father were scientists in their own right, demonstrating a particular knack for creation and production. 

Netia’s mother was a seamstress, demonstrating design development with her unique fashion creations for family and community members alike. Her mother would also spend her spare time teaching others how to nurture their own entrepreneurial spirits. 

Netia’s father was a mechanical engineer, working on cars and spending much of his time tinkering away at old gadgets and gizmos.

At the end of her junior year in high school, Netia was invited to check out MIT’s summer enrichment program, MITES (Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science). After aspiring to attend the school himself, her father fervently suggested that she attend the program. Unsure of what MIT had to offer, Netia was initially skeptical, assuming she’d be forced to learn nuclear physics. 

Once she reached the Cambridge campus, Netia was pleasantly surprised by MIT’s vast scientific opportunities, unveiling a rich world of potential. Netia was exposed to a unique network of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines, unraveling the mystery of science into something more digestible. Blown away by the fullness of STEM, Netia eagerly participated in the program and earned herself a full ride to the school as an undergraduate, making her family proud. 

Despite facing personal and social hardships, Netia was determined and graduated from MIT with a desire to bring her newfound passion to young students like her. She has been on a mission to demystify the world of science and open the doors of opportunity to more students of color ever since.

Shortly after graduating, Netia launched her company Mbadika, (bah-GEEe-kah), focusing on providing local Boston high school students with paid STEM internships. The internship program not only allowed the students to explore the sciences, but they also had a hand in developing some of the later programming for Mbadika. The first cohort of students contributed to the design and production of the MLAB field kits, which continue to inspire fellow explorers ages 8 and up.  Mbadika also recently launched a public workshop initiative, MLAB, to provide the general public access to STEM education in informal settings such as local shopping centers. Featured in a pop-up at the Cambridgeside Galleria, these biweekly workshops offered students and newcomers a taste of STEM by exploring the science of fashion or how to recreate items from popular films. 

Both the workshop and internship aim to bring various STEM concepts and practices such as design development, 3D Printing, digital content creation, and more. Netia has been able to present complex topics and ideas in a relatable and engaging way. In this way, Netia has successfully been able to empower people from all walks of life to take risks, be bold, and realize their innate ability to understand STEM. 

Communications Foundations Online Course

Thinkubator Media is proud to present our online learning platform. Below is our inaugural course: Thinkubator Media's Communication Foundations Course.

With this course, you'll receive step-by-step support on how to build a communications foundation for you, your company, idea, or research.

What to Expect
In this course, you will gain the knowledge and understanding of the basic communication skills needed to build your own communications roadmap for your company.

What We'll Cover
In this introductory course, we'll cover the following topics:

What You'll Learn
By the end of this course, you'll be able to:

ENROLL NOW!

5 Keys to Help Company Execs Implement an Inclusive Work Culture

Collective change has always begun at the grassroots level. Across civilizations, revolutionary paradigms have been born from the fierce, consistent, and united efforts of the people on the ground. Though many of these demands for fundamental rights have taken years to achieve, these efforts have brought about transformation.

An equitable future is not only the key to a healthy society but a healthy economy as well. A 2020 McKinsey report revealed that companies thrive when everyone is treated fairly. In a study that followed over 1,000 companies worldwide, it was found that the organizations that consistently prioritized DEI standards were more than 30% likely to outperform their peers financially. The companies that struggled with DEI implementation (for any number of reasons) saw slowed growth and performance overall.

Today, we ask Dr. Tana Joseph for an overview of how executive leaders can actively get involved with implementing change. She highlights five key areas of focus for executives to consider when creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) experience. 

Active belief in DEI work and all that it stands for 

Taking DEI work seriously is at the heart of implementing effective and lasting policies. Seeing DEI regulations on the same level as safety and health regulations can make it even easier to consider their importance. When equity is viewed as a fundamental part of company culture, we make natural strides toward creating a sustainable and welcoming environment for all. 

Engage with staff, members, and fellow executives to show interest, improve interpersonal dynamics, and share perspectives. 

Hold and attend company meetings, trainings, and events that highlight and support diversity and inclusion efforts. Get to understand what your team needs then collaborate on creative solutions. 

Check your stats and revisit them regularly. 

Consider your company’s HR statistics such as retention rates, racial and gender demographics, wages, engagement, and all of the inner workings of your organization. Taking so many details into account can seem daunting, but it’s helpful to create SMART  (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals. You will start to see the effects of your actions by breaking your goals down into smaller steps. With time, your organization will be taking strides toward a truly inclusive future.  

Bring in outside help wherever needed. 

Considering the various ways that your organization can embrace a healthy future, you may need outside help. Rather than taking on DEI efforts and foundational changes alone, it is most effective to bring in industry experts. Just as you would hire an accountant for financial management or a photographer for professional headshots, a DEI expert can help your team achieve a lasting sense of equity and fairness. 

Work on the inclusion part of DEI efforts before worrying about meeting diversity quotas. 

Although diversity is important, doing too much with little awareness of other cultures and experiences can readily backfire. To make the diversity of your company a genuine and well-rounded part of your organization, focus on inclusion first. It is essential to understand and address any lingering issues within your company at present. Ideally, you can then collectively lay the foundation for a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive work culture. 

Although the responsibility of change is often placed on those who need it most, true transformation in company culture can only happen with buy-in and investment from executives and leadership. Following the five steps featured here is a great start, but if true change is to happen, DEI must be thought of early, often, and integrated with all the company does, rather than its own separate category. 

Still not sure where to start? Thinkubator Media can help. Contact team@thinkubatormedia.com to learn more about our DEI consulting support with Dr. Tana Joseph.

A Goldin Age: Ushering in an Era of Socioeconomic Equity for Women

 

Photo courtesy: CNBC

Claudia Goldin recently claimed the Sveriges Riksbas Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for her work on the gender pay gap. Her decades of study have advanced our understanding of the way that women experience the labor force. She combines economics with history to paint a full picture of the feminine experience in America, highlighting how our roles outside of work greatly affect our presence in the traditional labor force. 

Consider how women’s labor wasn’t federally recognized until 1920, during World War I. At this time, fewer men were available to continue the growing industrial labor on the homefront. Naturally, women stepped to the plate with their sleeves rolled up, ready to learn and master these new skills. 

Despite taking on this newer work, women’s families and communities continue needing them, creating a unique juggling act for most women. By understanding the complexity of women’s role in economics, we can see the absolute demand for more equitable and honorable compensation. 

As an author, researcher, Harvard professor, and labor economist, much of Professor Goldin’s focus has stayed on women's role in the country's economic development. Professor Goldin’s expertise makes her a pillar of change in a new socioeconomic structure. 

Goldin’s work encourages us to honor women as the cornerstone of all labor across the globe. The amount of care and energy that goes into supporting households, loved ones, and our dreams (successfully, at that) reveals that women’s labor is essential to human development.

Treating women as a lesser social pawn when we are, at most, empowered co-creators has been a great disservice to our global community. Goldin’s economic chronology invites us all to truly consider and honor the immensity of women’s labor. By contemplating and respecting the complexities of all people, we invite ourselves to a much richer human experience. 

For further reading and research by Goldin, read Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey toward Equity.

 

Jessica Sanon Amplifies the Voice of Women and Girls in STEM

It is a well-known fact that the world as we know it has been dominated by male thought and expression for the last several thousand years. Science and math in particular, have been marketed and managed in a way to filter out young women from diving head-first into these mysterious concepts. 

Jessica Sanon is one of many phenomenal women who have stepped forward to amplify the female voice in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). After taking the science and tech world by storm, Jessica is intentionally bringing young BIPOC women with her. 

Her company, sySTEMic Flow, brings impactful opportunities in STEM to young BIPOC girls across the country, inspiring a future generation of diverse and esteemed STEM professionals. sySTEMic flow exposes girls and young women to the exciting world of science and math to develop a firm grasp of STEM concepts. Her intentionality around math and science programming broadens the girls’ understanding of traditionally complex topics and leans into how applicable those topics are to their daily lives. From virtual escape rooms to math jeopardy, sySTEMic flow presents math in new and exciting ways, taking the intimidation out of loving and understanding the subject. As she watches her students draw their own exciting conclusions, each girl develops a lasting sense of confidence.

With over a decade of experience in math and science, Jessica has remained steadfast in her efforts to empower young women. Her commitment to advancing the STEM education of young BIPOC women serves a unique purpose by directly addressing deep-rooted and long-standing socioeconomic issues. Her work helps to empower and inspire individuals to explore a higher potential. STEM holds a world of opportunities for all of us. Jessica is committed to creating open and safe spaces in STEM  for collaboration and empowerment.  By sharing a unique and relatable perspective with communities of women who may have limited access to these resources, Jessica and sySTEMic flow are making a positive shift toward an equitable and unified future. 

Jessica continues to advocate for a brighter future by dedicating her time to advancing progressive action in STEM with diversity and inclusion (DEI) work. Outside of sySTEMic flow, she supports individuals and teams with career coaching and business and program development. Jessica’s DEI work blends well with sySTEMic flow, as it paves the way for more companies to value and hire BIPOC young women as they eagerly enter STEM fields. Jessica has also appeared in several national and local media outlets, including Boston 25 News and a TED Talk

DEI expert and Astrophysicist Dr. Tana Joseph Joins Thinkubator Media

No matter how big or small a team is, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion must be a part of your DNA.

Dr. Tana Joseph is joining Thinkubator Media to offer her skills to support DEI efforts and education for companies and founders.

We firmly believe that inclusion must be thought about early and often to create an equitable, safe, and welcoming environment for everyone.

How can Dr. Joseph help?

Dr. Joseph provides training sessions and workshops on topics such as:

Dr. Joseph also works 1-on-1 with teams to create effective and measurable DEI strategies and workplace policies, and develops bespoke training on inclusive public engagement, conference presentations, and how to run meetings, seminars, and conferences through the lens of inclusion.

Welcome to the team, Dr. Joseph!

ABOUT TANA
Dr. Tana Joseph is a South African astronomer, entrepreneur, public speaker, and social justice advocate for the sciences.

She obtained her PhD in physics in 2013 and has been awarded both Fulbright and Royal Society fellowships in recognition of her research excellence.

Dr. Joseph is passionate about science communication and firmly believes that science is for everyone. In 2018, she founded her own science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) communications and consulting company, AstroComms.

Dr. Joseph is an advocate and consultant for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and decolonization efforts in astronomy and science. In this capacity, she works as the Equity and Inclusion coordinator for astronomy in the Netherlands.

Interested in working with Tana? Contact us!

Video: Want to Start a Podcast? Anne Can Help

Thinkubator Media is excited to introduce Anne Chisa, our new podcast coach.

We sat down and spoke with Anne about her podcast, The Root of the Science Podcast, and how she supports scientists who are interested in starting their own podcast.

 

Henrietta Lacks: The Mother of Modern Medicine

Henrietta Lacks, the rightful “mother of modern medicine,” has finally received overdue justice for her timeless contribution to science. After unwittingly having her cancer cells extracted back in 1951, Henrietta’s cells have gone on to reproduce indefinitely, laying the groundwork for massive discoveries in science and medicine ever since. Her family has finally reached a settlement with the biotech company responsible for extracting her cells against any of their knowledge. 

She was a tobacco farmer in Virginia before moving to Maryland with her family, where she worked at a Steel Mill near Baltimore. She was a typical American woman, hustling and bustling at work and tending to her family, all while trying to squeeze some joy into each day. 

One day, during a routine exam, Henrietta’s doctor discovered a large tumor, resulting in her spending her last year of life in and out of John Hopkins Hospital. Despite her unshakeable optimism, Henrietta succumbed to her illness in late 1951 at the budding age of 31, leaving 5 children behind.

Throughout the course of treatment, Henrietta’s cancer cells were extracted, examined, and eventually used without her or her family's knowledge. An outside biotech lab, Thermo Fisher Scientific, was responsible for this breach of privacy and respect. The aptly named “HeLa cells” have continued to serve millions of medical professionals and their patients: producing life-changing medical advancements worldwide.

The nonconsensual use of Lack’s cells was a physical violation and an outright robbery. HeLa cells have provided a solid foundation for modern scientific discoveries such as vaccines and treatments for various ailments from COVID to cancer. Countless lives have been saved by Henrietta’s expansive cell line. Her cells have even helped scientists observe the way gravity (or a lack thereof!) interacts with cells in outer space. 

After uncovering the vast influence of Henrietta Lacks’ cells, Lacks' family pursued legal action in 2021 against the biotech company. As of the summer of 2023, the family has finally settled in court, receiving the justice they deserve while continuing to graciously share Henrietta’s legacy with the world. Since the settlement with Thermo Fisher Scientific, Henrietta’s estate has filed suit against California firm, Ultragenyx, alleging the company has “made a fortune” from producing using Lacks’ cells.

Networking Tips from a Not-So Extrovert

Post-pandemic Lori has found attending events, especially after work hours, harder. 

I was slowly returning to in-person events after things opened back up from COVID. My dad had Parkinson’s Disease, and absences at school for my daughter meant she was missing lots of learning without an online option. I was looking to avoid the risk of COVID as best I could. 

Finally, when things felt more settled, I mustered up the strength and attended an evening event in Boston. Old Lori would have jumped at the chance to see people, but this time was different. I spent the entire day telling myself, “You are going to this event. No excuses. It’ll be fun.” and “Once you get there, it will be fine. You’ll meet great people!” I then get to the event and spend 10 minutes in my car, staring at my destination, willing myself to unbuckle the seatbelt and just get in there. 

I wouldn’t consider myself an introvert (an ambivert, perhaps), but my social battery has required much more charging since the pandemic. Based on lots of conversations I’ve had with colleagues, I’m not the only one. 

Despite all this, there is great power and potential in networking. As a business owner who works from home, it’s essential for me to meet new people and share my mission (I’m told it’s also healthy to leave your house every once in a while). In fact, the events I’ve attended in the past year have built many new and beautiful friendships and opportunities. 

So, how do you manage walking into a room full of strangers? Here are a few strategies that have helped me make the most of networking opportunities. 

  1. Set a goal. Years ago, a good friend gave me the best advice for networking. She said to create a goal each time you approach a networking event. The plan she shared with me, which I still use today, is to meet five people you didn’t know before the event. After you’ve met those five people, you can leave or stay if you’re having fun. Having this number in my head has helped me get over the hump of walking into a space where I might not know anyone. My introverted friends say this helps them know how soon they can leave. 
  2. Have a pitch. I love my businesses, which means I can dive down a rabbit hole and struggle to get back up at any moment. Rabbit holes happen when you run into someone who loves what they do! Instead of leaving it up to chance, I’ve created an elevator pitch that clarifies what I do and who my work is for. My theory is if you build on the natural curiosity of humans, they will ask follow-up questions about you and your work. Your job is not to talk at a person, but to have a conversation. I always find myself asking lots of questions when I meet folks who are working on inspiring projects. You naturally want to learn more! 
  3. Be authentic and curious. Honestly, just be yourself and ask questions about others. Don’t worry about overly impressing the people you’re talking to or keeping up an appearance. By being authentic to yourself, you will find it easier to connect with folks. One of my favorite stories was when I arrived at an event alone and was late and struggling to find someone to talk to. I saw a person standing by herself against a wall, and I walked up to her and asked, “Are you by yourself, too?” It started not only a great conversation but a wonderful friendship! 

Networking can be challenging, but it is essential for building awareness about yourself and your business. Lastly, don’t forget to follow up with the folks you met afterward. Connect on LinkedIn, send an email or both. This last step will help build a stronger connection with folks who could be your next boss, client, or friend.

Happy connecting!

Webinar: The Art of Communicating Your Science Startup

Thinkubator Media founder and CEO, Lori Lennon, teamed up with Osage University Partners for a webinar on "The Art of Communicating Your Science Startup."

In this webinar, you'll learn about the tools and strategies to create a strong and cohesive message for your startup, whether you are getting ready for a big pitch, or looking to build a strong online presence.

You can watch the full webinar here, and access the Communications Toolkit mentioned here.

For more information about messaging for your startup or business, email lori@thinkubatormedia.com.