By Paul Schott The Stamford Advocate, Conn.
As the head of a company that makes 3-D printers, MakerBot Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Lawton could be expected to have achieved her success with meticulous career "design plans."
Quite the contrary.
"My path really has been following my heart," Lawton told Greenwich Academy upper-schoolers on Monday. "Almost every job that I've done has either been through a reference or because it's something I wanted to do. It's really served me well."
Lawton, the former owner of Just Books in Old Greenwich, was this year's keynote speaker at Greenwich Academy's symposium for upper-schoolers. With "Women's Leadership in the 21st Century," as its focus, Monday's program featured Lawton and a dozen other panelists from different fields. Several of the speakers were Greenwich Academy alumnae.
School officials aimed for students to emerge from the symposium with a better sense of their career options and a greater understanding of how to turn their talents and interests into a fulfilling career.
The selection of Lawton reflects the school's focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming.
Not surprisingly, the school is a client of Lawton's company -- Greenwich Academy's STEM design lab features two MakerBot printers.
"The 3-D printer changes how you look at the world," Lawton said. "Now, when you go to do something, you think, 'Should I make it, or buy it?'"
MakerBot has a strong presence in the town with its Greenwich Avenue store that opened last year.
Like Lawton, many of the other speakers discussed how they succeeded, not through rigid planning, but through determination, risk-taking and an open-minded approach to new ideas and career paths.
"It's always great to have a plan, but that plan is very likely to change," said Sandra Richter, CEO and co-founder of Changing Environments, which makes the Soofa, a bench that is also a solar-powered charging hub. "I'm originally from Germany, and I never would have thought that I would ever go to live in the states to be at MIT, with all these dorks and geeks. I was way less dorky and less geeky before, and now I've turned into this person who's excited about computer games."
The alumnae speakers described the importance of their years at Greenwich Academy. Dr. Elizabeth Frates, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, spoke of the influence of Greenwich Academy's recently retired field hockey and lacrosse coach Angela Tammaro, or "Miss T," as Frates called her.
"If we have this idea that I'll still keep creating beautiful paintings, I'll still keep trying and creating new inventions and no matter if I fail or I'm a big success, I'm going to learn and grow along the way," said Frates, class of 1985. "Miss T really was the start of that for me."
Despite the symposium's 8 a.m. start, students said they were keen to hear the speakers.
"I'm going to take their advice and use it for my own life," said sophomore Laura Bautista-Borrero. "There's a lot for us to think about."
Fellow sophomore Alice Hudson said she connected with the speakers.
"They gave me ideas that you don't need to just choose one path," she said. "You can have a mix and take paths together."