Empowering The Next Generation Of Leaders In The Community

Annette is a Director of Technology, based in our Global Technology and Information Center (GTIC) in Oldsmar, Fla. She was originally part of IAG Research, a company that Nielsen acquired in 2008. Since she joined the team 11 years ago, Annette has taken on educational and development opportunities in the community in addition to her role at Nielsen.

I started my career in the nonprofit sector so that I could combine my two passions of writing and community outreach. But, over time, I became less connected with the role, so I left to make it in the Big Apple as a freelance writer. Frustrated with the low pay, I decided to take on a new role as part-time, evening survey writer for IAG Research, a company that Nielsen purchased two years later. Within Nielsen, I have grown my part-time role into a full-time career, and my connection to the community has never been stronger.

My first community engagement opportunity was through a literacy program at City University of New York. I was given the opportunity to teach a full classroom of adult students from ages 19-60, who were looking to learn U.S. history, essay writing and science. I didn’t know how I could possibly do that and still go to work. But after speaking with my manager, we figured out how I could do both. For six years, I committed three hours of my time from Monday through Thursday to teaching those students. It changed my life and hopefully had an impact on hundreds of people who were returning to school.

While I continued to work and teach my students about topics like the U.S. Constitution, cell structure and suspension bridge history, I received an unbelievable job offer from Nielsen in our Global Technology and Information Center (GTIC) in Oldsmar, Fla. I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. So I took a leap of faith, bid a tearful goodbye to my students and New York City, and headed to Florida. After settling into a new working and living environment, I decided to get involved with Women in Nielsen’s (WIN’s) Southeast leadership committee, university recruitment for the University of Southern Florida and the University of Florida, and various Tampa Bay non-profits.

With all of these activities, I should have felt completely fulfilled. But anyone who knows me, knows that a cup that isn’t running over isn’t full in my book. I wanted to find a better way to connect Nielsen with females in the community. With help from other WIN volunteers, we launched our first Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach to the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. Our first effort was to teach a couple of STEM lessons like “What is an engineer?” and “How do you create a polymer?” during the troops’ regular evening troop meetings. We had a few stumbles (it took days to get all of the glue off my clothes and skin), but we generated a lot of interest in these lessons.

While still offering some troop visits, I started dreaming of something bigger, something that would draw more Girl Scouts and leverage more Nielsen volunteers. I wanted to hold a STEM event at Nielsen’s GTIC. This wasn’t an original concept, as many organizations offer such events, but it was new for Nielsen. But  once I brought up the idea, the magic began to happen. Volunteers popped up from everywhere. WIN, the other six employee resource groups (ERGs), Nielsen’s Engineering team, people whom I had never met within the company, all expressed interest, contributed their ideas on STEM lessons, and helped with registration, patch design and everything in between. Five months later, Nielsen hosted the first STEM Saturday in November 2015, featuring 20+ STEM stations, 60+ Nielsen volunteers and nearly a 125 Girl Scouts in attendance.

A couple of months after the event, a little girl walked up to me in a restaurant. She told me that she and her fellow Girl Scouts had attended our STEM Saturday, and that she had fun. Her mother approached, thanked me for all that Nielsen does and asked when our next STEM Saturday was going to take place. That’s when I realized that this could be more than just a one-time event.

So, in October 2016, Nielsen held its second annual STEM Saturday. We had more than 25 STEM activity stations, leveraged 87 Nielsen volunteers and 12 university students, and hosted 161 Girl Scouts. We are already planning for our 2017 event and in the process of creating a STEM playbook for anyone who wants to create an event in their office. There’s nothing sweeter than a dream coming true, and when it turned out better than I imagined, my heart overflowed with joy. I can never thank my co-workers enough for believing in this and helping to put something so beautiful together, nor can I ever fully express the pride that I have in being a part of a company that does a lot to make a difference.