I was born in Istanbul, Turkey. My father was a retired Turkish naval officer and I grew up on naval bases. My family sacrificed to educate me and my brother who is a medical doctor. Without an education, you can’t do anything. In Turkey, they kill each other to get a college degree. I attended elementary school early and learned to read early, a rarity in Turkey. These were French schools, and I spoke French before I spoke English.
I am of Black Caribbean, Dutch, French, and British heritage. I was born on the Dutch island of Aruba, and grew up on the Island of St. Lucia in Franco-British West Indies. I emigrated to the United States at the age of 19 years. I was inspired to go into my STEM field by Dr. C.P Shim who was the professor in an introductory psychology course that I took my sophomore year in college. Determined to be a biologist in general and in particular, a proto-zoologist, Dr. Shim opened up the field of human behavior and mental processes in a way that resonated with some longing for service and knowledge deep in my spirit.
I often refer to myself as “bi-cultural” as I was born and raised between two very distinct cultural landscapes, southern America and the British West Indies. Chattanooga TN is my place of birth, and I was raised between there and my island home of Anguilla B.W.I. My father is West Indian and my mother is American of African and Cherokee descent. The dual identity has given me many growing pains finding an identity of my own, but I am proud of the rich cultures combined within me. When I moved back to the US in high school, people would often ask what my “race” was. It was difficult to explain, so being the marketer that I am, I quickly adopted a slogan for myself; “the perfect mix: an Indian, American, Caribbean chick.”
A STEM Woman in the Commercial Construction Industry
My name is Alyssa ‘Monty’ Montague, and I’m a 26-year-old SharePoint Administrator at Hutton Construction, Inc. I grew up in a town called Normal, IL, which is about half the size of Chattanooga. I wanted to get out of the small town life, so for college, I moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College. It didn’t take long, just six short years, for me to tire of big city life. My longterm boyfriend and I decided to move to Chattanooga to be closer to his family. My mom and dad still live in Illinois, but they come to visit as often as they can.
My family’s background is a mixture of American and Swiss. My father’s family is Swiss and German and includes: Bankers, Importers, Entrepreneurs and Ministers. My mother’s family are Dutch Mennonite farmers who immigrated to California and became peach and Almond farmers in the central valley. My parents moved to Tennessee just before I was born. My fathers was a physicist and taught for 34 years. My mom was a home economics graduate, raised four girls and worked as a church secretary and later at a credit union.
I am Tamra VanAllen, Assistant VP & Pricing Actuary at Unum. When people ask me what I do, I say, “I’m an actuary” then I watch for their reaction. It typically goes one of two ways, either an excited “I know someone else who is an actuary” or I am met with a blank stare and awkward pause while they try to decide if it is even worth asking about.
My African American family came from a small community in Eastern North Carolina. We were, and still are, a very close knit group. My overall inspiration comes from my mother, a strong woman, who supported me on my way to self development and discovery. With respect to STEM-related fields, I was inspired by my high school chemistry teacher, who did an excellent job of engaging her students. Additionally, my aunt, my Mom’s sister, taught Biology at my high school. Both my Chemistry teacher and my aunt pushed me to join extracurricular science activities because they saw that I had a natural affinity for science and math. Eventually, I was introduced to Chemical Engineering by a representative from the local DuPont Chemical plant who spoke to our HS physics class about his work as a Chemical Engineer during a Career Fair event.
I am Lakweshia Ewing, a co-owner of Biz Boom Apps, LLC. I was born in Memphis into a life of poverty and all of the negative symptoms that it can bring along with it. It was always a dream to become a game-changing businesswoman and philanthropist so this early curiosity and an already successful family member willing to educate me on how to change the world through technology I dove in head first into the realm of technology known as the “Mobile Market” as a co-owner of Biz Boom Apps, LLC. It was the desire of Biz Boom Apps to provide the small business world with a mobile solution that is a one-stop-shop for all of its marketing and communication needs.