Don’t follow in the footsteps of your idols. Create your own career path inspired by their work, says Sofia Otero.

In the 1880’s Nikola Tesla moved to New York City to work with his idol, Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the phonograph and the founder of Edison Electric (the future General Electric) on his ideas for alternating current systems. He believed that together they could illuminate the world. Unfortunately, Edison didn’t recognize Tesla’s talent and, since he believed that Tesla’s alternating current threatened Edison’s investment in his inefficient continuous current, he started a campaign to discredit his new adversary.

Science I.D.O.L. – Individuals Discovering Opportunities for Leadership Success is a STEM workshop for 6th grade girls. This workshop will give girls an opportunity to explore the science, technology, mathematics and engineering fields in a small group, hands-on setting. Each girl will have the opportunity to sign up for several small group sessions throughout the day lead by area professionals in each of the fields. Through these sessions, the girls will be exposed to the opportunities available through STEM careers. Each professional will discuss their specific area of expertise and will lead the girls through an activity related to their particular profession. Participants will have the opportunity to interact and ask questions of the professionals.

People with too little confidence in their own abilities can get passed over for promotions and miss chances to disseminate their research findings or gain new work experiences. But too much self-confidence can cause you to miss out, too: It puts you in danger of going into interviews underprepared, alienating colleagues, or finding it difficult to accept constructive feedback that could make you a better scientist. Learning to keep your self-confidence within a realistic range—neither too little nor too much—can speed your progress in your research and career.

Planning carefully and working toward an overall goal should not be confused with a behavior common to those who have low self-confidence: excessively analyzing every task. Tim Wilkinson, a reader in photonic engineering in the engineering department at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, warns that such fretting can be counterproductive, leading people to worry about their careers instead of focusing on doing good science.

Whatever situation you end up finding yourself in, it’s important to use this opportunity to learn as much as you can and find your own way. To follow in, or not to follow in, that is the question. My answer? Be inspired but always remember to be yourself. After working for Edison and quitting, Tesla found investors for his projects and created his own company. With the support of Westinghouse, he finally won what was called War of Currents, leading to the now familiar (and often taken for granted) alternate current and other inventions. Never lose self-trust, and as Tesla said: “the present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine”.