Visible Spectrum is a series to spotlight talented and dedicated women employees across the Lab
February 9, 2023
Erin Scharfstein serves as an administrator in the Information Technology (IT) division and has spearheaded multiple projects such as streamlining the hiring process and running the Science-IT course program. She also co-chairs the All Access Employee Resource Group (ERG) that advocates for the needs of those with visible and invisible disabilities.
Outside of the Lab, Erin dotes on her children and their friends, drinking boba, marveling at bugs up close, or baking together. She is an avid reader, especially memoirs. Her favorite memoir is Jeannette Walls’ “The Glass Castle.”
What inspired you to work at Berkeley Lab?
I interviewed at UC Berkeley years ago and was connected to a temporary position at the Lab. One position turned into another and I eventually became an administrator in the IT Division. I enjoy the work I do at the Lab because of the wide variety of activities I am involved in. I am most passionate about thorough and precise communication, relationship building, and organizing. I also love to read and write and currently serve as the in-house editor and proofreader for my colleagues’ written materials.
What have you been most proud of accomplishing at the Lab?
I have provided the Lab community science-IT courses for over five years in partnership with D-Lab, UC Berkeley’s center for data intensive social science. The program has trained thousands of Lab staff in Python, R, Bash, and Git and more. The demand for these courses remains strong year-to-year so it is rewarding to provide a popular service to my colleagues. The Lab has also taught me some great work habits organizationally, interpersonally, and has pushed me technically (thank you IT friends!). The Lab has supported my pursuit of professional certifications and courses of interest. Overall, the Lab has offered me a flexible position with growing children and evolving work/life needs.
Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter and/or succeed in your field of work?
Becoming an administrator is certainly an attainable career goal, but entering and succeeding in this field requires excellent organizational skills (e.g., your output must be organized, succinct and digestible) and honing attention to detail is the crux of everything. Revise, revise, and then revise again. Be over-prepared. Be open to feedback from trustworthy people. Allow your mentors that demonstrate integrity to contribute to you - this will also make you a great colleague to work with.
How can our community engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
My girls are in 3rd and 6th grade right now and are both confident that math is their strongest subject. But, research shows that girls lose confidence in STEM fields as we move through adolescence, which is the same time we realize just how much cultural currency our bodies hold in society. Targeting girls and underrepresented groups for STEM in the middle school years is a prime age. Meeting kids where they are in terms of interests and stimulating to encourage their interests in STEM topics from those points of interests could be a compelling intervention for middle schoolers.
Secondly, having people from underprivileged groups serving in positions of executive leadership is beneficial for growing leaders. People in entry level and middle level jobs are then able to see people who look like themselves in upper-level positions. This encourages aspiration and counteracts stereotypes of homogeneity among leadership. When a diversity of faces are not represented among executives, that has repercussions and the possibility of breaking barriers becomes that much more of a psychological and material hurdle.