Female execs from Apple, SpaceX and more share their career advice for Assembly readers

We know when it comes to future careers, Assembly readers like to dream big. So we asked women who are at the top of their games to share what you need to know to be at the top of yours.

Hailing from Brazil, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, they are leaders in technology, science, engineering and social justice. Read on to discover the secrets to their success!

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"I was fortunate to be surrounded by teachers, mentors and family who encouraged me to pursue any career I wanted, so I never felt limited in any way by my race or gender (even during times when I was the only woman or person of color in my math and engineering courses.) Because I excelled in math and science, I assumed for some time that I would become a doctor. Thanks to a summer program at Tulane University, I was introduced to the field of engineering, and opportunities it presented to solve some of our world’s greatest challenges.

Advice to girls who want to pursue STEM careers: Bring your humanity. Bring the interests and causes you are passionate about. Do not assume that these fields have to be cold and inhumane because they are technical in nature. These are often the pathways to solving some of our most human challenges, and those solutions can’t address the needs of women and girls if women and girls aren’t at the table."
— Lisa Jackson, Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, Apple
"Don’t be afraid and embrace the inventor in you! It's okay to fail, and lose many battles as long as you keep your dreams alive in your heart. Always remember, inventors do not limit their imagination — I studied architectural engineering and all of my inventions have been in other fields!"
— Reem Al Marzouqi, Emirati engineer and inventor of a foot-controlled car
"Don't focus on who you are, focus on what you want to create. Girls, be ambitious."
— Akiko Naka, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Wantedly, the leading professional social networking service in Japan
"Decide what you really want to do in this world — fulfillment comes from working on what you love."
— Ana Lucia Villela, Founder and President, Instituto Alana, a Brazilian NGO that promotes healthy childhood development
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Get involved early and often with hands on science and engineering activities! At SpaceX, our engineers are involved with all aspects of designing, building, and flying our rockets and spacecraft, and they are regularly tasked with solving seemingly impossible engineering challenges.

By getting involved in hands-on programs in school, from robotics competitions to rocketry, coding challenges, and science fairs, you can start to get a sense of what engineering is like in the real world and begin to discover which aspects most excite you.

You cannot control whether you are going to be the smartest person at your company or in a room — however, you do have control over how well you prepare and how much work you are willing to put in, which will ultimately drive the results you are able to achieve.
— Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer, SpaceX

Through Assembly, Malala Fund is helping girls around the world share their stories. Subscribe to receive our newsletter and learn about the next generation of leaders.

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Tess Thomas is editor of Assembly, a digital publication and newsletter from Malala Fund. She loves books, cats and french fries.