When Deirdre Olynick looks back on her family’s immigration story, assimilation is what comes to mind most prominently. It was key to her Venezuelan grandmother’s success in a new country at the age of 16 and to her Venezuelan/Cuban father’s success in his career.
“My father worked hard on his education when my brother and I were young and then struggled to gain a foothold in the software industry,” she says. “He was successful and rose to become the vice president of a software company, but to do so, unfortunately at that time he felt he had to assimilate and leave a lot of his culture behind.”
Her maternal family history is one of survival as well; some of her Jewish ancestors didn’t survive the Holocaust, and her Eastern European grandparents struggled to make it as first generation Americans. “Growing up with immigrant families on both sides really taught me that you have to strive to make your way,” she says. “From the Jewish side, it was education that was so deeply ingrained, and my Latino dad also recognized the importance of this, so it was instilled in me from a very young age.”
Olynick took her education seriously, finding a passion for chemistry in high school and taking that to college, where she discovered materials science and went on to get her PhD.