April 30, 2024, Clearfield Utah

Earlier this month, the 421st Fighter Generation Squadron hosted a remarkable mentorship event for military service members and their spouses at Hill Air Force Base. In attendance were service members and spouses of the Team Hill community, several women leaders of Utah’s information technology sector, and four SheTech-TechBuzz Media interns.

The panel, which consisted of leaders in the Information Technology industry, was moderated by Aniza Brown, Founder and CEO of Rosie Project. The panelists included Cydni Tetro, President of the Women Tech Council, Sanguta Subramanian, Chief Operations Officer at the Om Group Inc., and Captain Mandy Cannon, an Air Force Academy-trained F-35 fighter pilot from the 421st Fighter Squadron “Black Widows,” whose origins stem from WWII. The discussion covered a wide range of topics, including leadership, imposter syndrome, and breaking barriers in STEM fields.

The panelists shared their personal experiences, discussing the barriers they had encountered in various traditionally male dominated fields.

Sanguta Subramanian said that for her the most significant barrier to achievement are the negative thoughts and the self-limiting ideas that come into her head uninvited. She has to consciously fight everyday against these negative thoughts and expends much intentional effort to make positive daily choices. She said when she started focusing on success, she recognized that success looks different for different people. "I just have to be true to my reality of success. I have learned that it's okay to let go of the being that I am today to become what I can be tomorrow." said Subramanian.

Cydni Tetro shared thoughts on leadership, explaining that it’s far too easy for people, especially women in tech, to not see themselves as leaders but rather just contributors. Tetro pointed out that it isn’t a title or position that makes someone a leader but instead their influence.

"When you think about the type of leader you want to become, you want to be a leader that people love to follow because they know that you are looking out for them, you understand their talents, and you're going to make sure that they're maximizing their output and their talents," said Tetro. She added, "They know you have vision, and they know that if they follow you, they will achieve something that they could never have achieved on their own. When you do that repeatedly, you give the people the opportunity to step into spaces that they cannot step into themselves. And that's what inspires them to become leaders themselves."

Tetro pointed out that as people build their careers they constantly find that they are doing things they have never done before. "We're always trying something new and we're constantly trying to become better. This means at every phase you're going to do something you've never done before." Tetro explained that this is the moment when impostor syndrome tends to come in. "That's where people get stopped. But the reality is, if you're building a career it is inevitable that almost every day you are trying to become better, and you are trying to grow and you're trying to move to the next stage. You are faced with doing things that you have never done before."

Captain Cannon grew up in a military family. She had a strong role model in her stepmother, who served in the military and with whom she is very close. This relationship made all the difference to her as a child as it gave her a confident, “sky’s the limit” perspective on the kinds of careers she could achieve. “As a young child, no one ever told me I couldn’t fly jets,” said Cannon. “Whereas, other kids in school were not as fortunate to have a female mentor in their life showing them that girls too can become fighter pilots and that flying a fighter jet is actually a job. She added, “Who wouldn’t want that job?... instead of sitting at a desk, why would I not want to go upside down every day?”

Captain Cannon described the fighter pilot community as a place where barriers don’t really exist once a pilot, male or female, arrives into the community. “Thankfully, we’re really blessed with really great people. Once you’re here, we’re a family.” Cannon said she mostly works with male coworkers but said gender doesn’t really come up as an issue.

Cannon talks often with many girls of different ages: elementary, middle school age, high schoolers, and even women who are well in their careers, to advance the message that there are really no limits for women, especially in the military. “There’s no limitation to you being a woman as a fighter pilot in the military. The biggest hurdle is getting into the community. Once you’re in, the community’s fantastic.” Cannon said if she ever feels doubts about her qualifications as a woman flying advanced fighter jets, she reminds herself about all the training she has gone through to get to this F-35 squadron. “They wouldn’t have given me the keys to these things or let me go shoot bullets or fly bombs and missiles over the Middle East if they didn’t expect me to 100% follow the rules, make good decisions, and stick to my training. I’m not a CEO, but I imagine they have worked hard to earn that title and are qualified for that role.

Cannon added, “I don’t always feel like Superwoman. But sometimes we women just have to think back at all the time and effort we have put into whatever our objective is and remember, it’s more likely than not that we’re overqualified for whatever task we’re trying to accomplish.”


TechBuzz welcomes again the contributions of SheTech media interns, Ava and Kira, who are high school seniors attending Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy in Utah County. At Maeser, Ava and Kira pursue STEM activities such as learning IT and coding skills, serving as SheTech ambassadors, and attending Women Tech Council events.

As part of the SheTech-TechBuzz media internship, Ava and Kira connect with and interview women making a positive impact in Utah, including 2023 Women Tech Award finalists and awardees, tech execs, lawmakers, and, occasionally fighter jet pilots.

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