Meg Richards and the Unplanned Path
Meg Richards wants young people to know there is no magic formula for being successful.
"New graduates tend to get a lot of advice, especially early in their career. I want to make sure they know that even the person giving the advice isn't perfect and may not always be the embodiment of their words," she said.
A Carnegie Mellon University alumna and senior systems engineer at CMU's Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, Richards was one of the invited speakers at Lavender Graduation, a celebration for CMU's LGBTQIA2S+ community hosted by the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion in May. She used her remarks to emphasize how imperfect successful people can be.
In fact, the morning of her speech, Richards realized she didn't have clean clothes for the day, a tidbit she included in her remarks, to the delight of the graduates.
"It was an eureka moment for me when I woke up that day," Richards said. "I realized that I could make them laugh and get my point across."
Richards solved her minor laundry crisis, like many others throughout her CMU career. In nearly 20 years at the university, she has done a little bit of everything. That includes being a student, teaching assistant, employee, Alumni Association Board member, startup employee, AB Tech member and teaching computer science as part of the Summer College Preview Program at CMU's campus in Doha, Qatar.
"If you never leave CMU, you don't drop responsibilities, you just mushroom them up. It's a fun CMU dynamic," Richards said.
In her Eberly Center role, Richards writes code to support Canvas, a learning management system used at CMU. Richards finds opportunities for creativity everywhere. Once, while helping Computing Services with IT tickets, she stumbled upon one from Henry Posner III, an adjunct instructor in the History Department of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She helped Posner with his problem, then offered to be a teaching assistant for his class, The American Railroad-Decline and Renaissance in the Era of Deregulation.
"'I'm your T.A. now,' I told Henry, and I have been for about five years," she said.
Eventually, Richards became a project manager for Pop-Up Metro, Posner's startup that brings modular trains to areas that do not have railway systems.
With such diverse interests and responsibilities, it is a wonder that Richards has time for hobbies, but those abound, too. In her spare time, she raises chickens, shares her extensive board game collection and met her wife on campus.
"During the pandemic, I had a running list of departments who wanted my chickens to Zoom bomb their meetings," Richards said. "Let me know if you want eggs."