Sylvia Conte ‘16: A Young Woman Called to Greatness

Crediting her Montrose education, teachers and coaches, Sylvia Conte ‘16 was recently featured as part of an interview series on, Raytheon’s Sylvia Conte On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman In a Male-Dominated Industry. is an online publishing platform with an audience in the millions. 
As a systems engineer at Raytheon Technologies, one of the largest aerospace and defense manufacturers in the world, “Sylvia is successfully leading teams of engineers and scientists at the ripe old age of 24,” said Katie Elrod, Head of School. 
“I want to emphasize that Montrose helped me break glass ceilings in male dominated industries,” said Sylvia. 
Sylvia began to get involved in STEM fields while at Montrose. A participant in several programs aimed at closing the gender gap in STEM fields, she received a B.S. from the University of Rochester. While working at Raytheon, she’s also pursuing a Masters in engineering at Tufts University and giving back by volunteering for Girls in Tech missions. 
In the interview, when asked which character traits are most instrumental to her success as a business leader, Sylvia described three traits that she attributes to her Montrose education:
  • Creative and adaptive. “I am a biomedical engineer who is working on a technical team in the defense industry, which is uncommon,” Sylvia said. She is comfortable being uncomfortable  daily and thinking out of the box. 
  • Kindly curious. “When you’re kindly curious, you aren’t shutting down someone’s ideas without listening – you’re helping the team grow as a whole by being empathetic and inquisitive.” Sylvia builds consensus every day with her team. 
  • Service oriented: “I believe that we are only as strong as our communities are.” She strives for excellence in her work as a gift to her team, not for her own benefit.
Sylvia's professional accolades are just one facet of the greatness of mind, heart, character she developed at Montrose, where she was a member of the Class of 2016 – one of the largest in School history, and one of the most closely connected. The Class of 2016 lost beloved classmate Elizabeth Schickel ‘16 during their sophomore year. Sylvia, a runner in her spare time, recently ran her first marathon and was inspired to offer it for Elizabeth. She wrote to Elizabeth’s parents, Kathy and Abe Schickel P ‘07, ‘10, ‘14, ‘16, ‘18, ‘20, after the marathon:
I am a pretty average runner, but I felt strong for the first 14 miles. However, by the time I came to the famous Heartbreak Hill, I felt miserable. My feet throbbed. I started to feel defeated. I began doubting myself and my training. I questioned myself - Why do I run? Why am I putting my body through this grueling activity right now? 
I didn’t think the inner dialogue in my head would reply, but it did. It said, “You run for Elizabeth.” A sense of purpose came back into my step and I continued the push forward. I ran the infamous Newton hills repeating that chant the whole way. It went like this:
“Why do I run?”
“I run for Elizabeth.”
“I will not stop.”
“I will not stop.”
Over and over and over again.
Your daughter’s courage and perseverance fueled me during the most physically challenging event in my life, and for that I am forever grateful. Elizabeth’s spirit revived me during the Boston Marathon. You should be proud of your daughter because she just ran the 126th Boston Marathon. She carried me the whole way and crossed that finish line with me. 
“This young alumna has built her life compass and she is impacting the world every day,” said Mrs. Elrod. “Like Sylvia, our alumnae are not striving simply for worldly success. They have a strong belief that they matter, that the world needs them. They know they are women with conviction who can unify diverse groups, principled women who have practical wisdom and who commit themselves to noble and worthwhile pursuits.”