Sunday 1 March 2020

The Joy of a STEM Ambassador

I signed up to be a STEM Ambassador, when I learnt about Bloodhound and how it was 'to inspire a generation'. My thoughts on Women in IT are well known, we will reach parity when girls see technology as a career path for them. It is our job to encourage young people to think of technology as a career not just what drives their phone, or their Xbox. 

The process for STEM ambassadors in the UK, is a series of local hubs, who arrange vetting and training and then encourage you through opportunities to be a local ambassador. For me in N Ireland the local hub is in Belfast at W5, however despite wanting to help, most opportunities there have been when I have been travelling or in London. 

But last Friday, that changed and I did my first careers talk in Coláiste Feirste an Irish language school in Belfast, and once I had checked my lack of Irish wasn't a barrier I signed up.

The building is amazing, it is built around an 18th Century Home of the Riddell family, and we had the careers sessions in the library which used to be the chapel.

The children were all about 13 / 14 and the format of the day was speed dating. There were about 8 ambassadors representing different STEM careers and each group of children spoke to each of us for 5 minutes. These students already have an advantage, they speak two languages fluently, and I tried to make that real for them.

They had a list of suggested questions, ' What do you like most / least? What qualifications do you need?' etc, but a common one not on the list was 'how much are you paid?'. The most common question, 'how did you get into your career?', as it was first on the list, even got asked twice on more than one occasion. The ability to pretend you are listening hasn't reached them yet, but in the main they were engaged and wanted to hear our stories. 

You need to make it relevant to then. Their smartphones didn't exist when they were born, so I got them to imagine poor me, starting in technology when they had only been computers in places like NASA when I was their age. 

The question about what did I not like, I thought I had solved. I asked them what it was like when the apps on their phones didn't work. Interestingly no boy admitted to ever having a problem, except with an Xbox. I forgot this is the generation that simply figures things out. (side story, I had problems with an underwater camera on a scuba trip once. no google available at sea so I asked if anyone else had the same camera. The youngest person on the boat said she would fix it. She told me she didn't have the camera but was from the generation........... DID I FEEL OLD!!!

The day went very quickly and I really enjoyed it. I hope it helped the students.  Accenture encourages things like this and the opportunity to encourage all people to use and love technology, makes me happy.

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