Many paths lead to successful careers in STEM

4-minute read
An innovative nation will mean more careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Debbie Taylor, nbn’s Chief Information Officer, explains…

It’s clear that a modern business needs technology to be successful – and, this of course, includes broadband technology.

The arrival of broadband signalled the dawn of a truly exciting new era, and it’s one that continues to evolve. Our next generation of thinkers – those in schools today – will ultimately end up working in jobs that simply don’t exist now.

At nbn, we know what an important role our organisation has in the future of Australia, its businesses and the people behind them. It’s why we’re evolving the network for the future, and why we place importance on careers days for our future thinkers.

Where once a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) was likely associated with working as a scientist in a lab, or perhaps tinkering away as a computer programmer, these days, that’s no longer the case.

The modern technologist has many different faces and what I believe is strongly driving this change is how much of what we do today has technology sitting behind it.

And I think, more and more, this is where the future of STEM is heading. 

At nbn, we know what an important role our organisation has in the future of Australia, its businesses and the people behind them. It’s why we’re evolving the network for the future, and why we place importance on careers days for our future thinkers.

Choose your own STEM adventure

I was thrilled to recently share my thoughts on the future of STEM at the virtual nbn and AWS: Choose Your Own Adventure STEM Careers Day.

An interactive virtual event for students in years 10 to 12, the session brought together leading graduates, scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians to share their unconventional pathways into STEM careers.

Ally Watson, Founder and CEO at Code Like a Girl, speaking at the nbn and AWS: Choose Your Own Adventure STEM Careers Day.

Just like our past STEM-in-schools programs, it aimed to show the next generation of important minds that there’s more to STEM than meets the eye.

What stood out for me about the event was that many of the speakers, which included Natalie Field (Chief Technology Officer at Belong), Ally Watson (Founder and CEO at Code Like a Girl), and Jen Beer (Head of Health and Education – Regional and Remote at nbn), are not your traditional technologists.

They each have diverse career backgrounds, which I think strongly reflects where we are today as an industry, and where we are going in the future. 

Natalie Field, Chief Technology Officer at Belong.

The accidental technologist

When I was at school there was no defined pathway to the role I do today, so I would consider myself an ‘accidental technologist’.

I was one of those kids that didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I left high school or even what I wanted to study at university.

The path I was going down was very different to my siblings and many of my friends, who had a clear idea about what they wanted to do.

What I didn’t realise when I was at school was that I was studying subjects for jobs that had not been invented yet.

Nor did I know that a whole new technology industry was about to be created through trailblazing companies, like Apple and Microsoft, and that by the time I graduated university, computers would start to be commonplace in offices. 

Jen Beer, Head of Health and Education at nbn.

Despite not knowing what I wanted to do, I stayed true to what I loved and trusted that the rest would follow.

I read an article last year that really stuck with me and reminded me of my time in high school.

The article by Careers with STEM asked one question: what will a job search look like in 2050?

And the answer is simple. No one knows.

One popular estimate quoted by the World Economic Forum says 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will work in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. 

Tiffany Okewole, Senior Software & Systems Engineering Manager at nbn.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about STEM.

One is that it’s only for ‘smart’ people. I’m defining smart here as ‘book smart’ because I believe that everyone has something they are smart at, it just might not be in the conventional way.

Another misconception is that STEM is more of a career for men, or that it is boring. Yet, technology is much more than sitting in an office developing code.

The industry is also making strong strides to improve diversity – though, as an industry, we still have more work to do to improve female representation and participation.

Personally, I think the key to this lies in engaging with female students from as young as primary school age, and both men and women advocating for more female students in STEM – diversity of thought ultimately leads to better results for everyone. 

Maria Sokolova, Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services.

As for being ‘book smart’, the truth is you don’t need to be or to have a passion for science and maths to have a successful career in STEM.

Technology sits behind just about everything we do these days. You can apply it to whatever you love and make it better.

The same can be said about jobs.

Whether you’re an architect, a real estate agent, an athlete or a beautician, technology touches everything we do. 

The future of STEM

Riya Patel, student at Blacktown Girls High School.

Can you imagine what life will be like in 20 years, 10 years or even five years?

When I first started working, there was a clear separation between the technologists and businesspeople. My role didn’t exist in its current form. It was more about the IT person working behind a computer.

Yet we are only at the start of this journey with technology and the possibilities are endless.

Julina Lim, Co-op Scholar and Chemical Engineering student at UNSW.

As Chief Information Officer at nbn, I’m keen to see more young people take up a career in STEM – regardless of what they choose to study – including helping us to lift the digital capability of Australia through opportunities like the nbn™ Graduate Program.

I firmly believe that technology will underpin the future of how we will live, work and play, and the more diversity of thought and representations we have in our industry, the better outcomes and innovations we’ll have. 

Cover image: Adam Field, Account Manager at Amazon Web Services, and Debbie Taylor, Chief Information Officer at nbn, speaking at the nbn and AWS: Choose Your Own Adventure STEM Careers Day.