Earlier this year, I got invited by Amy Ryman, founder of the STEM Girls Club to be a STEM [Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics for those not in the know] Ambassador and share my experiences of working in STEM to a group of 80 young ladies in a speed-dating style event.
When the invitation came, I read it, read it again … and was completely gobsmacked. I very quickly convinced myself that the message was sent to wrong person. After all, I’m Dana The Trainer. When you think about me, and the work I do, I’m sure “Women in STEM” isn’t what immediately comes to mind. When I picture a STEM Ambassador, I picture a doctor, researcher, engineer, mathematician, programmer or some other “serious” job. In my mind, I just didn’t fit the bill.
So I replied to the invite saying essentially “Are you sure you have the right person?” and the reply back floored me.
“Thank you for being so honest … but you are exactly what I am looking for. It’s about having the experience to talk to these girls and make them realise there is a whole wide variety of jobs and careers out there in STEM and to empower them to have the confidence to go out and find them. A lot of these girls don’t have any females in their lives that have professional careers or know what the STEM industry or any industry is like and I just want them to meet inspiring women.”
After that, I was sold. I took a step back and realised that I am the embodiment of the “T” in STEM. I started my career in Technology. My first job out of University was on a large-scale IT Transformation project. As part of my career in professional services, before I transitioned to Learning, I held a number of roles in Technology like Systems Auditor, Software Tester, Test Manager, Consultant, Systems Trainer, Technical Trainer and IT Manager to name a few because it varied depending on the project I was assigned to.
I’ve managed projects and teams to ensure that businesses are able to realise value from the systems they pay for. I’ve trained hundreds of new graduates getting started in my field. And later, I became the face and voice of a piece of software, recording hundreds of videos showing users how to interact with the software, answering their questions and leading classroom sessions getting users up to speed with the program. Even now, my work in Agile, Project Management and Software Testing definitely counts as “T” – and lots of my training sessions help those who work in the Technology space to interact and work better with customers. I also use technology in my classrooms in fun and interesting ways to make sure the learning hits home. I am so “T”!
Amy was right, the message that Women in STEM come in many shapes and forms is one that needs to be shared. Firstly it will combat thinking like mine about what a Woman in STEM looks like. And secondly it could open things up to more young ladies who may discount a career in STEM because they don’t enjoy or can’t see themselves in some of the more traditional roles. The truth is, STEM isn’t all laboratories and engineering and numbers (although I do admire the ladies who excel at those things – it is pretty cool). A career in STEM is evolving, it encompasses many different types of work, including training and learning in the technology space. It’s good for students to challenge themselves to think beyond traditional, normative and current roles in STEM, explore, find their niche and carve their own path. And that’s what I shared at the event.
I enjoyed every minute of it. I was in my element! It was speed-dating style so each Ambassador got 3 minutes with small groups of 3 or 4 students. The students could ask any questions in that time, and have a conversation. And I was honestly amazed and impressed by the variety of the questions and how well-considered and thought out they were. Three minutes also goes really fast! Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun. And at the end of the time a buzzer would sound and the groups would move to the next station clockwise, so each Ambassador would welcome a new group and repeat the process.
It was such a rush! I’ve never speed dated in real life. I met my husband straight out of University, so I have missed most of the exciting dating trends. But, I have to say – I can see the appeal. Such fun! I also enjoyed meeting the other Ambassadors and hearing their stories. It was such an inspirational group of women, with varied and exciting careers. I was buzzing when I left.
It was easily the most rewarding thing I’ve done this year so far and I absolutely can’t wait to do it again. Dana The Trainer is now officially, Dana The STEM Ambassador.