Continuous learning and development are part of our culture at Scott Logic, and we encourage all staff to get involved in all kinds of activities, from mentoring, to teaching at Code Clubs to speaking at local meetups and technology events around the world.
Our test engineer Hannah volunteers as a STEM Ambassador in local schools. Here’s a taste of what she gets up to.
Recently, I went along to Mortimer Community College in South Shields to talk about my job in front of a small group of 10-11 year olds, and to do some hands-on problem solving tasks with them. At the end of the session the teacher told me she was surprised to hear there are so many different routes to get a job in software engineering; she thought it was a clear-cut path - i.e. you had to study software development, or computer science, at university. This simply confirmed to me the reason that I was there; to inform students, and teachers alike, that there are many different ways to get into software engineering, and there are different roles within it.
I took quite an odd route into software; I did animation at university and worked in the gaming industry before joining Scott Logic. The look of surprise on the Year 9 and 10 students faces at Hebburn Comprehensive, which I also visited recently, at the fact I’d done animation and not a software-based degree, yet still worked in software was amusing but saddening at the same time. Some part of society has failed to inform these bright young minds that your path through life is not clear-cut: it’s an intricate web of choices and opportunities.
I have been getting involved with a few STEM Ambassador activities with this goal in mind; to show students and teachers that a career in software can be reached from many different paths through different types of education. This is likely to become even more the case as the industry moves so fast. For example, the students were wowed when I told them about the first computer (the Difference Engine by Charles Babbage), which stood at a gaping 11ft wide and 8ft tall, and the first commercial computer UNIVAC 1, which cost $1.5million to buy.
Different skills and personalities can lend different outlooks to problem solving; if all people building software were from the same background, all software may end up the same and we wouldn’t be building and innovating new things. This is especially true for the role of a software tester, as we want people with different backgrounds who can bring different skills, opinions and ideas to the table. I want to show young students that your degree doesn’t define your life. If you make the ‘wrong’ decision, you can still take actions later in life to get on the path you want to be on. And quite often, that ‘wrong’ decision can be what makes you an interesting and good choice for employers.
The STEM Ambassadors event at Hebburn Comprehensive was also a part of NWED (National Women in Engineering Day), in an attempt to encourage more girls to choose STEM subjects at A level and beyond. By informing them of influential historical women (like Ada Lovelace) and also chatting to them about our own job roles, we hoped that we could interest a few of the students in a STEM path. I am very conscious of the low ratio of women to men in STEM roles, and even though we don’t know exactly why, I think it is important to do what we can to help young women to realise their potential in a STEM career.
I hope that I can use my unusual (and apparently interesting!) background to help students either realise that choosing a STEM degree is the easiest path into a STEM job, or show that your degree choice is not the be all and end all. STEM Ambassadors is a great place to help inform the younger generations of their options that they might not get otherwise. If you want some more information on the STEM Ambassadors, click here http://www.stemnet.org.uk/ambassadors/.