When I was in high school, one of my favorite classes was programming. I was good at it, it was fun, and I could see the results of my work fast – type in a few lines of code, and see something cool happen on the screen as a result. But when I thought about what to study, I didn’t see computer programming as a good option. The only job I knew of at that time was called Systems Analyst, and in my head I pictured a windowless room, staring at a monitor all day long. Instead, I started pursuing a teaching degree. I changed majors multiple times, eventually graduating with a Psychology degree, including a research project based thesis, where I came up with an idea, tested whether that idea was true, and wrote up a paper on the results of my testing – my interest in direct cause and effect, on do this and get that, was still there.
My first job was in public service, where I changed over a paper based accounting system to a computer based one. That wasn’t part of my job – I saw something that could be done better, and I wanted to fix it. It made my life easier. That is what STEM is about for me: fixing problems, making life easier for myself and others.
When I decided to move on from that job, I moved to the thing that had helped me solve problems – computers and turned that into a career. I’ve gone through many different parts of technology along the way, from supporting desktop computers and networks, to developing code, to project management, which is what I do now. What’s been the same is the goal: taking something that is not working right, or not working as well as it could, and finding a way to make it work better. As a project manager, I work first with a customer to learn what they want to have done; then work with our team of developers, graphic designers, and network specialists to figure out the best way to do it; then we make it happen and I track our progress. At the end I’m able to go back and present what we did and show the problem we solved. It’s very rewarding!
“It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world…” — President Barack Obama in 2015.
This, at its core, is what STEM is all about.
Kim W, GE Digital