Written by: Claire on September 21, 2023
I started my studies after school with only a vague idea about what I’d do afterwards. I thought I’d look for a role that had “something to do with computers”.
To be honest, I really had no idea what that meant.
However, I did feel that whatever it did mean, that computers would only be bigger in the future than they were at the time.
Bigger would mean more jobs and more job opportunities.
It also felt the tech industry could provide plenty of opportunities for women.
Both proved true. Although, as a woman, I have mostly been in a minority in my places of work.
Sadly, this last experience is still all too common in the tech industry as a whole, which is why it’s important to show that STEM is for everyone.
People taking up studies and work in technology subjects—the T in STEM—still under-represent the communities they support. More people who identify as female are choosing to take up STEM subjects at school and university. However, the UK government reports they still represented less than a third of the STEM workforce in 2020.
It doesn’t need to be this way. STEM is important to the future, but people need to know it’s an industry welcome to them. Technology touches every part of our lives. How we learn. How we socialise. How we date. How we work. How we keep ourselves healthy. How we enjoy our leisure time.
Every time we send a DM, post a selfie, buy something online, or book a ticket, we’re using technology.
When it comes to the workplace, it’s a struggle to think of a UK job in 2023 that doesn’t require technology somewhere or somehow.
So, who are the people working behind the scenes to design, build and run this technology for us?
This is where jobs and job opportunities in the tech industry just keep growing and expanding.
Jobs that are suited for every type of interest, background and workplace.
Visually creative? Analytical? Great with words? Logical and organised? Good with people?
All of these skills and more are relevant for jobs in and around the tech industry.
I’ve been lucky enough in my own career to get to use these types of skills. Through work opportunities in different types of roles and organisations, I’ve also been able to pick up many others along the way. My resume would label them as things like business architecture, project management, or strategy and organisational change management.
In practice, they look more like helping people understand how technology will make a positive difference to people and teams. This could mean making their jobs easier. Or helping their companies grow and be more successful. Or communicating what a different future might look like for the company’s customers or employees. STEM is important because it provides all of these experiences, skills, and much more.
Technology is becoming more and more interconnected with day-to-day work and workplaces. This means the ethical questions around how to use data and systems responsibly are becoming ever more important to answer.
This is where we also need more people from under-represented minorities. We want to make sure that technology is designed and used in the best way possible to serve communities, customers and co-workers.
Whether it’s finding out how to make a screen or an app as easy as possible to use for people with mixed abilities, solving ways to keep people’s data safe, helping people use artificial intelligence (AI) in sensible and ethical ways, or finding ways to improve medical diagnoses or deliver care to those in need. In all cases, the tech industry needs people working in and around technology.
So when thinking about subjects to study or jobs to explore, it’s important to remember that there is a lot more to a tech career than sitting behind a desk alone or in front of a computer screen.
It’s not just tech but STEM as a whole that is important, as the various careers in the STEM industry, jobs in Science, Engineering and Mathematics that can make a difference. The roles and careers are vast and exciting and make a real difference.
It’s hard to predict with confidence what the future of work will look like more than a few years ahead. For example, people have been predicting the good—and the not-so-good—expected impacts of AI for many years. Even decades. But it took the launch of ChatGPT to capture the attention of AI in the ‘mainstream’.
The speed at which it has been taken up has surprised even those who are experts in the topic. It is a simple and current example of the pace of technology change that is impacting people’s lives and conversations—if not yet immediately obvious to everyone.
What is possibly easier to predict are the types of universal skills that can be useful for any type of role.
The World Economic Forum discusses the future of jobs and identifies the skills expected to grow most in importance for workers in any job. They are: creative thinking, analytical thinking, and technological literacy. All skills that can be learnt within STEM, yet another reason why STEM is important is that it teaches skills that can be used throughout life in various situations, not just a career.
And there is one thing we can be pretty confident about. While the technology industry continues to evolve in new and exciting ways, we can be pretty sure that it will just keep getting bigger and even more important.
For myself, I’ve been working for more than 30 years across four continents, and I still get to learn from and work with amazing people from around the world. This may not have been possible if I hadn’t thought of choosing to do “something with computers”.
There are many current—and emerging—roles in the tech industry that don’t call for ‘hard core’ tech skills. Or ways into the industry where you can learn tech skills either on the job or as studies alongside your work.
That said, having a background and/or experience in STEM subjects gives you an advantage when it comes to the range of roles and opportunities open to you in tech. Moreover, as technology continues to become more and more integral to any job, STEM skills give you an edge, so don’t ever forget that STEM is important! Important to all of us for now and in the future.
If you want to find out more about how to get ready for the future of work, feel free to contact me or sign up for one of the InnovateHer programs at https://online.innovateher.co.uk.
About the author: Claire Barrett is a consultant and Director at APIsFirst, helping people and teams realise the potential of technology and APIs. She leads a global Women In APIs community with over 500 members in more than 40 countries.Back to news and views