November 8th is National STEM day, celebrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education throughout the United States. The day focuses on encouraging students to consider careers in these fields.
Datalogics wanted to do our part for this special day by sharing some insights from some of our team members who chose a career in STEM, here are some of the questions we asked and their responses.
One important point to note was that many of our team members originally did not start as a STEM major. When asked What led you to decide to pursue a career in STEM? Some had very interesting answers:
Chris G, Development Engineer: To be honest, a STEM career was not my original choice! I started at a liberal arts college in pursuit of a degree in Music, but I soon realized that my skills lent me more towards a technical field. I was able to take a few introductory courses during my first and second years to gauge my interests, and it was Intro to Computer Science that got me hooked. I declared my double major in Music and Computer Science not too long after that!
Eric S, VP of Engineering: I was always interested in Math and Science growing up, but I also had a passion for Fine Arts. As my college decision drew near in high school, I decided to pursue a path that would combine these interests, and I applied to a Digital Media Design program at the University of Pennsylvania. This was an interdisciplinary program held within the School of Engineering and Applied Science under the Computer Science department, but the curriculum included fine arts courses from the School of Design, as well as courses from the Annenberg School of Communication. This program taught me practical technical skills that directly prepared me to be a valuable contributor after graduation. I like to say I entered the program as an artist and left as a computer scientist.
Kevin M, CEO of Datalogics.: I was a Physics major as an undergraduate because it was both interesting and challenging. I started University without knowing what career I would end up in, but I wanted to learn to think critically and solve problems. Physics describes the interactions of bodies and forces in the physical universe and we got to study things like weather and atmospheric physics, aerodynamics, and flight. I can do the math and explain how a 747 can fly, but it still blows my mind that something that massive gets off the ground. One of our last experiments allowed us to measure the age of the universe by listening to the echo of the big bang in the form of cosmic background radiation that is constantly bombarding the earth’s surface.
Mark D, Technical Writer: Technical writing is sort of a boundary profession; I am the English major hanging out with engineers and math wizards. But I guess I belong in that category, STEM, because that has nearly always been my setting. I am a writer by trade and by nature; when I am not writing, I am writing. And I have long had a role in software firms and technical groups for a wide range of larger businesses and institutions, explaining the technology and technical concepts to customers, users, clients, and prospects. My job is to ask questions. I am the one who stands in for the user.
Another question we asked was: What is your favorite part about working in this field?
Chris G: My job involves a lot of teamwork, so I get to work with a lot of smart people. I regularly learn things from my co-workers.
Kevin M: I get to work with and for some really smart people. The people I work with and the customers we serve are what makes this career so rewarding. Datalogics has customers in over 60 countries, and I have been fortunate enough to meet most of them personally. Learning the types of problems our customers solve and how we can help them is very rewarding.
Eric S: I always knew that the opportunity to express creativity would be key for me to really enjoy my work. Early on, I believed this meant creativity as an artist, but over time I realized how much creativity is needed in computer programming. Eventually, I found that creative outlets exist in most professions if you look for them, and to this day I feel fulfilled in my pursuit to solve technical problems with creative solutions. STEM is not all about formulas and calculations that are predefined for you – generally, we must combine the structures that exist within science, technology, engineering, and math with our own imagination to achieve our goals.
Lastly, we asked them What advice would you give to students who are interested in STEM?
Chris G: Set aside time to foster a hobby or passion outside of work. Whether it’s intensely creative or simply relaxing, it can allow you to engage your brain in a different way.
Eric S: Many will find the areas of focus within STEM to be fun and exciting, in and of themselves, but this should not be considered a prerequisite on the path towards a career in STEM. If you don’t love math, that’s ok. If you do love music, that’s great too. There’s no need to trade off what you’re most passionate about in life to pursue a career in STEM. Studying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math offers a path to develop foundational skills that can be practically applied across nearly all industries. I would advocate for everyone to develop useful STEM skills and also find ways to apply them towards personal areas of interest. It’s hard to think of topics that have not been touched by the ever-advancing impact of technology. Follow your passion!
Kevin M: STEM careers are rewarding in many ways, and there will always be a demand for people who can think and solve problems. Datalogics offers internships for University students looking for careers in tech, and we started a high school internship program this summer to promote STEM careers to younger students. Math and Science classes in high school may seem abstract to students, but these skills can lead to rewarding careers and we think that exposing students to our team and work environment will encourage them to consider careers in tech. Students today are growing up in a world saturated with tech and digital distractions. When Datalogics is looking to hire our next superstar your high score in a trendy video game won’t be a consideration, but if you wrote your own modifications to that game to build your own virtual world, let’s talk.
Mark D: I would encourage you to learn something about accounting and elementary programming, but I would also encourage you to think of technical writing as a profession in its own right, and not as a means to step up into something better or more interesting later. I do good and useful work, it’s fun, I have normally enjoyed my coworkers and appreciated their respect in return, and I have made a good living over nearly four decades. I have regularly been thankful to provide a useful service for honorable employers or clients while working with other technology professionals whom I like and respect, and who treat me with dignity in return.
At Datalogics, we are always looking at ways we can expose students to a STEM work environment. We offer internships to University students every summer, and this year we expanded our program to include high school students. We believe that exposing students to these environments will show them how rewarding a career in tech can be while learning skill sets that will help them in their future career paths. With an emergence in technology and digital transformation, there is going to be a huge demand for STEM skills, therefore it is important to get kids curious about Math and Science at a young age as a foundation to build upon.