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If you find yourself excelling in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) classes and have a passion for the incredible world of possibilities they offer, you’re on a fantastic track. Traditionally, those with a strong STEM foundation often choose STEM degrees in college, leading to rewarding careers in technology or science. But here’s the exciting part – a STEM degree is equally as valuable to any career you may choose in the future, and, in fact, we need more diversity in leadership who have this background.
In this two-part blog series, based on personal experience, I’ll explore how a STEM education equips you with essential skills, creating pathways to success in a variety of careers. Especially for female students, your journey into STEM can contribute to building a more diverse and dynamic leadership community.
Stay tuned for my next blog, where I’ll share personal insights on leveraging these skills for diverse career opportunities, and how the collaboration between businesses and schools can make your journey even more fulfilling.
Key traits learned in STEM
Let’s break down the traits you cultivate in STEM programs and set you up for success, whether you pursue a tech-focused career or not:
Curiosity and Critical Thinking: It is OK to be curious and ask ‘why’.
One of the best parts of any STEM education is that you are encouraged to be skeptical and NOT be OK with the obvious answer, to challenge and question what is being presented to determine if there is a better approach or answer. You are empowered to come up with new ideas and test a hypothesis to ultimately push limits of theories and ideas – this is what leads to innovation.
Problem-Solving and Adaptability: Every challenge is an opportunity.
STEM programs guide you through a systematic problem-solving process, teaching you that there’s often more than one right answer. You’ll become adept at approaching problems from multiple perspectives and experimenting with various solutions, a skillset that transcends disciplines.
Agile Mindset in Business: Failure is part of the process.
STEM programs guide you through an agile development process without the student even knowing that is what they are learning. You are encouraged to try, fail, learn, adjust, and try again. Failure is just part of the process and that instead of failure being a bad thing, it provides opportunity for useful learning experiences that can be applied to any job function or project. Being comfortable with failure is a key to success in business as it makes us more comfortable taking risks. Taking risks is essential in innovation and business operations. The reality of it is, we learn more from failures than we do from success so those who do not fear failure will be more successful in business.
Teamwork and Leadership: We work better when we work in diverse teams.
STEM programs emphasize collaboration and teamwork. These programs provide the foundation for effective group work by encouraging both independent thinking and problem solving as part of a larger team. You are exposed to diverse groups with different ways of thinking, and learn to listen to different perspectives and work collectively to solve complex problems. This not only cultivates effective teamwork but also develops leadership skills within the context of a team. The ability to work with and lead diverse teams is vital for success in the business world, where collaboration and communication are key to achieving shared goals.
Expanding Career Opportunities
As you contemplate your college journey, remember that this educational path does not mean you will be destined to spend your career in a lab or behind a computer all day solving math equations. Rather, it means that when you earn your degree, you will have a unique set of skills that will position you for success – whether you choose to enter the lab, the design studio, the consulting field, or the boardroom.
Engineers, Doctors, and Scientists are obvious career paths for STEM majors, but here are a few examples of the not-so-obvious careers that leverage STEM skill sets in many businesses:
- Product Development – developing innovative products to solve real customers challenges
- Product Marketing – bringing new product innovations to market
- Solution Architects – designing solutions for customers
- Project Management – organizing and running complex projects
- Management Consulting – helping businesses solve complex problems
- Strategic Planning – facilitating sessions to develop complex strategies
We need to start at the High Schools, and even before, by educating young diverse talent, especially women, about the variety of careers in STEM to increase the number of those who end up pursuing a STEM degree. By doing so, we’re paving the way for a future filled with engineers, scientists, and a host of diverse leaders across different fields.
To sum it up
A STEM education is your gateway to essential skills that go beyond the laboratory or computer. Curiosity, problem-solving abilities, adaptability, teamwork, and leadership are traits that are highly valued in the business world. By promoting STEM education and fostering diversity in STEM fields, we can create a more innovative, inclusive, and successful business environment as well as build a pool of strong diverse leaders. Whether you choose a STEM career or not, the skills acquired through STEM education will undoubtedly contribute to your success in any field.
If you’re a recent STEM graduate, or getting ready to graduate soon, and looking to explore diverse career opportunities, programs like Schneider Electric’s Leadership Development Program can provide invaluable experiences and help you evaluate different paths outside the traditional STEM trajectory.
Embrace your passion, challenge the status quo, and apply your knowledge to make a positive impact in the world.
About the author
Wendi Runyon, VP Global Services Incubation
With over 29 years of experience in the industry, Wendi currently serves as Vice President of Global Incubation for Schneider Electric’s Services Line of Business. Her team is responsible for driving the transformation of Schneider’s Services business through service offer innovation. Wendi holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) degree from Emory University and a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Industrial Engineering from Pennsylvania State University. She currently sits on Penn State’s Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering IPAC (Industrial & Professional Advisory Council) Board and Service Systems Engineering Advisory Board, SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering Datacenter Systems Engineering (DSE) Advisory Board as well as Schneider Electric’s Diversity & Inclusion Business Resource Group.