Vocal volunteering, talking tech, speaking STEM
Miranda Webb is an IT and business change leader and STEM Ambassador, who is passionate about community and diversity. She shares her reasons for becoming a STEM Ambassador and a recent experience that reinforced the positive impact that volunteering has.
I became a STEM Ambassador because I didn’t think society was doing enough to prepare young people for the real world of work. There are still misconceptions about the types of people that have careers in STEM.
I was disheartened by the lack of women in technology, having worked in the industry for ten years, I don’t think the situation is improving. I decided to take action and become a role model for other young women, becoming more visible within my local education system.
The best thing about being a STEM Ambassador is how much you learn from the children you work with, they have inspired ideas, they see new possibilities for technology adoption.
In my opinion, this is because they view their environment in a totally different way to ‘grown ups’, they use technology multiple times every day, it is part of their DNA. The connected world is the norm for them, they are online and socially active, they use augmented reality through Snapchat filters and they utilise the internet of things through everyday household products like Alexa. They are naturally curious about tech.
If you were to ask me what my proudest moment as a STEM Ambassador is, I would tell you about a specific virtual reality workshop we hosted. It gave a year six female student confidence and a voice she didn’t know she had.
She was our volunteer demoing the Gear VR, who we invited to stand with us in front of 44 of her peers and three teachers. When asked by us, she described the virtual world we had transported her too.
Unknown to us and before our session, that same girl has never spoken in her class, she didn’t talk to the teaching staff, she rarely communicated with other students and possibly most surprisingly of all, she didn’t speak to her family either. But for one hour with us, she was fully engaged and talking freely to other students while trying various pieces of equipment. The other students were stunned by the change they were witnessing.
Her teacher said:
“It’s incredible, I genuinely thought she would leave school having never heard her voice, I can’t believe it!”
This truly reinforced to me the positive impact that volunteering has. It would be impossible to put a price on that. In all honesty, it was an emotional experience being told that we made a real difference.
STEM companies need to make themselves accountable for improving their talent pipeline if they want to ensure the future success of their business. Our economy needs more diverse and digitally minded employees. If you are considering becoming a STEM Ambassador, please don’t hesitate, you will not be disappointed. Giving back boasts your own self-esteem and renews your enthusiasm for your day job.
"The best thing about being a STEM Ambassador is how much you learn from the children you work with, they have inspired ideas, they see new possibilities for technology adoption."
I am frequently told by other tech professionals that “I can’t be a STEM Ambassador because I can’t code”. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon or an astronaut to be a STEM Ambassador, students need a variety of support which includes things like talking about your career journey, mentoring, work experience and CV writing etc, it isn’t all about building robots or making things explode (but that is fun too!).
Teachers - STEM Ambassadors are free resources who can engage your students and bring STEM to life. The careers available to young people are changing, in most cases, many of the roles which will be accessible in 10 years do not exist today.
Together, we need to prepare young people to be resilient, adapt to change, solve problems, communicate effectively, be creative and enjoy life-long learning. STEM Ambassadors want to help your school/college, please keep us busy!