Sally-Ann Williams is the Engineering Community & Outreach Manager for Google Australia. She is responsible for a broad portfolio of programs including leading Google’s efforts in computer science and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and outreach (K–12); research collaborations with universities; and entrepreneurship and startup engagement.
Where do you see a gap in secondary or tertiary education?
The greatest innovations in research and industry come at the intersection of disciplines. Computer Science + Medicine has led to a smart contact lens that can detect your blood glucose levels and send alerts in real time to your smart phone. Computer Science + Art is leading to breakthrough technology in digital media and driving companies like Pixar and Animal Logic to create even more amazing films delighting millions around the world. CS + Business is leading to revolutions in online shopping, travel, and transport. Encouraging students and teachers to think about these cross-disciplinary intersections is an opportunity we need to encourage.
Why should students pursue a career in STEM?
STEM careers are not just limited to the discipline you study. In 2014, the Harvard Business Review listed 100 of the world’s top performing CEOs and found a that a quarter of them have degrees in engineering —not business. This crossover of disciplines in work can lead to mathematicians working in advertising and data analytics roles, physicists being software engineers, and software engineers working as artists in Hollywood. There is no limit to where you can land, as the problem solving skills you learn in a STEM degree can lead to a wide range of outcomes where those skills are highly valued.
How can teachers drive early interest in STEM careers?
It's important to bring the real world into the classroom. Make STEM subjects relevant by anchoring examples in the real world. Showcase how computer science is used in medicine, how maths helps solve weather prediction in agriculture, and how biology can be used in food technology. Students need to learn the disciplinary skills and knowledge, but also how to apply that broader than the classroom. Giving examples of real world practitioners, like those found in Careers with Code can provide a pathway for students to follow in the future.
What opportunities can a STEM career provide?
STEM careers are diverse careers. Careers with Code is a great online resource that is one example of how cross disciplinary skills can provide a variety of career pathways —not just the obvious one of becoming a programmer. We need to find more opportunities to showcase people in industry and research who have STEM backgrounds, but diverse career paths.