16 June 2022

STEM careers advice for young people

Senior Analyst at London Stock Exchange Group and St Saviour’s & St Olaves Secondary School and Christ the King Sixth Form College alumni, Akua, is a STEM ambassador, guest speaker,  neurodiversity and mental health advocate and mentor, and the list doesn’t end there.

We don’t know how she found it, but she took the time to offer her expert advice to young people thinking about a career in STEM. 

What did you do when you left school? 

I completed three A levels (Business Studies, Sociology and Religious Studies/Philosophy) then completed a four year degree BSC (Honours) Computing and IT at the University of Surrey before starting my first role in the Telecommunications industry.

What advice would you give someone wanting to enter your industry?

I would say to develop a growth mindset and commit yourself to continuous learning. I think this is essential to success in the tech industry, but I try to apply this to several areas of my life. Just keep learning, keep developing new skills and try to invest 30 mins every day in self-development. Never lose yourself and put yourself forward, be your own advocate and cheerleader – that shows self-belief. 

Think about the things you care deeply about such as your values, and understand clearly what you bring to the table. Stand up for what you believe in, don’t just imitate others – be your authentic self. 

A good example of this was this year’s International Women’s Day theme of ‘Choose to Challenge’ – what are the things in your life you should be passionate about challenging? Build yourself a network spanning from colleagues, friends, mentors, sponsors, coaches, community and family – surround yourself with people who you trust who can be a sounding board for your ideas, who can challenge you, who will help you see and seize new opportunities when they present themselves. 

Meet with other black women in the industry to help drive change. Be open to multiple possibilities, don’t allow imposter syndrome or a lack of confidence to stop you. Be brave enough to go for it!  This also includes looking for role models in the industry and helping to set a benchmark for others. Never stop believing in what you can become in the future. 

When we see others that look like us in a room, it gives us a chance and makes us feel like we belong. 

One of my favourite quotes is from Michelle Obama: “For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

There are three main areas in which I would give my younger self advice.

  1. Having a network of Sponsors, Coaches, Mentors, Colleagues, and friends have helped me to enhance my career development and have helped me to grow both personally and professionally. I strongly believe in having multiple mentors to offer support and encouragement. By having open talks and sharing similar experiences I’ve learnt so much from each of these wonderful ladies. This is also why I mentor young people in STEM careers to aid their professional development – I want to pass on my knowledge so that it might encourage other people to be their best selves.   
  2. Continuous learning: acquire new abilities, even if it’s only 15-30 minutes a day to learn a programming language. To progress, you must have a growth mindset, which is critical in the IT sector.  #
  3. Fear of the unknown: You will encounter numerous obstacles and unfamiliar scenarios, such as hosting, facilitating, or being a panellist/public speaking. Some of these possibilities are uncommon, and they are there to push you out of your comfort zone. Taking advantage of these opportunities indicates progress and the capacity to build/improve your skill set.

What are the top lessons you’ve learnt throughout your career?

  1. Network. Sponsors, coaches, mentors, community, colleagues and friends have helped me to enhance my career development.
  2. Continuous learning. learning new skills even if it is 15-30 minutes a day learning a programming language. A growth mindset to improve is essential in the tech industry.
  3. Don’t fear the unknown. There are many challenges and new situations that you will face such as hosting, facilitating or being a guest on a panel (public speaking). Some of these opportunities are rare, they are there to challenge you, embrace these opportunities to take you out of your comfort zone, it demonstrates growth and the ability to build/enhance your skill set.

Top tips for females in tech:  

  1. Communicate and connect with others 
  2. Lead teams 
  3. Consider the ethical aspect of your work
  4. Breaking down barriers and stereotypes is important
  5. Provide confidence to other women to pursue careers in Tech
  6. Bring authenticity
  7. Relaying your own experiences and opinions can help others
  8. Demonstrate how to navigate without feeling unworthy 
  9. Continuous improvement is essential
  10. You need to be persistent 
  11. Think outside the box

Top tips for networking events:

  1. Be adaptive and work with people that you meet 
  2. Review their profile to see if they have leadership in the roles that their in
  3. Show compassion – it’s important 
  4. Make it a memorable experience by discussing some personal aspects

Be brave as you never know who you’re inspiring!

“Your work is going to fill a larger part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs.

Want to offer careers advice? Get in touch! 

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