Jobs in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—are shaping the future of how we live, work and interact with one another. As a research scientist, my education and career path have been fueled by a long-held desire to increase the accessibility of information to empower people to communicate more effectively. After graduating from college, I worked in the trade publishing industry, editing “helpful” non-fiction books—and, as surprising as it may sound, this inspired me to pursue a doctorate in computer science. Now I specialize in natural language processing—a collection of techniques to help machines understand human language—and my work helps millions of people across the world every day! This is what makes a communication-focused, mission-oriented company like Grammarly such a good fit for me.
For anyone wanting a fulfilling career where you can make an impact across a wide variety of industries, a STEM job might just be for you, too! Here are three things you need to know about working in STEM.
Adaptability and being open to constant learning is critical.
From medical advances to space exploration, jobs in STEM have the power to change the world, but that also means the field is continuously evolving. The technology and methods we use today are different than those we used just 3 to 5 years ago. For example, deep learning for natural language processing has advanced quite a bit in the last few years—by 2020, Gartner predicts that 50 percent of analytics queries will involve some form of natural language processing.
Fast technological progress in this field means new job tasks are introduced quickly, making older ones obsolete. Compared to other jobs, STEM roles saw the most change in the skills required in job postings, according to the Bureau of Economic Progress. This helps describe why there has been such a talent shortage—and demand is only increasing as all industries start to rely on STEM. In manufacturing alone, Emerson reports that there will be 3.5 million STEM jobs in the United States by 2025, and more than 2 million of them will be unfilled due to the lack of highly skilled candidates.
For these reasons, as a society, we need to be investing in STEM education, and those in STEM already must be open to constant learning to keep up with the pace of change.
If you’re a woman, you might be in the minority—but that’s changing.
As a woman and single mom, I am part of the minority in STEM today. And, less than 50 percent of parents say their daughter is encouraged to pursue a STEM career, according to the Emerson report. However, there is growing awareness of this imbalance, and the scales are shifting. I’m proud to be a leader that helps my company be inclusive and benefit from my diversity of experience.
Many organizations are making a big difference each day by championing equity in STEM, starting with early education. Just take Nikole Collins-Puri, CEO of TechBridge Girls, who leads an exciting organization that equips and educates girls through STEM. TechBridge Girls communicate to girls everywhere that STEM careers are a vehicle that can unlock their potential and set them on a path to economic opportunity. STEM classrooms are also changing to attract (and retain) more women. Harvey Mudd is a great example: They noticed that only 10 percent of their computer science majors were women and restructured their introduction to computer science course to be more welcoming to women. Now half of the majors are female! There are also more opportunities to enter the field through online classes and tutorials, which offer the advantage of flexible scheduling—a crucial factor for parents and anyone already in the workforce.
If you’re a mission-driven individual, jobs in STEM can be more satisfying and fulfilling than other careers.
Millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, and the majority are looking for socially responsible employers according to a recent study. If you want to enter a job that will fulfill your desire to change the world for the better, there’s no better way than working in STEM.
People working in STEM are impacting the future in many ways. Look at what the research scientists are doing to help mitigate climate change, uncover smart solutions to the global water crisis, and optimize renewable resources. Going back in history, STEM has fundamentally changed our world with advancements like the printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-1400s. The printing press democratized information, enabling people to understand their rights and educate themselves. We’re increasingly reading on screens instead of paper, but we wouldn’t have the internet if not for the printing press.
According to experts, picking the wrong career is not an uncommon thing. Research conducted earlier this year found that only half (51 percent) of U.S. employees are satisfied with their job overall. Do you complain a lot about your work? Fantasize about quitting? If so, don’t fear—take a deep breath and assess your strengths. It’s never too late to find a more fulfilling job.
When it comes to STEM careers or any job, effective communication is key. The ability to communicate analytical or data insights to people who don’t have your background and understanding is often the difference between a successful initiative and one that fails. While the three factors above are important to keep in mind about STEM, success in your role will hinge on your ability to communicate and be predicated most of all on hard work. As award-winning chemist and inventor Stephanie Kwolek said, “All sorts of things can happen when you’re open to new ideas.” Who’s ready to explore and work in STEM with me?