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It Isn’t Just STEM | We Teamed Up with LA Promise Fund to Show High Schoolers There’s More to Tech

Written by Tim Edmundson

Mar 29, 2017

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Tech has a reputation for being a very STEM-focused (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) enterprise, and often the soft-skill side of the industry falls a bit out of the limelight. That’s not to say non-STEM roles aren’t important — every tech juggernaut in the market would be nowhere without them. An entire world of opportunity exists outside of STEM — marketing, training, recruiting, public relations, creative, business development, product management — the list goes on, and each piece is key to running a successful business. Unfortunately, this isn’t always made clear to students and young adults who are looking to get involved in the industry.

To help combat that notion, SteelHouse teamed up with the LA Promise Fund and College Access, a program to get high school students prepared for college, to bring a team of ambitious young high school women to our office and show them that tech is more than just coding and engineering. Within this day of education, we aimed to show these high schoolers that just because you don’t pursue a STEM focus, or have an interest in math or science, doesn’t mean tech is off limits.

SOFT SKILLS MAKE THE WORLD GO ROUND

NicoleTo help deliver this message, an all-female group of SteelHouse leaders dedicated their time to help show there are many paths to a successful career in tech. They were eager to share their experiences — each told their own individual story, starting with their journey through high school, college, and first jobs to detail exactly how they got to where they are today. With each story that was told, the SteelHouse team wanted to make it clear that as long as the students worked smart and followed their passion, they’d end up in a good place.

Even without a STEM background, each presenter showed the students that there is a wealth of opportunity in tech for anyone who works hard and finds a role where their natural abilities and professional experience make them a great fit. But how can someone just starting out on their educational and professional journey best prepare themselves for this? The women of SteelHouse were more than eager to offer advice.

PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS

Through detailing their own personal experiences, each SteelHouse team member dispelled the notion that you need to be a computer genius to flourish in tech. A number of the speakers relayed their own personal strengths — ones that the students could identify with — and showed how they apply to their professional roles. And while each role called for a variety of skills, there were a few that spanned across each speaker which made huge impacts in their professional lives.

> Be Direct | Be clear, concise, and assertive in your communication, and don’t be afraid to push back on “No.” Don’t let someone tell you that you can’t do something, instead show them why you should.

> Be Organized | This is key to any role, but you would be surprised how often professionals get by without any sort of personal organization skills at all. Develop a system that works for you, and lets you do your best work by effectively managing your time.

> Be a Good Listener | Emotional intelligence should never be discounted — people like to be heard, and it’s important to hear them.

> Be A Good Loser | “I’ve not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This quote attributed to Thomas Edison is more relevant in today’s professional world than ever — especially tech. Learn from mistakes and missteps, and use them to build a better way of doing things.

> Be a Problem Solver | No one wants to work with someone who identifies problems and then does nothing to find a solution. Take a solutions-first approach to any problem that arises, and you’ll find answers quicker than waiting for someone else to fix the issue.

> Be Willing to Lean In | You must be willing to get involved and offer your expertise where it would help — don’t be afraid to put in the time and get dirty.

These are the building blocks for any model professional — and any organization who is looking to build a better business than the one they have today would fall over themselves to hire someone with these traits.

BUILDING YOUR PROFESSIONAL PRESENCE

Whether it was working the counter at a coffee shop in college, getting a foot in the door as an office manager, or interning for company after company, each team member’s story of how they ultimately began working at SteelHouse shows you don’t have to have an easy path to end up in a successful career. Rather, what matters most is what you bring to the table.

To provide this unique club of driven College Access students with some actionable advice, each speaker provided tips from their own experience on how to begin building a professional presence.

> Never Stop Learning | Education doesn’t have to be limited to just school — there are thousands of online resources that can teach you how to do just about anything. And don’t hesitate to take classes in college that don’t relate to your major — if it interests you, pursue it — especially if it helps build skills you’ll need in the future.

> Network, Network, Network | The most important thing you can do professionally is make the right connections to the right people. Get involved in clubs, sports, community and mentorships — it gives you access to opportunities outside your normal sphere of influence.

> Keep a Strong Resume | It’s time to get in the habit of having an updated resume. List your previous work, and more importantly, detail the responsibilities and results you were responsible for. Hiring managers want to know what sort of impact you can bring to an organization, and your resume is your opening argument.

> Create a LinkedIn Profile | The resume of the 21st century, LinkedIn is the largest professional networking site in the world. Create an account, and treat your profile as an extension of your resume. And don’t forget to network with people in the industry you’re interested in — you never know where your next opportunity will come from.

It was important for the SteelHouse team to show the girls that having the right tools and habits can get you pretty far in life. If there was one takeaway we wanted the College Access group to take home with them that day, it was to be ready to work hard for what they want.

SHOWING THE WAY

AlyshaIt was an honor to host such a bright group of students for a day of professional education, and we hoped we made an impact on how they see the tech world. Jodie Beals, Head of Learning at SteelHouse, had this to say about the program, “Technology is such a rapidly expanding industry and there is a huge opportunity for women to participate.  It’s a privilege to show young women that there is a space for them in a STEM-based field they may have originally overlooked. Programs like this offer early exposure and incentive to strategically plan for their futures.”

A few days after hosting, we received a few thank you notes from the students. Here’s a snippet from one:

“Your experience along with the others is one plenty can relate to and it’s pleasing to think that we will eventually end up in a work environment like the one at Steelhouse. The visit was encouraging to us girls and empowering for us to think that strong independent women can too work in the STEM and art fields and be good at it. Thank you for teaching us the importance of networking and I am grateful to think that you are now part of mine.”

We thank both College Access and the LA Promise Fund for the opportunity to get involved and help make a difference.