How I prepared for a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics)
Words by Study Melbourne Ambassador Megha Bote.
I am currently a Project Engineer at Motorola Solutions and recently completed a Master of Engineering in Telecommunication and Cyber Security from Victoria University. But I secured my internship and graduate engineering role in Australia before I even graduated.
I strongly believe a quote from Richard Branson – business investor and author –
If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.
When I arrived in Melbourne for my master’s course, I realised I was the only female student in the entire class. That encouraged me to get involved in various clubs and initiatives inside and outside of my university.
While balancing my studies and a part-time job, I started exploring social platforms to make connections and learn from others. This approach led me towards various leadership roles for WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) Club and others while studying at Victoria University. This great initiative aimed to support and motivate female students to step into STEM fields and build connections with like-minded people.
I also started volunteering and actively participating in various clubs, including Girls in Tech, Go Girl Go for IT, VIC ICT for women, Vic Grad Girls and AWSN (Australian Women in Security Network).
Coming from an entirely different cultural background as an international student made me comprehend the significance of learning, exploring and adapting to Australian culture. I learnt how to build and maintain industry connections by attending monthly events, seminars and workshops related to my interest area. I scheduled coffee catch-up sessions with mentors and my LinkedIn connections to know more about Australian work culture and what skills are required to secure and perform an engineering role in the industry.
I developed essential professional skills through my engineering degree course and enjoyed interacting with people from diverse backgrounds. I also liked giving back to the broader student community by supporting and helping female international students and migrants step into STEM (science, engineering, technology and mathematics) fields.
Apart from good academic records, the extracurricular activities that I was involved in at various initiatives were vital for the initial CV screening process when looking for work, setting me apart from other applicants. Altogether, that helped me secure my internship and full-time graduate engineering role in the global industry before graduation.
Advice for securing your dream job
Here are the tips I would like to share to secure your dream job at your targeted company.
- Apply! Start applying for graduate roles one year before your graduation. Having the correct format of your resume and cover letter is a green ticket for you to get shortlisted for an interview. Make sure you review it under your mentor’s guidance.
- Do enough practise before your interview.
- Practice in front of the mirror. Revise frequently-asked behavioural and technical question related to your field. Do it over, over and over again until you feel confident and natural. Don’t be afraid.
- Try to find local work experience or internship roles based on your area of interest. You will learn a lot and feel confident by actually doing it practically. Having local expertise will help you a lot moving forward.
- Research your company.
- Before you appear for an interview with your target company, research it online. Have a look at their values, the company’s upcoming projects for the next two to three years and their growing areas. This will help you focus on your desired goals and indicate that you have a passion for working for that organisation – it’s not just a random person turning up for an interview.
- Create an excel sheet to keep track of all applied jobs. Always follow up with the recruiter after the first or second week of your interview and ask for feedback that will help you to improve your mistakes and skills.
- Network, network and network!
Build and maintain a connection with people who have achieved great things in their career. That will help you to get career advice and guidance from them to achieve your career goals. It’s a great and efficient way to learn from others’ experience and grow.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated. Explore social platforms and participate in discussions, extracurricular activities, workshops and competitions. You might get busy with your uni schedules, assignments and part-time jobs, but you have to make this another priority. By doing this, you will stand out in the crowd.
Other tips from female STEM leaders
I interviewed two inspirational female leaders, which is their advice for women looking for a STEM career.
Karen is a transformational technology leader, mentor, diversity advocate and board director. These are her words of encouragement:
Go for it! The opportunities in STEM are limitless, and the only restrictions are those we put on ourselves.
The vast array of careers within each area of STEM, as well as across the sectors, are boundless. Your career pathway and journey can be very diverse and have opportunities for incredible experiences.
Don’t limit your options to traditional careers in science (like medicine and research, it could now be the space sector), technology (like computer science and coding, it could now be virtual reality and quantum computing), engineering (like manufacturing, it could now be machine learning) and mathematics (like academia, it could now be data analytics).
Follow your passions, take opportunities, leverage your transitional skills and gain experiences by taking an adventure, orienteering the roads of a career path in STEM.
Ruwangi is PhD student studying Applied Informatics and a sessional lecturer. She is also the founder of STEM Sisters, which attracts, supports, and celebrates women of colour in STEM, especially international students and recent migrants.
Ruwangi’s advice for women is:
- Raise your hand for the opportunity. Be involved.
- Resilience is a must, especially when you are women of colour.
- Don’t compare yourself with others. Women need to think, help and motivate each other; then, we can grow together.