Hi, and welcome back to the #STEMBabes series!
Each month, I will be featuring a woman doing cool things in her own STEM-related field. This is in the hopes that they will be able to answer any questions you might have about navigating the world of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering as a female. There are so many girls succeeding and truly making a difference in their respective industries, and I hope getting to know some of them better will help/inspire/motivate girls out there who are getting ready to embark on a similar path.
Alyssa approached me with the idea of writing about how to enter STEM careers without a STEM background, and I thought it was a super cool idea. There are so many people interested in joining the tech industry without studying tech in school, and all #STEMBabes should have the chance to thrive, regardless of major.
I hope you enjoy Alyssa’s post on this subject – I know I did!
Hello, STEMBabes! My name is Alyssa J Freitas and I am a curious, decorous, technology loving recent business school grad, blogger, and Client Relationship Representative at IBM. After seeing Katrina’s #STEMBabes series, I knew I wanted to get involved and was so glad she welcomed a non-STEM major to join the party 🙂
College as a Non-STEM Major
In college, way back in the day (note: I graduated in May 2017, nearly an eternity ago), I studied business with a speciality in professional sales. If you’re a STEM major, my course work most likely looked a lot different than yours. I spent my time learning how to ask the right questions to understand what clients need, how to lead a conversation and make recommendations, and all of my extracurricular time was spent traveling the country to compete in sales competitions. And I loved every second of it. But I knew that I wanted to be in technology, despite my lack of background in the field and taking geology to fulfill my science requirement because I heard it was a pretty straight forward course.
Using Your Skills for a Career in Technology, Without a STEM Background
Yet here I am, working for IBM as a Client Relationship Representative, helping clients in the financial services industry achieve business goals by leveraging cognitive technology. Everyday I find myself learning more about how our technology works and the most valuable capabilities it provides. I am thoroughly obsessed with the results that technology can drive and the business improvements that our clients experience.
It’s challenging to be a non-technical person in a discussion about technological solutions, but what I’ve found to be key is the first word I used to describe myself: curious. If you’re like me and think technology is fascinating and you want to be in the field, but don’t know where to start, begin by being curious. Pick something (anything!) and learn more about it. Become familiar with terminology. Keep a running list of vocab and acronyms (mine gets longer everyday). Have your eyes open to spot patterns and trends that are relevant.
Being a client rep is the perfect combination of tech knowledge and sales skills that I could hope for! I have to understand our solutions to the extent that I can explain them to a client and help them see the possibilities of leveraging technology in their business. It is possible to find a job that will allow you to use technology to help others, even if it isn’t your background. Maybe you’ll be in sales like me, evangelizing new solutions and bringing them to businesses. Or perhaps you’ll find yourself as a technology journalist, narrating the latest developments.
When I joined IBM as an intern, I knew that I had to find a way to differentiate myself. I leveraged my writing skills and started a blog series about my experience where I explained what I was doing and learning in a way that everyone, no matter what their job title, could understand and enjoy. This made me visible across the organization and got such positive feedback that I decided to continue throughout my training program full time. Pulling together varied skills make you an asset; don’t underestimate the value you bring, regardless of your major.
It’s so important to realize that STEM extends to every part of society. This is where innovations and developments are born that change how we live. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the place where I want to bring my skills and work. I encourage you to embrace your non-STEM background and leverage your willingness to learn and different perspective. It’s essential that you begin from a place of curiosity and remember that everything is constantly changing, so we’re all learning!
Alyssa is a recent business school grad of The College of New Jersey and works at IBM as a Client Relationship Representative for the financial services industry. When she isn’t running around Manhattan with her friends, you can find her reading any book she can get her hands on and blogging about personal development, etiquette, minimalism, career, and lifestyle on her site alyssajfreitas.com! You can follow Alyssa on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and view her profile on LinkedIn.