I've always been curious. As a child, I liked taking things apart just so I could put them back together. When I learned how the phone system and, later on, the Internet worked, I realized it was really just one big thing, waiting for me to tinker with it.
After I graduated college, a friend said he could get me hired on at a local Internet Service Provider if I could learn Linux. That day, I went to a book store, bought a book, read it front to back, and spent the weekend installing and configuring my first Linux server. I learned how to write shell scripts and set up a web server, hosting my first private website. That got my foot in the door even though my academic background was in philosophy.
Today, when I hear people groan about having to learn another skill, I don't understand why. I've never been wired that way. My constant curiosity and appetite to learn have helped me build a successful career in STEM over the past 14 years and pivot in a new direction when I've wanted to mix it up.
If you love to learn, then a career in STEM might be the path for you and, at this point in history, you couldn't pick a better time to get involved in a STEM career.
You Can Teach Yourself the Skills You Need
With online courses and books, you can literally teach yourself everything you need to know to get started in a STEM career. The challenge used to be getting experience, but not today. Now, you can design and develop your own phone application that speaks for itself if you have the passion to do it. If you want to get experience in software development, hop on GitHub, find a project or start your own.
You Can Change Your Path at Anytime
After a few years working in a systems engineering job, I grew tired of fixing other people's software and decided to learn to write my own. I found a position that allowed me to spend time on small software development projects while I learned what it took to start writing software full-time. There's so much demand for talent across this industry that if you want to learn new skills and go a different direction, you can.
STEM is Rapidly Changing
Things move so quickly. Hardware is getting faster. Algorithms are becoming more efficient. The industry needs curious and tenacious people to work on the problems we're facing now. When I started in this career, I had no idea the challenges I'd be trying to address. Today, I'm working on building AT&T's network of the future, which will use technologies that didn't exist just 15 years ago.
As for tomorrow's STEM careers, we don't yet know what we don't know. There will be new problems to solve that we just can't dream up today.