A Practical and Empowering Discussion on Diversifying Skills in STEAM - Savannah Boltman

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It’s not always easy to identify what more one can do- at least in a practical way- to diversify your skill set. Especially if you’re already ticking all the clearly outlined, hard-skill boxes, such as studying (or having already obtained) a University level qualification in STEAM.

This industry is incredibly diverse and highly competitive, making it a priority for female candidates especially to stand out in their field and be as mentally and professionally equipped as possible to succeed. So, to keep this as practical as possible, let’s discuss some highly accessible ways to diversify your skill set, possibly making use of some of your free time offered by the current lockdown restrictions!  

Soft skills are more important than you’d think 

In an article on the skills most valued by STEAM employers, Author Matt Sauri mentions three points that I’d like to focus on. Customer orientation, adaptability, and communication skills. Remember, no matter how capable you are of understanding and working with technology or developing scientific advancements that could change the world- the ability to understand exactly what your client is looking for will absolutely affect the strength of your business relationships. Furthermore, a brilliant idea must be conveyed with clarity and articulated with ease in order to allow for well structured, enjoyable teamwork and understanding between yourself, fellow employees, and your superiors.

Communication skills furthermore enhance your sense of professionalism with both your employer and your clients, while adaptability when needed (for example, a boss encouraging you to explore a new platform or program for your project) ensures that you are clearly exhibiting signs of diversity and confidence in your ability to carry out your tasks. Sauri notes that he encourages STEM graduates to focus on “active listening to understand the client’s needs, and going above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to customer service.” Read Sauri’s article using this link!  Not sure how to work on your communication skills? As a quick lead for you, I found this free course on Business Communication skills provided by Future Learn: Business Fundamentals - Effective Communication. I know you’ve heard plenty about free online courses since the confinement of the South African Lockdown, but if you haven’t  explored the genuine opportunities for growth on these platforms, give it a try! 

Emphasised by Illias Lapas in the Journal of Aerospace Technology and Management, one should also look into assessing their leadership, three dimensional thinking, and risk definition/management skills- as these are expected to be the “critical success factors of long careers” in this industry. *Fun fact: practicing puzzles and certain games including chess can supposedly improve your three dimensional thinking and spatial intelligence. A simple way to explore your use of creativity in problem solving methods.


Additionally, one should absolutely take into consideration the benefits of working on an internationally applicable language. Future professionals in STEAM will be called to work in ‘much more diversified environments in all accounts (multidisciplinary, multi-site and multi-cultural).” Not only will an additional language be useful in navigating multi-cultural terrain, but Auburn University’s list of reasons to study a foreign language notes that mastering an 
additional language improves your analytical skills; creates a higher awareness and appreciation towards different cultures and lifestyles; and enhances listening skills and memory”. This of course was mentioned earlier as a key factor for understanding clients’ needs. The best part is that you can start learning a language for free with apps such as DuoLingo, immediately. Accessible, fun, and incredibly beneficial.

Lastly, from my perspective- joining organizations that fall in line with the specific industry/line of work you’re interested in presents the opportunity to network, gain insight, and discuss the additional and considerably more specific skills you may need to get-ahead. I found that my involvement with GFPA from day one, when I had not an ounce of experience, not only introduced me to the most fantastic network of phenomenal and inspirational women- it also encouraged me to be courageous, to continue pushing for my goals, and to ask serious questions when I needed guidance. Since then I have joined additional organizations as per my career choices, including WAI which is aviation specific. Especially with so many conferences, discussions, and educational programs becoming digitalized in the current state of the world, it’s the perfect time to explore avenues and possibilities you may have previously deemed inaccessible or irrelevant to you. 

 

I encourage you to regularly assess how you feel you’re performing currently, be kind yet honest with yourself when considering where you could make improvements, and most importantly- always be open to personal and professional expansion. Allow belief in your potential to push you through your challenges. 

You are more capable than you believe.

Savannah Boltman


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