While on an educational trip researching educational performance travel in Silicon Valley, I had the opportunity to attend a “STEMinar” hosted at Santa Clara University by the Lead Scholars department. “Hear from alumni who are STEM professionals about their journey to success and how to succeed as STEM students and beyond” was the tagline used to attract both students and the community to the event.
It was an honor to attend as an educational tour company. Six panelists from some of the top Silicon Valley tech firms including Genentech, Facebook. Logitech, Merck Research Labs, Sun Pharma, 6-Connect and Nasa Ames Research Center participated. They shared an amazing amount of information.
Top Five Pieces of Advice for Students from Silicon Valley STEM Executives
- Discover your passion and find a job that utilizes that passion.
- In your career you will always be faced with problems you can’t solve alone so practice problem solving and collaborative skills during college.
- Internships are invaluable as they teach “real job skills” to students that may not otherwise learn them.
- Identify a mentor and build a long term relationship with them (including professors).
- Be willing to sacrifice to succeed.
Most of the panelists felt that the best use of their non-classroom time during college was accomplished by volunteering to do research projects when opportunities presented themselves. One panelist even said that this is where she “saw the light”. The experience not only taught specific research skills but it also provided her with a vehicle to practice data communication and presentation strategies, not subjects most STEM majors focus on.
Use your college years to explore and experiment with different jobs and roles in the tech industry was another common recommendation discussed. Don’t be afraid to fail.
Lastly…sage words from one of the speakers and agreed upon by all was that “no one ever asked me what my GPA was during a job interview”. This comment was met with chuckles from the crowd but was meant to assure students that if they work hard and do their best in college, their efforts will be rewarded.