In 2012, I was brought onto the STEM team at SMU’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education to work on the Cool Jobs initiative, which launched last fall. Having come to the team from a non-STEM related field, I was completely unprepared for the impact these interviews had on me. During the interview process, I spoke to STEM professionals from all over the country whose jobs were as diverse as their locations. One thing is for sure—these professionals, and those out there like them, make our world and everything in it go round.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Cool Jobs interviews, these interviews provided a rare glimpse into the jobs, lives, and journeys of working STEM professionals from across the broad STEM community. These articles provide practical information and advice for students interested in pursuing a career in STEM, but the most striking aspect of these accounts is the human voice these professionals lend to the issue. Interview participants showed that there are many paths that lead to STEM professions; there is no single way to pursue, or even to identify, one’s passion in life. Some of the professionals we spoke with knew from an early age that they were meant for STEM, and others followed a winding road to their current STEM career.
If there is one constant that spans the entirety of this showcase, it’s that STEM professionals found a variety of ways to turn their passions into careers they absolutely love. I remember the excitement in the voice of Carlie Zumwalt, Aerospace Engineer with NASA, as she discussed the possibilities her position allows her to consider (like putting a human on Mars).
Cara Santa Maria, Senior Science Correspondent for The Huffington Post and Host of “Talk Nerdy to Me”, said that she is constantly inspired by the relationships she makes with remarkable STEM professionals, all because of her career. I felt honored to speak with these inspirational people, and I feel even more honored to share their stories with this community so they may continue to inspire people from around the world.
While many of these interviews showcase high-profile professionals and organizations, I was also struck by the realization that STEM professionals are everywhere! Many of the people I have known and worked with are hard at work applying STEM principles to solve problems and create solutions that address the many needs of our world. If you enjoyed our Cool Jobs series, I challenge you to find a STEM professional near you; they might be closer than you think! Talk to them, listen to their stories, and see if their experiences can apply to your own journey.
Speaking of STEM professionals being everywhere—the newest addition to our Cool Jobs showcase comes to us from our own work family. Our director, Lindsey Groark, happens to be married to a STEM professional working in the field of construction. Brian Groark, Electrical Construction Senior Project Manager with Truland Systems Corporation, turned an early interest in construction into a rewarding STEM career. He now spends his days working on large-scale construction projects, transforming them from holes in the ground into the buildings we live in, work in, and play in.