In the fast-changing work arena of today’s world, children and future generations are expected to get up to speed by gathering information, evaluating and processing evidence, enhancing their skills and knowledge, and learn how to solve complex problems. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths, commonly shortened to STEM, has become an integral subject area for the youth to adapt to in order to have the right qualifications and skills in the workforce later on.
On Saturday 15th February 2020, Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) held a student-led conference involving Grade 10 students as part of a social entrepreneurship initiative, which involves Carolene Adeline, Muhammad Khan, Matthew Sutatonto, Arielle Susanto, and Aaron Tandiono. The conference, titled “Generation STEM”, invited four inspiring female guest speakers that work in the field of STEM. JIS was established by the United Nations in 1951, and thus the conference was held, in part, as a reminder of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science that falls on 11th February. All the profits of the event will be given to the Helping Hands Foundation, a non-profit organisation to help them raise equality for children with disabilities in education through inclusive and collaborative programmes.
The speakers for this event included: Tengku Alia Sandra, one of the women’s leaders and railway engineer of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Jakarta; Captain Esther Gayatri Saleh, the first woman and the only one test pilot in Indonesia; Tania Soerianto as Product Manager of Traveloka and business developer of Generation Girl: and Vania Radmila, a mobile engineer for Gojek and co-founder of Generation Girl, a non-profit organisation that raises awareness of the importance of STEM for women.
Tengku Alia Sandra, the first speaker at the event, opened her speech with her journey working in a male-dominated field. Alia’s dream was to be a doctor but she failed the university test and now works as a railway engineer and is one of the female leaders of the infrastructure project of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Jakarta. She told the audience why it’s important to discuss the topic of “gender in STEM” and to delete all unconscious bias in the male-dominated field. According to Alia, people may still unconsciously stereotype women as being supposed to do domestic work; to take care of the family instead of working in offices, factories, and business. “I have the opportunity to do something a man can do, lots of challenges, how do we prove ourselves to others that we can do it? As a woman I have to put more effort into doing what they can do,” she explained.
Afterwards, Tania Soerianto, a product manager at Traveloka, continued the conference and she connected her major in science to her work now. “I was a scientist in Seattle, and another plot twist came. In 2013, the tech started to move, a lot of my friends work in technology, either Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook; being exposed to these kinds of industries made me really curious of what I could do to combine technology and science”.
According to Tania, after diving into the workforce in the field of technology, her background as a scientist has actually been useful and her work is similar to the scientific method she studied at school, specifically in the product development cycle. This is where, as a product manager, she needs to design and execute products. “I think, personally, my background is actually complementary to what I am doing right now. It complements me in terms of critical thinking, problem-solving… The moral of the story is that your major does not define who you are,” enthused Tania.
Quoting Dr Tarek Razik, the head of school of JIS, “The world is ever-changing and we see STEM as more and more important each year.” In his opening speech, he said, “My message to you young people, is to be drivers, not passengers, use STEM… because it’s you that is going to make a difference to the world.”
Every year, there is always update and change in technology, whether it is your phone that needs a system update every once in a while, or how language can change from time to time. Therefore, in the field of education, it is important to implement the correct education system, for example, JIS supporting STEM is in line with JIS Education 4.0.
“Working in tech means learning all the time. Tech changes every year, as an iOS developer it speaks for itself, programming languages also change and that’s why you need to be up to date,” said Milla, one of the speakers.
However, not all students have an interest in learning just science or maths. Therefore, it’s important to connect the dots and implement what they study at school, making their passion for technology beneficial for them across other areas of interest too.
Captain Esther Gayatri Saleh, as the first test pilot in Indonesia, was the third speaker. Although she doesn’t have any background in science and wanted to be a journalist at first, along the way she got an opportunity to fly an aeroplane with a pilot in Kalimantan and this aroused her curiosity to become a pilot. Closing her speech, she explained, “everyone is important, find what will you be, seek and you will find, ask and you will be given, follow your heart.”
The closing speaker, Vania Radmila, is a software engineer at Gojek and works as a developer of the iOS app for GoFood, as well as being the co-founder of Generation Girls, discussed how majors don’t matter, “In college, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, I had a passion for art, but I noticed it was a hobby but not good for a career, so what I knew was technology is trending, people in software engineering are in high demand, thus I took information systems.” Diving to an unknown world for her, she kept an open mind to learn and found her true passion while connecting the dots.
“After reading a book that changed my life, I discovered that art and software engineers can be moulded together into something I am passionate about. Majors don’t matter; it is also passion, learning all the time, not being afraid to dig something deeper than what you learn at school, go out there, Google things, find tutorials, learn other things you are passionate about,” said Mila as she closed her presentation.
Hence, it is important that schools and any educational institutes provide subjects that revolve around technology so that the youth are well prepared later on. Schools also need to relate the subjects to the fast-changing world and update their systems often.
“As a school, to structure these activities, to allow you to integrate the curriculum so that science is not just in the science group, maths is not just in the maths group, and English is not just in the English group, because that is not how the brain works. We need to look for passions and connections; that’s how you remember a song or directions, and in schools, we need to be able to provide the opportunity to your brain to make patterns to connect the subjects, to make learning more accessible, to bring science, technology, engineering, and mathematics together so that your brain can make connection to those patterns,” said Dr Tarek Razik.
The speakers’ previous majors may not be in line with what people see they are doing now. However, through the evolution of technology and an ever-changing world, adapting and connecting your major and passion towards technology, specifically in STEM areas, is key. “I see technology as a powerful tool for us to achieve anything, that is why I want to introduce this to girls and empower them as well,” said Tania.