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I recently had the pleasure of participating in a panel at the STEM Solutions conference in Baltimore, MD. Amanda Mason and I shared a stage with Rick Ledgett, the Deputy Director of the NSA, and Justin Joseph, a Leidos employee responsible for talent acquisition. Mr. Ledgett’s opening statement put the entire panel into perspective with facts about how many job openings exist for cybersecurity and how many are actually qualified to fill them. The statistics were quite staggering with the expectation of 200,000 job openings in cybersecurity within the next five years, more than doubling what it is today. The most shocking statistic that Mr. Ledgett stated was that only 11% of the 90,000 applications received by the NSA in the past 12 months were from women and minorities. This naturally raises questions about what we, as a technology company, could do to get more students excited about pursuing careers in STEM and knowledgeable enough to fill future openings in the STEM fields.

As the only data scientist on the panel who was a product of STEM education, I spoke to my views on giving students the tools necessary to fuel their imagination by thinking towards the art of what’s possible when focusing on the data itself. We discussed why the current curriculum in schools should not be changed to a cybersecurity focus as a broad education sets a foundation for all students – giving them the early tools necessary to prepare and succeed in all careers. Instead, cybersecurity training should be provided to students as a supplemental elective to their general curriculum.

The panel also discussed a STEM program MarkLogic has been working toward. Aimed at giving students a taste of up and coming technologies, the MarkLogic STEM program will empower students to see the breadth of career possibilities within STEM. The ideal STEM program will incorporate technologies that fuel the imagination and lead to cutting edge innovations in the areas of cybersecurity and other technical, data-driven fields.

I hope we continue to push this pilot program and make it a reality. With the right partnerships, I think we can create a STEM program that will offer invaluable career training to students as it stirs their imaginations. It’s my vision that once released into the workforce, students of these programs will know, experience, and share the boundless possibilities available to those armed with comprehensive STEM training.

We know that STEM programs prepare students for future possibilities. But, what does it take to deliver a successful STEM program that empowers our communities, students, and educators? Look for future posts to learn more about MarkLogic’s efforts to support STEM education.

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