Why is STEM important? (a layman's view)

A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at the Indianola STEM Symposium and Appreciate Night about why STEM is important (particularly to the audience of mostly high school kids). Hmm — why is STEM important? Why is it important to high school kids? I *accept* that STEM is important — we hear that all the time — but its hard to delineate exactly why its STEM is important. Don’t tell anyone but I’m actually STEM-adjacent. I’ve worked in and around technology professionals my entire career but I’m not one. I dig them and their vibe but I’m always the business/ops guy. Here’s what I came up with:

Hey there, I’m Geoff Wood and I’m working to grow the startup community in Iowa. I run a space called Gravitate — the entrepreneurial center of gravity in downtown Des Moines.

Gravitate is designed to be a a platform for the innovation community: entrepreneurs, startup teams, developers, remote tech workers and other innovators who are often working on their own or in small groups but can benefit from collisions, from working around other people even though they’re working on their own. 

We do that by providing low cost/high density workspace, an event center for meetups, lunch and learns, and other educational activities and a front door to the Iowa startup/technology community for anyone looking to learn more or to join in.

Who here plans to get a job someday? [raise hands]

Who here wants to start a company? [raise hands]

[pssst…its everyone]

I’m here to tell you that the STEM fields actually provide you with the best tools and opportunities to do either. 

If you’re goal is to get a job someday, you can easily think of every company as a tech company. Grocery chain like Hy-Vee? Tech company. Convenience store like Kum & Go? Tech company. Workiva in Ames? Tech company. Principal Financial? Tech company. Almost any company you can think of has a tech infrastructure making it work. And, they’re all hiring.

It’s also one of the quickest and most sure ways to better your situation. Its a chance to move up the income ladder from how you grew up. Its a chance to be geographicly mobile. Do you want to live in New York or San Francisco? Do you want to live in Indianola or Des Moines? The STEM fields will provide you those opportunities.

Admittedly, I’m more on “start a company”-side rather than the “get a job”-side.

There’s a need here, too. They say that every good founding team is two parts: the hacker and the hustler. The one that builds it and the one that sells it. The business co-founder and the technical co-founder.

In the position that I’m in, I hear about new ideas all the time — some are good but a lot are bad — all the time. Which of the two pieces of the founding team do you think is almost always missing?

STEM, or at least the Technology part of STEM, is among the easiest and most accessible fields to get into.

If you want to do a 4 year computer science degree at a school like Simpson College? You can do that. Do you want get a 2 year technical degree? You can do that, too. Or a 9 week programming bootcamp like Dev/Iowa or The Interface School? Yep. There’s even IT apprenticeship programs out there and learn at your at own pace tools like Khan Academy and Treehouse. 

Its important — and awesome — that you’re thinking about this at this point in your life, stay with it. And, when you’re ready to start something, come see us at Gravitate