STEM: It’s More Than Coding

On April 9th, more than 3,000 high-school girls from around the state of Utah converged at SheTech Explorer Day, a one-day conference focused on learning about STEM. And Kuali was there, too. Hosted by Utah’s Women in Tech Council, the purpose is to open up the world of STEM to girls and spark their interest. Over 150 companies and a few local universities sponsored the event, participating in booth activities and mentorship opportunities.

What We Learned

Kuali participated in the “TechZone,” a room full of tech booths. At ours, we asked the girls to sketch out what an app would look like that allowed them to track items they had loaned out to friends. We asked them to consider things like specific features and organization. Sketching out a basic rendering, or wireframe, is the first step a UX designer takes when approaching a new app or feature. This exercise is also commonly included in UX design job interviews.

1. What’s that?
Most of the girls had never heard of UX design. The first question I asked every girl I met was, “Have you ever heard of user experience design?” The answer was always an unsure nod. “No, I don’t think so?”

2. Oh, that’s pretty cool.
These girls loved the idea of UX design. As I explained UX design and showed each girl how to participate in the activity, I watched as the wheels in her head began to turn. Many girls turned to a friend and began to walk through how they would design an app. Some went to work quickly, drawing a wireframe with confidence and an occasional question. Some took some more encouragement, but then came up with dozens of great ideas once she put pencil to paper.

3. What should I study to get into UX design?
Many girls we met left our booth with a new excitement for STEM. Some felt they had a new understanding of what STEM can be and how it could look for them. A career in STEM is not and doesn’t have to be synonymous with “developer” or “scientist.” Though those are things that our society desperately needs to move forward, it was a wonderful opportunity to share a completely new avenue into STEM, a path that requires creativity, communication skills, and an eye for design.

Kuali’s team loved spending time at SheTech. We enjoyed sharing career options beyond coding that could allow these girls to work in Utah’s booming tech market in the next 5-10 years. And we’re looking forward to sharing even more ideas with them. Product management, marketing automation, and technical writing are all skills needed by tech companies that fall outside of what we typically think of as STEM careers. High-school girls should know what options are out there.

See you soon, SheTech!

 

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