One of my favorite things about being a minority in the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is that I am often given the opportunity to talk with middle school students about the importance of math in the real world. I have heard so many times "Why do we need to know this, we won't use it in the real world." Wait, why am i a minority you ask? Well, because it is a male dominated field. What that means for me is that I feel as though there is a little more job security since a woman like myself is few and far between.
|US Bureau of Labor Statistics|
For my presentation, I had to open by telling the children a little about myself.
"Hi, my name is Jennifer Beeman and I work in the Advanced Analytics Division at SAS. My job title is Advanced Analytics Tester, but what that means in real terms is that I write code and try to break things. How many of you have ever used an iphone or computer and the game or screen you're playing just freezes or goes back to the home screen???"
(Nearly everyone raises their hands)
"How does it make you feel when that happens?"
(ANGRY FRUSTRATED MAD)
"That's right, you get frustrated don't you! Well one thing I do as a software tester is I try to break the software and make it crash"
"Well, if it crashes BEFORE we send it out to the customer and I can prevent it from crashing for the customer. By doing that, i keep the customer from being ANGRY FRUSTRATED or MAD"
"here's something else I do. Everyone has a calculator in front of them, What if you enter 4+4, what do you expect to get"
"ok, so what happens if the calculator tells you the answer is 9 ?"
"That's right. But what if you are allowed to use the calculator for your test and you don't bother to question whether or not the calculator is giving you the correct answers. You TRUST the calculator right? So if your calculator tells you 4+4=9, and you use this same calculator for the entire test, what might happen?"
(YOu DO BAD) (remember this isn't an English/Grammar lesson)
"Exactly! Part of my job is also to make sure that the software gives the customers the correct answers. Just in the same way you trust your calculator to give you the correct numbers, our customers trust SAS to give them the correct numbers. My job is to solve complicated algorithms and formulas to ensure SAS does just that: Ensuring the numbers do not lie! Essentially, I get paid to break things! Doesn't that sound cool?
In a follow up survey, many of the children from our lessons remembered me! They were asked to fill out a survey of the 20 volunteers and they needed to list anyone they knew in the STEM field. There were multiple children to write, Jennifer breaks the code! And with my chest puffed out pretty big, that makes me feel pretty darn good!
On a side note, I have noticed lately, that there are "educated" adults who have trouble with simple mathematical calculations as well as computing the simple passing of time in the measurement of "days". It sure does make me proud that I can read, write, and perform simple as well as complex computations with and without my calculator. My goal for Sloan is to excite her about math and technology, and ensure she can do the same!
DID YOU VOTE? Better yet, do you get the message from this picture?