It is more important than ever to actively support and encourage people to pursue careers in technology and STEM. Careers in these fields are growing at three times the pace of non-STEM jobs. That's why Akamai is continuing to commit to inclusive initiatives and creating opportunities in technology, not only closing the diversity gap but reaching a range of young people across the globe.
We spoke to Gloria Pearce, Senior Director of Global Platform Operations, about Akamai's mission to inspire future STEM talent and the importance of motivating people to explore technology at a young age.
What is Akamai doing to support emerging talent?
We have lots of global initiatives. One of our biggest, the Akamai Technical Academy (ATA), began about 4 years ago... The program started as a way of introducing more diversity into technology and STEM. It's an intensive program that typically receives over 400 applicants, before we narrow it down to approximately 20 participants per class, through various stages of testing and interviews.
The participants taking part in our initiatives sacrifice a lot. Many have Masters degrees in industries outside of technology, quitting their jobs to come to Akamai every day for six months. They've often invested a lot of time and money into their education and careers, but have a genuine desire to step into tech, taking the time to study and commit to learning an entirely new industry. It's really admirable and I'm pleased to report that everyone who graduates from the training is given an opportunity to work at Akamai.
There are also lots of other ways Akamai supports emerging talent. We have Girls Who Code and people from the business out there in local communities, grammar schools and high schools, showing kids all the cool things that technology can do. There's also a scholarship fund for STEM and our continued commitment to Diversity and Inclusion. We want to ensure that our organization is an inclusive place and people feel safe - not only that, but that there are opportunities for anybody and everybody.
Can you talk about somebody that's come through one of these programs and excelled?
There's many, but I do have one, her name is Gina and she's on my team. Gina came through our Akamai Technical Academy from a Biochemistry background, knowing nothing about technology. Throughout her six-month learning curve, she proved herself to be exceptional. Her technical graft and understanding of the intricacies of Akamai has been incredible. In my experience, she really stands out, able to handle large-scale projects that can then be handed off to the other teams. That's really what we're looking for - the outstanding candidate.
What would your advice be for anyone wanting to get into the tech industry?
Firstly, especially regarding women, don't be intimidated!
Unfortunately, in school, and it could be sixth grade, could be tenth grade, you'll have the teacher asking questions and girls too afraid to raise their hands, especially in STEM classes. We have to encourage girls to raise their hands more and feel empowered - that's why strong female mentorship is so important, and that starts in school. But our programs, mentorships and female-led conferences can begin to inspire girls across the globe.
How does Akamai continue to improve?
Our organization grows more diverse every day. There are more women on our senior leadership boards and a continued commitment from the top of the business to create a workforce that better represents society. HR has also done a great job over the last five years, creating incredible initiatives and getting people to volunteer, but there's always more to be done.
One of the things I'm passionate about is mentoring and coaching. We need to provide the right tools and training to teach people to coach properly, because though everybody has the best intentions, it doesn't mean they can mentor effectively. But it's not just inside Akamai, but outside as well. I have spoken to many teachers, and it's clear families don't have the knowledge to help their children complete their homework. Parents over 50 have an especially limited experience of STEM, unless they've been in the industry, but statistics are telling us they haven't. That's why it's important for us to provide mentoring at school so kids aren't deterred from studying STEM.