How This Artsy Mom Discovered Confidence (and a Career) in STEM

No one ever told me I could be a doctor or a scientist.

As my high-school graduation loomed ahead of me just over a decade ago, I was excitedly receiving bursaries for arts like music and writing. Heading off to the University of King’s College in Halifax, NS, to study journalism, I was an artsy student with a passion for old books. From my traditional arts roots, I shocked myself by blossoming into my career in healthcare technology.

Although my parents raised me to believe I could become just about anything if I worked hard for it, it felt as though I was being groomed to enter a “feminine” career. I remember once saying I was interested in becoming an advanced care paramedic, only to be asked why I didn’t consider a Continuing Care Assistant or Licensed Practical Nursing program instead.

No one ever told me I could be a doctor or a scientist. STEM hobbies and careers, I thought, weren’t for me. I thought wrong.

With my PR degree in hand, talented colleagues to guide me, and access to plenty of online resources, I once helped write HTML code for website. I even updated and improved my own blog with the tools and skills I had access to! And the more comfortable I became with the tech space I was living in, the more my confidence grew. Maybe I was onto something?

I once steered away from anything “science-y” or “tech-y." But now, I recognize amazing, creative, and self-esteem boosting opportunities for myself... and also for my son. I don’t want him to see STEM the way I did: as a space for other people to find careers in.

At a young age, I could see my son had a real knack for patterns and sequences, and was able to problem-solve math problems quite quickly. Yet he struggled – and still struggles – with confidence.

I soon discovered that he really lights up when there's a science project for us on the kitchen counter – and he loves it when things go terribly awry. Why? Because failure is a new opportunity for us to discover something even cooler! (He loves to build and tear down and rebuild new, bigger, better, and different creations. In his bedroom, you’ll find everything from Makit Toy and brainteasers to LEGO, soccer balls to art supplies, and a chalkboard covered in math practice or fun doodles.

I want my son to realize that STEM doesn’t necessarily mean a lab coat and equations. STEM is actually a creative space, with oodles of room to grow in based on your strengths, interests, and passions. STEM is about finding new ways to solve problems both inside and outside of the classroom. It’s learning and practicing resilience. And that’s why I’m so glad my son will take part in several weeks of science camps this summer, including one week at Level Up!

I don’t write code; I write copy. On my bedside table, you’ll find a pharmacology book alongside Jane Austen. I help sell and promote the technologies my company builds – technologies that change patient’s lives every day. Although I don’t create, support, or maintain those technologies, my role in the space is as important as any other.

At the end of the day, technology is a huge part of my life – bigger than books now, even!  It’s here to stay. By helping my son navigate it, teaching him to see opportunities to grow creatively, and allowing him the breathing room to explore, fail, and try again, I can only hope he’ll find his way through the ever-evolving STEM space.

And hopefully he teaches me how to use whatever gadgets the kids are using in a few years’ time!

Ashley—an East coast-dwelling single mum of Finn the preschooler and Duncan, The Wonder Cat—has the propensity to be a little feisty, but tones it down for her day job as a public relations peep. Shoes are her best friend. - See more at: