I volunteered last night for my high school’s first alumni career fair. They weren’t looking for alumni in just any career though, they were supposed to be STEM careers. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. I had to look it up. And then confirm accounting qualified as mathematics. I mean, I think it is, but I saw a trigonometry joke the other day and really didn’t get it. I don’t do *that* kind of math. Although the school is always quick to clarify that there is a comprehensive curriculum (and there is), the focus is on STEM. The tagline in the current logo is “igniting and nurturing creative, ethical scientific minds that advance the human condition.” They’re not messing around and many of the alumni are exceeding those high expectations.
Here’s a quick excerpt from the Board of Trustee’s September meeting noting just a few remarkable alumni achievement during the period June 30, 2010 through July 1, 2011. One of the women, Clara, graduated the class below me. In addition to her achievements listed in the link, during the second half of 2011, she was also named to Fortune’s 2011 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and the Starbucks Board of Directors. Oh, and she had a really beautiful wedding in San Francisco.
My friend Ani and his company Sanergy are also off doing great things in Africa. Their focus is “to build and scale viable sanitation infrastructure in the slums of Nairobi.” And they’re being awarded some pretty awesome grants to help them continue their efforts to do so.
Pretty amazing. And more than a little bit humbling when all you do is go to work, come home and make dinner, and try to make things pretty. But I figured, if not for any other reason, I’d volunteer at the career fair to tell these high schoolers that it’s OK to just have a normal life.
I noticed a few really interesting patterns throughout the night’s conversations. A frequent question was how I decided to do what I do. Honestly, it was a series of decisions that I made piece by piece at the points I had to make them. Each time I repeated that answer to someone new, I’d get a big look of relief. In their world, they think they’re supposed to already have this all figured out.
They also asked questions, in different forms, that kept bringing me back to the same topics of the things I do like to do. It was a nice reminder through the eyes of curious bystanders instead of just the same cycle of conversations that go through my own head. One of the things I kept repeating though was that, no matter what they pick, they can always change their path. I hope they believed me.