More than 350 students received several career and life lessons outside the classroom this year during the 35th annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) Virtual STEM conference.
Each year, the event brings together professionals and students to share their experiences and career information over a three-day period.
Industry and military leaders led conference sessions focused on topics including: The National Perspective on Global Energy, Cybersecurity, Artificial intelligence and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Improving Study Skills, and Creating and Building Productive Connections.
The Army hosted the Stars and Stripes mentoring program during day two of the conference. The discussion focused on a variety of topics including career advice to overcoming challenges.
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, U.S. Army Surgeon General; Dr. Raj Iyer, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Information Technology Reform; and Lt. Gen. John B. Morrison, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-6 led one of many mentoring sessions throughout the conference.
Each leader spent 25 minutes speaking to groups of pre-college students about the benefits of military service and STEM career fields. During the interactive dialogue sessions, students and mentors discussed several topics including: STEM careers, life skills and community involvement. The Army is actively recruiting for more than 1,000 STEM post-secondary and recent graduate appointments, including 200 STEM positions specific to the Army Career Development Program.
As the Army continues to focus on new adversaries in the cyber and technology fields, senior Army leaders emphasized the importance that science, technology, engineering and math will play.
“Technical talent is much needed in this country. This is why we’re having these events and why the Army is so committed to helping build the next generation of technology leaders,” said Iyer. “We need to build excitement around STEM and develop a passion so you guys can succeed,” Iyer continued.
Iyer and Morrison reminded students to face challenges head on.
“You have to be ready for any kind of surprises that come your way. A STEM career will put you to the test so don’t let anyone stand in your way. You must put your best foot forward, because hard work will pay off,” Iyer said.
“It is very hard to plan your career. When I first got out of college I kind of knew what I wanted to do, but as you learn more and get into the workforce, the biggest thing you have to learn is to remain flexible and keep your options open and you’ll see your career in a whole different light. You should always have an open mind, open attitude, listen to people and continue to learn.,” Iyer explained.
“Throughout the course of your life, you’re going to continuously run into challenges all the time, but how you react to those challenges will make the difference. This helps you improve as a person,” Morrison added
The BEYA conference also promotes recruiting, networking and professional development for STEM college students while also promoting diversity and inclusion.
“It’s all about people and when you look at our military, our nation and when we all come together it doesn’t matter what our backgrounds are or where we’re from, it’s about harnessing the strength of the folks that work with you, work for you and above you,” explained Morrison. “When we have to seek a common purpose and at this point there’s nothing we can’t do. At the end, that’s what it’s really about, what did you give back to somebody or your community for the greater good,” Morrison added.
As the mentor forum wrapped up, Dingle and Iyer encouraged the students to follow their dreams and plant their legacy.
“Set your goals, aim high and go big,” Dingle concluded. “Challenges don’t determine how far how you go. Mentors don’t have to look like us, they are anyone that invests in you, that encourage you and inspire you. Live your dreams and have the passion to go after it and don’t let anything nor anyone stop you or deter you from living your dream.”
“At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself what’s your passion? What makes you happy? You have to be able to answer that and also determine what kind of legacy am I leaving. If you look at your career and what you want to do from that perspective, you will choose your career and how you get there will be entirely different,” Iyer added.