Dave Oxley is a Software Security Architect at McAfee and a STEM Ambassador. Answering the STEM NOW Q&A, he talks about how a love for technology evolved into a career in STEM...
Who or what first inspired your curiosity in STEM?
DO: I think I'd just seen Tron in the cinema and started badgering my mum to get me a computer. About the same time some friends got a Sinclair Spectrum 48K which their dad had reconfigured to be in a hard key shell. Every time we visited I was on their computer for as long as I was allowed.
What was your personal journey into STEM, or your chosen field?
DO: In scouts I always enjoyed teaching the younger ones how to do things. I loved Maths, and was quite good at it, so around the age of 14 I decided to become a Maths Teacher.
Have you encountered/overcome any boundaries along your STEM journey?
DO: Shortly after starting teaching I realised that the teaching bit was amazing, it was all the other stuff that I couldn't stand. After two years I was made redundant and I managed to get an interview at DERA and learnt to code 'professionally' on the job.
What is something you are working on/have worked on that excites you?
DO: I'm following the attempt by the US and other countries to get back to the moon. It's hard to believe that after getting people onto the moon, we stopped. I am particularly looking for any technological leaps made through it. The first time we made loads, fingers crossed we'll see a lot more.
What has been your most memorable moment as a STEM Ambassador and why?
DO: There are a few, the one I'm currently most excited by is the recent launch of our now annual coding competition, we're running it at two at local schools for the first time. Once the students get into their groups with our Interns as Mentors the ideas just flow. Their willingness to try things and see how it goes, not being afraid to get something wrong. It's also great to see the more experienced coders teaching others in their team.
Why is it important that young people are introduced to STEM?
DO: If you've never heard of it, you can't try it. If you don't try it, you won't pursue it. So, if we don't show young people the fun of STEM they will give up on it before they've begun.
What advice would you give a young person considering a future in STEM?
DO: Go for it. The way we live and work is changing so fast and lots of it is driven by the work done by those of us in the STEM field. I believe everyone who wants to will find a job somewhere in STEM where they can shine.
Why is diversity and inclusion in STEM fields important?
DO: We live in a world largely shaped by at most 50% of the population. How much better would it be if the other 50% had been involved?
What are your hopes for the future of STEM?
DO: A more diverse workforce addressing the pressing problem of climate change.