Lieutenant Tom Steadman

Lieutenant Tom Steadman is a Weapon Engineer Submariner for the Royal Navy and a STEM Ambassador. In answering the STEM NOW Q&A, he talks about the hurdles he overcame on his STEM journey...

Who or what first inspired your curiosity in STEM?

TS: Nothing specifically triggered my interest, it was just something I found that I was good at. I liked understanding why things happened (at a theory level as I was a little clumsy!) and had a knack for maths and physics, it just seemed to click!

What was your personal journey into STEM, or your chosen field?

TS: I wanted to join the Royal Navy from a young age, but as a warfare officer rather than an engineer. When I visited the careers office and engineering was suggested, I wasn’t keen, thinking it required hands on skills I didn’t have (expecting mechanic etc). The careers officer pushed, suggesting that I visit a defence college for engineers to take their A Levels and see what I thought. I loved the college and decided to apply there and then, joining the Royal Navy as a Weapons Engineering Officer. I completed my A Levels, got sponsored through university with a bursary and then started my Naval Training. I’m now looking to study a MSc and explore all opportunities the Royal Navy can offer!

Have you encountered/overcome any boundaries along your STEM journey?

TS: The main boundaries I’ve encountered were over confidence, specifically a lack of confidence. I was a bright kid, not having to work too hard, and thought I was the best thing since sliced bread, choosing a very academically challenging degree course. When I got to it, I wasn’t prepared and really struggled in the university learning environment. This meant I had significant problems, including having to resit a year, which then knocked my confidence and meant I really struggled with impostor syndrome and a lack of confidence in my ability. However, joining the Royal Navy and the training I’ve received, along with the support in building confidence in technical ability, meant I’ve now discovered where my talents lie, especially within STEM and allowed me to flourish.

What is something you are working on/have worked on that excites you?

TS: I’m currently managing a multi million pound project to deal with obsolescence in the Submarine Combat System. This draws on my experience as an engineer, my leadership and management skills and pushes me in areas such as commercial agreements and finance that are new and exciting.

What has been your most memorable moment as a STEM Ambassador and why?

TS: My most memorable moment was my first event. Getting the kids to engage, interact and enjoy the evolution was of real interest to me and made me realise how important it is to try and share my passion for engineering and what it allows you to do.

Why is it important that young people are introduced to STEM?

TS: I think that with the changes in technology and the way our country is changing, a solid background in STEM is critical. We don’t know what will happen in five years let alone twenty, and the more young people who can be encouraged to understand what STEM can bring the more successful we will be as a country (and planet) in the future!

What advice would you give a young person considering a future in STEM?

TS: Stick with it for as long as possible and when it gets difficult, try and make it through that hurdle and keep going. A STEM background let’s you do anything you want to do and opens a whole world of opportunities. It’s harder to get back into STEM than it is to change away!

Why is diversity and inclusion in STEM fields important?

TS: There are so many challenges in the future for the UK, we need to ensure that we do everything we can to find that next STEM trained child who has a world-changing discovery and make sure that they got the same opportunities to develop as anybody else.

What are your hopes for the future of STEM?

TS: I hope that this will become commonplace in schools and there won’t be a requirement for specific events to expose kids to the options available to them.

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