National Techies Day was launched in 1999 to help encourage students to consider a career in the technology field. Back then, about 60% of new jobs were expected to require advanced technical skills in the United States, according to NationalDayCalendar.com. The day was created to raise awareness about the need for people with advances technical skills and to help inspire future generations to follow their curiosity and pursue a career in technology.
The technology sector has grown exponentially since then, and will only continue its upward trajectory. Incredible advances in technology takes place frequently, and the demand for qualified professionals is consistently growing.
We sat down with ACTIVE’s chief technology officer, Stacey Fernandes, to discuss what Techies Day means to her, as well as how parents and organizations can incorporate and encourage kids to consider a career in the field.
What does Techies Day mean to you?
Stacey Fernandes: It's a known fact that other countries are moving faster on technical education and tend to have more technical resources than we do here in the United States. Less than 20% of CEOs are women and less than that are minority based.
I think one of the root causes of that is awareness, and understanding that technology is still mystical to many people. They think it's hard. A lot of people hate math. They think it's too hard for them to understand, but it really isn't. The more awareness that we can build—especially with our youth even below the Millennials—to get them educated early and get them ready to take on some of the challenges and opportunities that a technical career can have is so important. Techies day is just another way to build that awareness.
What does technology mean to you?
SF: Technology to me is probably what a painting would be to a painter, right? It's away for me to get to build things. Technology is just a medium, but we're still building experiences—the way I would experience a painting or the way that I would experience [a] storefront. So technology is really just a medium for me to build experiences, and those just happen to be digital.
I’ve always been lover of math and problems. I love to solve problems. I love those brain teasers. I was always a big brain teaser participant whenever those games came up in my life. So for me, it's a chance to be creative and also to exercise problem solving skills and solving fascinating business problems.
Why is it important to teach and talk about technology in schools?
SF: I spent a lot of time in Palm Harbor, [Florida,] trying to get kids, especially girls, interested in technology. My daughter, for example: She does gymnastics and dances and cheerleads. But that girl? She can code up a Minecraft skin like nobody else.
It's important. What I think a lot of girls don't understand is you don't have to work [at a] software development company. But technological skills are required in just about every single profession out there. Even my husband, who is a contractor and architect and a contractor, needs to be technically savvy, so this isn’t even just about getting people into software design—even though we're going to have a shortage if we don't get more girls involved. But it is very much about being well-rounded professional as a whole. And by being a well rounded
professional you know your options are going to widen. It's a great way for kids to understand how to stay employed. I've never been unemployed, ever. and that's because I've got a wide scope of skills, and part of those are technology.
What advice do you have for those kids who are interested in the tech field?
SF: Put the stigma aside. I definitely think that, especially with my son who’s 15, it is cool to be a geek. He and I talk, and we laugh about it all the time. I'm like, “Look, you can either be a geek or you can work for one later.”
For kids it’s important to talk to them and ask them questions like, “How do you think this YouTube channel happens? You’re holding that phone—how do you think it's built? Wouldn't it be cool to build your own?”
We can't tell children, “Hey, go learn technology.” That’s goes right over their heads. We need to incorporate it in their education, their day-to-day lives. A lot of parents say, “Oh, I limit screen time for one hour a day.” I want them to have the screen time and the experience because I want them to be curious about it. Kids are only going to be curious about things that are in front of them. If they don't see it, they are not curious about it. I asked my kids all the time, “Wouldn't it be cool to build your own?” What do you think that says? My kids have an advantage because I’m in technology, but I think it's important for parents to promote a healthy relationship with technology as well.