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STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

I kid you not. If there was one person that I would want to be on my side in the Marvel Universe to decode the technology by our adversaries fighting against apocalyptic doom, it is this woman to the right. Yes, her, Ms Paulette Watson.

Paulette is the Managing Director and founder of Academy Achievers, a UK-based a non-profit organisation in South London, established purely to increase the awareness and engagement of young people in STEM subjects.

That is subjects in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, to the likes of you and me. Paulette is good at what she does. She advises Boards on their approach to new and emerging technologies, travelled extensively advising and key-note speaking at international conferences, even living in Switzerland for a time, spreading the word about the importance of the next generation to embrace STEM subjects as a ‘tool for life’.

My phone hasn’t stopped ringing since WinTRADE!

Today, her industry in her specialism has seen her recognised as a ‘mover and shaker’ in the world of STEM and the current WinTrade 2019 winner in the Women in Engineering category. We met up at the top floor of swanky bookstore Waterstones (that also doubles up as my office) for a chat about life, post-WinTrade.

Before I could order coffee, Paulette blurted out, “it’s like someone has shined a spotlight on me since WinTrade because my phone hasn’t stopped, my LinkedIn has gone crazy, I’ve been doing interviews all over the place and I’m in the process of securing a meaningful strategic partner, all since WinTrade”.

Just as I was going to ask her if she wanted tea or coffee, she anticipated my next question, “I can’t tell you who the strategic partner just yet, let’s just say though that they are an Austrian company and have the highest market share in any energy drink in the world, are heavily involved in Formula 1 and have a growing global influence in new and emerging minds….and technologies.” Just five minutes into the interview and Paulette’s passion for STEM subjects and what she does already looms large over our conversation.

Family Passion

It wasn’t long though before she mentioned her other passion, her daughter. “she’s far smarter than I” am she admits. I sip my hot chocolate at the thought of what the energy in the room would feel like with Paulette and her daughter in full effect….

After explaining how a virtual stranger introduced her to WinTrade by nominating her and sharing her views on the importance of networks, Paulette revealed her ‘why’ – her reasoning in engaging with STEM and Engineering. “The new and emerging technologies, such as BlockChain and Artificial Intelligence are moving faster than we can imagine, to the point where some of us are unable to comprehend where it goes next. At the same time, nationally, there appears to be a decline in young people taking STEM subjects. As a result of this trajectory and with the predicted growth of automation, millions of us will be left behind”.

Danger of Exclusion

I listened intently to Paulette, she was calm, measured and engaging. She sat poised and elegant in the oversized armchair and her locks nestled neatly on her shoulders, this wasn’t a lecture, Paulette was articulating a global societal problem, with a solution in mind.

She continued. “This impacts us in two ways, firstly we will be ignorant of new technologies and may be excluded as a result, with dire social and economic consequences. Secondly, if we are unable to code and be part of the coding process, there will be communities that have a greater chance of being excluded by the design, or by design”.

Paulette is now in full Marvel Superhero mode. “All you have to do is to look at some of the web search engines today and see the inherent biases”. To make her point, Paulette explained, “In Silicon Valley, a company used cutting edge facial recognition software to gain access to their offices.

The company’s new CEO turned up for work on her first day and wasn’t able to get into the building. It was revealed this was because the AI software didn’t recognise her…she was black! – who did the coding? That’s why it’s important to have a seat around the table.”

Don’t miss the opportunity of getting involved with WinTRADE 2020

I asked Paulette what message she would send out to other female entrepreneurs who might be thinking of engaging with WinTrade for 2020. Without missing a beat Paulette replied, “Women thinking about it shouldn’t hesitate because there are more benefits than disadvantages with the association with WinTrade”. Paulette then explained that she had previously kept ‘below the radar’ and coming to WinTrade was her first brave step.

She recounted her first verbal contribution at the House of Lords where she was very nervous about standing up and speaking, but in her words, “I felt the fear and did it anyway”. She spoke about the new businesswomen and friends she has made at WinTrade from around the world and the diversity of sectors and a broader understanding of some of the unique challenges that women face across the world in search of their economic freedoms.

“Winning the award was a huge thing for me and since then, it is as if someone has turned on a light and found me, but the award is for all the young people that we work with and the ones who we don’t but who are embracing STEM, it is also for my daughter”. At this point, she received an email. A smile flashed across her Paulette’s face. “Another email request to meet as a result of WinTrade”.

Future phones

As she put her phone down, I realised that her phone didn’t look like an ordinary phone, it looked rugged and futuristic. Just then she knocked on the face of the phone with her knuckle. “What the hell are you doing?” I enquired. “I just screen-saved the message and the photo so I can reply”. Hastily I began to knock my phone with my knuckle.

Paulette chuckled, “It won’t work with your phone – you have to have one of these”. She told me the name of the brand but it sounded too futuristic for me… STEM has its advantages…..

With a promise to WinTrade to recruit a small band of women for WinTrade 2020 our meeting concluded the same way it started, in a wave of passion and energy. As we travelled down the escalator to the trains at Piccadilly, we talked non-stop about the importance of STEM subjects. “Mind the doors please” came the chant of the tube train staffer and then with a puff, this intrepid, bright Marvel superheroine was gone.

Your can reach Paulette Watson via Email. Admin@acdemeyachievers.co.uk


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