Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Jade Parkinson-Hill is the founder of Steam School and based in Liverpool, U.K. Steam School’s mission is to connect 100,000s students across the globe with STEAM innovators and to inspire them to create positive global change with science and technology. Jade’s career has spanned both the tech and education world. For more than a decade, Jade worked in the UK education sector launching new schools and delivering entrepreneurship projects to students and communities across the North West of England. In 2015, Jade was named one of the 'top 100 women in games' in recognition of her role in establishing the UK's first 'geek' school in Liverpool. She has been interviewed on TV, radio and the press, including the BBC, Radio 4 and The Times Education Supplement talking about her passions of tech and entrepreneurship, in particular, motivating and supporting young entrepreneurs.
Jade, how did you get into this industry? Tell us a bit more about your background and your projects so far.
I started working in the education sector 13 year ago, after working in tech sector since graduating from university. In the first instance, I started working in education because I wanted to be more rooted in my community, it was almost an accident…but what a happy accident. During my time in education I have secured £1.3million in education funding, successfully bid to open two new STEM schools and was named ‘One of the Top 100 Women in Video Games in 2015 for my role in starting the UK’s first school for teenagers aspiring to work in the video games sector.
What does your current job role entail? What projects are you working on at the moment?
I am now the founder of my own edtech startup - Steam School.
Steam School connects schools with science and tech innovators via our weekly live broadcasts and accompanying mini challenges. By showcasing the stories of young innovators, discussing tech trends and scientific breakthroughs, Steam School inspires students to develop a new awareness about how rapid technological change is transforming the world in which we live. Our mission is to connect 100,000s students across the globe with STEAM innovators and to inspire them to create positive global change with science and technology.
Our programme has been well received by both primary and secondary schools across the U.K. and internationally. We add value to existing careers and STEM programmes, connect students to inspirational role models from all over the globe and save teachers precious time in having to locate inspirational guests by themselves.
How long did it take you to be where you are now? What was the biggest obstacle?
It took me 2 1/2 years of consultancy to be ready to launch Steam School as a full time operation. This time was well spent as I worked as a consultant, learning more about common education challenges so that I could launch a product that would be useful to teachers and inspirational to teachers. My biggest challenge is time - there are not enough hours in the day.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Creating Steam School has been long held dream - we already have schools in Dubai and with lots of interest from China, US and Ireland.
What has been the biggest challenge in working in education in particular in STEM?
I love working in education and particularly in STEM. I knew in my very early days in education, that I wanted to inspire and motivate children into tech based careers, so every day is a joy. My only wish is that schools get more funding.. there are fantastic educators across the UK who are constrained by time and lack of funding. It is so frustrating.
If you had an unlimited budget for education, what would you do for children and students in STEM based activities?
More training for teachers.
For classrooms to have state of the art technology, regardless of the subject being taught.
More time and space to focus on creativity and art based subjects.
The development of a global, ethical mindset.
Unlimited budgets to spend on Steam School products :) :) :)
What does the #WomenInTech movement mean to you? What are the challenges of being a woman in STEM?
Having worked in tech since I graduated from University, I have always had a positive experience in this sector. I have been fortunate to work for some amazing entrepreneurs, who supported and developed my ambitions. I am really grateful to these mentors. I have never felt held back because I am a woman. In meetings, I am may have not been the person to shout the loudest in the room, but when I spoke, people listened. I wish for my experience to be the norm for all women in tech.
In your opinion, what will be the key future trends in educating students and children?
I am hoping for an increased focus on STEAM powered projects in a global context underpinned by character education.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to children and students in STEM?
Start Now. Create Stuff. Be curious. Explore. Start Projects. Live Your Best Life.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in STEM?
Sheryl Sandberg, Kari Swisher, Maria Stukoff.
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.