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Sarah Ryan

Program Director, Brilliant Labs Nova Scotia

And - Winner, 2019 Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) 2019 "Rising Star" award

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Young women need to realize their potential for creativity, innovation, and ability to become prepared leaders in the 21st century. We must keep going!!!

What do you do?

I am responsible for developing, delivering, and supporting innovative programming to enhance digital literacy skills and project-based learning for teachers, students, and community groups across Nova Scotia. By incorporating hands-on learning based on the Maker Education model, the use of tools, materials, and technology to solve everyday challenges promotes education that is engaging and relevant to the “real world”. 

An average day can vary for me, including supporting students and teachers with Makerspace activities and project development, supporting community events, and summer camps. I often participate in panel discussions and guest speaking engagements on various topics including the necessity of closing the gender gap in science and technology, opportunities associated with technology and entrepreneurship, and youth technology education.

Why did you choose this field?

I always wanted to do something that would create positive change that also incorporated my love of STEM. After completing my Bachelors, I worked for a couple of for-profit organizations but found that the not-for-profit world would provide more of an opportunity to reach and positively impact peers, colleagues, youth, and community members. 

No matter the gender, age, or background it’s rewarding to offer opportunities to youth that I (and many others) did not have growing up. As they say: “Do something that you love and you'll never work a day in your life!”.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

From about age 7, a growing passion​ ​for learning emerged within me. I was lucky to have support at home from my physics professor dad and writer and artist mom. Their mentorship strengthened and prepared me for the struggles ahead, given my gender, to pursue my desired career in science and technology. I was encouraged to pursue a career in science, but soon saw that there was an under-represenation of females in many fields, which was a bit discouraging despite the support that I received at home. 

Flash forward 15 years and I did choose to pursue an education in science (Biology and Psychology). I did not expect to be in the position I am now, especially as a role model for girls and young women seeking careers within STEM and ICT fields. In 2018, I was the recipient of Digital Nova Scotia’s “Power IT Up: Next Generation Leadership" award, one of three Digital Diversity awards presented annually to support and to honour both female leadership and diversity champions in ICT sectors. In 2019 I received the Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) 2019 "Rising Star" award. Younger me would not have believed this would happen --- the only other award I received was for “best sportswoman” in little league softball!

Why do you love working in STEM?

My position has also helped me further my passion to encourage young women to explore science and technology as career options. Almost 30 years later from my own initial interest in all things STEM, less than 27% of Canada's knowledge-based economy is occupied by women. Even given our progress, it remains evident that we need to continue our work towards closing this gap. I strive daily to help provide the encouragement and opportunities for young girls that my parents afforded me, as many still lack that support at home and from their communities. I’m proud to work with such an inspirational not-for-profit organization as Brilliant Labs and to partner with other organizations to encourage females to pursue careers in ICT/STEM.

Best advice for next generation?

If you have a ​genuine​ interest to pursue STEM related careers, then do not lose that dedication to a career which is rewarding and you’re passionate about. Try as many areas in STEM as possible, as there are ever-changing roles available, many which involve multiple fields. It is important to encourage your peers to do so. Mentorship is key. Young girls need to see more visible representations of women so that they too can believe that they can follow the path. Young women need to realize their potential for creativity, innovation, and ability to become prepared leaders in the 21st century. We must keep going!!!

Inspo quote / fun fact

I am inspired by those who lead with positivity and humility: Grace Hopper, one of the first programmers/ pioneer of computer programming, Ada Lovelace (first coder before computers), Limor Fried (founder/CEO of Ada Fruit), John Lennon (musician) and Nelson Mandela.