How I Started In STEM with Coursera Chief Content Officer Betty Vandenbosch: Falling into STEM approach

How I Started In STEM with Coursera Chief Content Officer Betty Vandenbosch: Falling into STEM approach

Betty Vandenbosch is the Chief Content Officer at Coursera, and has been in STEM for more than 40 years. Her extensive experience in the education fields highlights her passion for enriching the lives of young people through advancing their learning at all levels.

How did you get started?

The way that I got started in STEM is right back when I was in my last year of high school. I was chosen along with three boys, of course, it's always men, to go to the University of Waterloo, which was close to where I lived, to spend a day learning how to program a computer. Now, I don't remember why I went. It might be because there was a cute boy. I don't remember why I actually went to that, but I did and I loved it. Then, in my first year of university, I said, well, maybe I should take a computer science course. So I did, and I loved that too. I went on and on and on, and by the end of my university career, I had a degree in computer science. It's a kind of falling into it approach to STEM for me and it's turned out so, so well.

What passion still drives you?

My passion in STEM is ensuring that everyone has the opportunities that STEM provides and isn't afraid of getting into a field that they don't know that much about. I believe strongly in education and I know that online education is the way that many women, particularly, begin with STEM. On Coursera, for example, this year, 37% of our STEM learners are women. Two years ago, it was only 31%. It's so exciting to see more and more and more women participate in a field, a series of fields really, that are the future and that are really going to make a difference to their lives personally, but also to society.

What was the best advice you received in your career?

The best advice that I've received is an old Dutch proverb. I got it from my father, not from someone who was my boss or anything else. *forgein language proverb* What that means is you've already got a no, you can get a yes by asking. That's something that has stood the test of time for me. Try, see what happens, nothing to lose, you've got a no if you don't ask any questions.

What is the hardest thing about working in STEM fields?

At the beginning of my career, the hardest thing about working in STEM was how lonely it was. I never had a female professor, I always worked with men and I thought, "Oh, wouldn't it be great to have some women around to talk about things," but over the years that's gotten better and better and better. Now, I really feel that we're at the birth of a time when women are going to not be alone in any rooms any longer and are going to be able to contribute substantially to the future of STEM.

What is your number one tip for someone who wants a career in STEM?

For someone who's thinking about entering the STEM field, my most important piece of advice is first focus on what you are good at. Work hard to make what you're good at better. Working on what you're not very good at is really a drag, so always focus on what you're good at and make sure you love what you do.