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The award winning TCS Digital Explorers program, in collaboration with our partner organisation MyKindaFuture, is working towards the target of bringing in more than 13,000 teenagers, across UK, into its fold by providing a digital work experience.

Stress on STEM subjects has always been the focal point of the program. This time around 40 industry experts, including TCS volunteers, joined hands to provide a week of interactive live discussions, mentoring, talks and Q&As via Zoom, offering insights and inspiration to the potential tech talent of tomorrow. Read more about the program here.

Tory Mirza, a senior security analyst with Nationwide, started out as an administrator in an IT department and discovered a passion for networks: ‘There’s no right job choice, just the one that feels right at the time,’ she said. A history graduate who built a 25-year career in tech, she insisted: ‘Just because you don’t fancy computer programming, don’t rule out a career in technology.’

Given the dizzying pace of digital disruption, there was no need to ‘scope out a career right away’, said Kari-Anne Clayton, a senior technology executive at NatWest. ‘Sample a buffet of options, through graduate or apprenticeship schemes or work experience programmes like this, talk to industry experts, build a network and focus on building those transferable skillsets used across a number of digital, IT and STEM careers,’ was her advice.

And nothing beats learning on the job, argued Paul Morrough, an engineering lead at Lloyds Banking Group: ‘It’s only when you’re through the door that you really learn what’s needed.’ That would inevitably include soft skills like ‘communication, team working, being curious and willingness to make mistakes’, he said.

Students were given insights into the convergence of specialisms in IT, as data skills, for instance, are required in more and more roles. And what about the impact of AI on the jobs of tomorrow?  

The professionals were optimistic. Despite ‘scaremongering’ about automation, AI was more likely to change jobs than destroy them, said Gopalan Rajagopalan, TCS Head of Scotland, with machines taking over repetitive tasks, leaving humans to retrain for more stimulating roles. History shows that disruptive technologies have had short term impacts, but long-term benefits for people’s lives, he said: ‘So there is no reason to be pessimistic about this latest revolution.’

Kaveh Pourteymour, chief information officer at Neptune Energy agreed: ‘Critical thinking and empathy, for instance, are two areas where computers won’t take over,’ he said, ‘and they’re important qualities to drive innovation.’ He also predicted that the ‘human implications’ of technology would be paramount in the future: ‘Advancing humankind - that’s the new focus,’ Kaveh told his young audience.

Dozens of TCS volunteers supported this year’s Digital Explorers alongside client company colleagues. Sarah Varley, a non-graduate who now leads on robotic delivery for Lloyds, was enthusiastic about getting involved: ‘I think it’s really important to engage young people at this stage and encourage them towards STEM careers – especially girls,’ Sarah said.

Fellow client volunteer Joanne Rose, head of Salesforce Platform at Centrica, also appreciated the opportunity’: ‘It is so important to inspire our young people by creating visible role models and to get them thinking about the tech industry. I was so glad to be a part of that,’ she said.

Feedback from participating students will be collated later in the year. For teenage tech fan Pradhay, a year 12 student from Kent, signing up for Digital Explorers 2021 had been ‘a great experience’, he said. ‘I learnt about how jobs use technology in day-to-day operations and the background of some exciting careers. It has inspired me further to find a future in computer science and technology.’

William Akerman, founder and MD of MyKindaFuture, felt the scheme was making a timely contribution: ‘We are thrilled to be working in partnership with TCS once again to expand career opportunities for young people across the UK,’ he said.

‘Digital Explorers exposes students of all backgrounds to expertise and insights from not only TCS employees, but a myriad of experts from their wider network. Particularly at this time, building impactful and human connections with real-life employees is crucial in developing students’ experience and confidence. Virtually supporting and growing the prospects of over 650 young people is a fantastic result.’