Tariq Ismail

Inspiration and Engagement Specialist, The Smallpeice Trust

How I came to STEM

My journey into STEM is a story of not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do but just following the things I enjoyed until I found a career I love.

I come from a medical family and I grew up hearing physiological terminology casually thrown around the household over dinner. I think this is what led me to study my undergraduate degree in Physiology and Pharmacology – I’ve always been fascinated by human body and how drugs interact with it.

In my second or third year at university, I decided that research wasn’t for me and I pursued a science writing career through my MSc in Science Communication.

Whilst studying, I got into outreach, working as a STEM Ambassador to inspire young people to follow a STEM career. For my master’s project I explored the gender divide within engineering – the two experiences combined caused me to ditch my science writing ambitions and go into STEM outreach, with a focus on engineering. I haven’t looked back since.

My parents are a huge source of inspiration to me. As an activist and a staunch defender of equality and diversity, my mother has instilled within me a passion to fight inequality wherever I see it. A son of refugees, my father has fought his fair share of adversity in his lifetime. Their resilience has taught me that change can happen, it just sometimes takes time.

Why I love what I do

Working in STEM outreach is a really rewarding job. I’ve seen students gain skills and confidence over a short period of contact time and I’ve helped to shape future engineers. Seeing bright young minds develop into leaders is a real source of inspiration, and it’s amazing how quickly this development can happen.

The role has allowed me to travel to every corner of the UK and beyond, working with people from all walks of life, and seeing new places along the way.

My job has evolved since I started at The Smallpeice Trust, and I find myself with the rather unique job title of ‘Inspiration and Engagement Specialist’. I’m not sure, but I may be the only person with this title, which is pretty cool too!

I now spend a large proportion of my time meeting fascinating role models from different STEM careers, often visiting their sites across the UK, helping to guide and develop their outreach activities. One day I could be visiting a biotechnology company in Plymouth, the next day an aerospace company in Edinburgh. When I’m in the office, I work on developing our own outreach programmes.

As I’ve gained in seniority here, I’ve had the chance to shape the Trust’s major programmes and develop our STEM outreach activities. Often working with my colleagues, I’m ultimately responsible for designing, developing, testing, evaluating and updating our projects. Being able to point to an activity and say ‘that’s one of mine’ is extremely rewarding, as I’ve usually worked on every step of the process.

What’s so great about STEM careers is that the jobs can be so varied – that suits me completely as I would be bored if I was doing the same thing every day! Not only that, but you get to assemble and work in teams, as it’s rare to work on your own in STEM.

What I’m proud of, & what I’m hoping to achieve through the WYPB

By joining the WISE YPB, I want to be a visible ally for gender equality. There are so many amazing role models from a diverse range of backgrounds already on the board, and I’ll get to learn first-hand from them how they and their organisations foster inclusivity.

I hope to reflect on those learnings and implement changes in the work I do to make sure that my own organisation’s education programmes are as impactful, inclusive, and representative as possible.

I’m looking forward to working with my new colleagues on some amazing projects.

Ultimately, however small my role, I want to be part of a movement to redress the gender imbalance through a concerted and direct effort, and to be a vocal ambassador for gender equality.

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