By:  Ben Skuse
May 29th, 2016

Cross-disciplinary skills

Cross-disciplinary edge

When a degree in science or engineering is paired with skills in business and leadership, it can lift you to the penthouse suite of professions.

By Ben Skuse

For many technical or specialist jobs, there’s a clear career path from school to the desired job. And for positions not requiring specialist knowledge, the minimum educational requirements combined with a winning personality and work experience can often seal the deal.

But the transition to leadership positions presents a more blurred picture. CEOs with years of education and experience in management from large corporate organisations now mix with fresh graduates with multi-billion-dollar ideas.

Almost half of today’s jobs could be taken over by machines over the next 10–20 years, and 75% of the world’s most valuable companies will be replaced by 2027. So how can you prepare for such an unclear future?

“The answer is STEM,” says the Hon Karen Andrews MP, Assistant Minister for Science.

“It’s the ability to think methodically about your work; to solve problems critically and systematically. Employers want to know that you have the skills to navigate new environments quickly and authoritatively.”

Leonie Walsh, Lead Scientist to the Victorian Government, adds that employers of tomorrow are looking for “a better balance of skills including academia, active learning and business competencies”.

“A changing marketplace requires students to be more adaptable and flexible, and have good interpersonal and communication skills,” she adds.

You may want to start a business based on cross-disciplinary skills – both your STEM skills and business knowledge. Traditionally, this has been seen as an unusual choice, with around 1200 tech startups currently in Australia – a mere 0.06% of all Australian businesses.

But in December 2015, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a $1.1 billion package to fund ideas and innovation to support high-impact entrepreneurship.

Many Australian universities are already developing programs that encourage cross-disciplinary skills, solutions-based learning and an entrepreneurial mindset.

“There’s no best option, but we’re moving into a period where there’s more support to explore becoming an entrepreneur, and risk-taking is seen as a positive thing,” says Leonie.

Whichever path you choose, there’s no better place than a university to pick up the key cross-disciplinary skills and opportunities you’ll need for a successful career.

“Grab any opportunity you can, and where one doesn’t exist, create it,” says Karen.

Ben Skuse

Author: Ben Skuse

Ben Skuse is a UK-based former mathematician turned professional science writer, who has written for the Careers with STEM magazines for over 5 years. You can follow him on Twitter @BenSkuseSciComm.