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Chris Anthony got his start in engineering before transitioning to tech. After 18yrs in the information technology sector at firms such as Cismo, Chris started Teacher on Wheels; an organisation that aspires to train youths for the future of the workplace. Teacher on Wheels is a registered charity in Australia and has a presence in over four continents offering students from a diverse range of backgrounds an opportunity to excel.
To begin, it would be great to get an overview of your journey, what inspired you to stand at the current position you are in today as the founder of Teaches on Wheels? Was there perhaps a moment along the way that catalysted your ambition for the idea?
Chris shared that the founding of Teachers of Wheel came naturally to him. While he was working, he was actively involved in engaging with students and mentorship programs. Thus, when he left Cisco, he felt compelled to start Teachers on Wheels. With a focus on providing “seeding opportunity” for youths in their respective careers.
In a time as uncertain as this one which is still very much under the influence of Covid-19, what skills or attributes do you think students should be developing to attract employers?
The missing thing in youths these days is a Plan B according to Chris. One that is different from their core skills and can help them stand out from other job applicants. For example, with COVID-19 accelerating the closure of certain industries, what is the plan B for students initially wanting to go into that industry? Make use of your youth and reskill yourself to ensure that no matter what; you remain employable- even if it’s in a different industry from what you initially sought for.
The near future seems to be one dominated by professions in the fields of STEM. However, what guidance would you give to students who instead see a genuine passion in other such fields such as Arts or Finance?
Chris shared that some of his mentees’ actually have a STEM phobia. Simply because of a pre conceive bias that they need to know programming and they have to be geeky etc. The first thing would be to get rid of this phobia. Then, you will have to start acknowledging that “within 15 years 70% of jobs will be extinct”; be it in arts, finances etc. The basis of these will be science and technology, if you are not going to embrace tech, you will be missing out on a lot of things.
From a corporate perspective, what are some of the outstanding qualities of mentees you have worked with over the years?
The qualities I like are that they were curious to learn, they ask loads of questions. Normally, what I do is I dont give them the complete solution. I want them to go and find 75% of what i’m expecting, I give them clues but they need to research on their own. These are the people that I believe will succeed. Another important thing is not to fear mistakes, if you don’t make mistakes; you never learn. Don’t assume that companies have a one strike rule, that’s not the policy. Chris’s view is that young people who excel are those who learn from critical feedback.
Beyond a university degree, are there opportunities for students to develop skills in the field of STEM? In what ways can students supplement their traditional degrees with STEM components?
Stem doesn’t need to be done in university or as a formal means of education.It should start at home and in school. Start participating in various projects, start building little gadgets. Use the research available, the internet allows access to a lot of free online courses; udemy, coursera etc.
If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?
CS + X = success.
CS is core skills. X is x factor and it’s about bringing an X factor to your job. What skill, knowledge or X factor can you bring to enhance the team. That’s what you will be valued for. When things like COVID hit, everyone has the same core skills but your X factor is what keeps you at your job.