Natalie Desty, founder of STEM Returners, goes under the microscope for this week's 20 Questions

Natalie Desty, Founder of STEM Returners

Natalie Desty, Founder of STEM Returners

By Sam Pither [email protected]

Published: August 16, 2023 | Updated: 15th August 2023

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It’s Wednesday, which means we’re back with another iteration of our 20 Questions quiz!

Under the microscope this week is Natalie Desty, Founder of STEM Returners, which helps people find careers in STEM sectors after an employment break.

She’s a bit of a history buff, with a particular love for the Tudor period and the best bit of her job is changing lives…

What is your favourite TV show?

I love a drama series, BBC dramas are always good! My favourite recent ones are Silent Witness and I just watched a great drama called You Don’t Know Me- definitely worth a watch. I also am partial to a costume drama, The Tudors was my all time fave.

Who would you like to share a car with?

Anne Boleyn, I love Tudor history and find her life fascinating. I really want to know if she has been portrayed wrong as the temptress who stole the king of Catherine of Aragon. I suspect so! I would also love to talk to her about how her daughter became Elizabeth I

The best bit of my job is..?

Changing lives! We have so many wonderful stories of people who’s return to STEM has been life changing.

My favourite is a lovely lady we placed who was living in a women’s refuge and had given up her dream of returning to nuclear engineering after a five year career break. She is now not only working and been promoted but also bought her first ever property. Job satisfaction doesn’t get much better than that!

And the worst?

That we can’t help everyone. There are still far more returners than opportunities currently, although we are doing our best to change that!

Who was your childhood hero?

Ariel, the little mermaid! Historically, Elizabeth I- I loved her Spanish Armada Speech!

What’s your favourite smell?

Perfume wise I love YSL, general smell I’d have to go for Vanilla. I am very partial to a scented candle and also love the smell of the grass just after it’s rained

Where’s your favourite place in Hampshire?

Definitely the Forest, I love all the animals and the peace.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out on a career?

Feel the fear and do it anyway. I held myself back so much in my early career because I was scared of taking a risk. I also spent a lot of time wanting to be older so I would (in my view) be taken more seriously, basically just wasted a lot of time thinking I wasn’t good enough.

What was your first record/CD?

Skee-Lo, I wish I was a little bit taller

What makes you angry?

Inequity, we see every day people not being treated fairly. Outside of work, litterbugs, I hate to see the forest littered with rubbish.

Do you have a favourite piece of music?

Going to have to go back to the Tudors and pick Greensleeves, it reminds me of my interest in history as a child, it was also composed by Henry VIII

What qualities do you look for in a new employee?

Commitment and drive. We are in the business of helping people and trying to make STEM more inclusive, you have to believe in what we are doing to be authentic.

What’s your favourite food or dish?

Definitely a roast dinner

What three things would you take to a desert island?

Food, wine and music

What’s the best thing about living/working in Hampshire?

The forest being on your doorstep and the beach a short drive away. Also, lots of fantastic local produce and a few vineyards too!

If you were Prime Minister for a day, what’s the first thing you’d do?

Wow, there are a lot of options here! From a work perspective I would expedite childcare funding to help alleviate the career break burden, I would also create policies to support people over 55 returning to work as well as those from underrepresented backgrounds and ex-offenders.

What’s your biggest frustration?

From a work perspective having to justify why returners need an equitable opportunity to return and why they are being filtered out through standard recruitment channels, also challenging people’s perception of who a returner is.

Where’s your favourite holiday location?

I always try and go somewhere different, I love Barbados, Austria and France. We also love Disney as my son is 7, it really is magical when seeing it through a child’s eyes (and mine if I am honest)!

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

Still doing what I am doing now, although we will be much further forward. In fact, if we do our job right there may be no need for us at all!

What would you like to be remembered for?

Helping to create a STEM industry which is truly inclusive and returning thousands of people to STEM. We are up to 430 so we have a way to go!

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