STEM-Away® At Silicon Valley Tech Fair

STEM-Away® Pilot Participants Present at The Silicon Valley Tech Show

For today’s students, STEM is much more than just an acronym or a buzzword. It’s the key to their professional and financial future. STEM, the shorthand for “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics” encompasses the most promising career sectors in 2019 and beyond. This burgeoning area comes with opportunities for students, and a linked demand from companies for exceptional talent to meet their growing hiring needs.

Today, companies hire almost exclusively from Tier 1 colleges. This focus means a small, homogenous, and heavily oversubscribed talent pool of students. This dynamic has also created a much larger, less visible talent pool of students from other institutions that is currently undersubscribed. STEM-Away® is providing a comprehensive solution that will both nurture STEM talent and enable companies to move beyond using academic pedigree as the major differentiator for junior candidates. The STEM-Away® platform accomplishes this through four key elements:

  • Mentor Chains® Projects
  • 1-click® Resume
  • STEMCasts® and
  • STEM-Away® Forums

The company’s Founder and CEO, Debaleena Das, selected The Mentor Chains® Project component to showcase at the recent Silicon Valley Tech Fair. The Fair is the largest tech fair in the U.S., boasting more than 50 companies as exhibitors and attracting more than 4,000 attendees each year.

Joining Debaleena were six of the pilot program’s participants who presented their work and talked with Fair attendees about their experience working on their Mentor Chains® Project.

Mentor Chains® Projects provide students the opportunity to build the skills that are valuable to companies. Alongside technical capability, the projects build skills including the ability to work in collaborative teams, to embrace leadership opportunities, negotiate within a mentor/mentee relationship, and to manage the process of generating deliverables. Debaleena explains,

“Based on my 20+ years in tech, by giving students an opportunity to work in real-life settings, by giving students the opportunity to work on all aspects of a project, and by giving students an opportunity to not just be mentored but to learn to mentor, we can build the next generation of inclusive STEM leaders.”

Chris, a pilot project team member, expands,

“I’m so impressed by the vision to create a level playing field and the practical ways to create a skill set. This program solves the problems of bringing different people with different skills and experience levels together.”

While there are hundreds of programs offering students STEM training, there is a distinct lack of real-world experience and internships available for STEM-career aspirants. As Mila, another team member, explained,

“I have been in coding bootcamps, but they are often expensive, and they don’t deliver the essential experience of working in a team setting.” Furthermore, internships that often help job seekers secure jobs are incredibly competitive and challenging for non-tier one school students to obtain.

Mentor Chains® Projects are co-created by STEM-Away® and partner companies to provide opportunities for virtual internships on real-world projects. The interns working on the project have autonomy over the project and support from mentors both in the company and in the program. Highlighting how Mentor Chains® Projects differ from other programs, Ash, also working on the pilot project, explains,

“Finding the right project, coming up with an idea, gathering a team, and having access to the infrastructure can all be too much to do on your own. Here we get all of that; it is like actual work in a company. The only difference is that during the project, we have structured support from our mentors, and we, in turn, can offer support to our mentees.”

Companies having challenges meeting demand for qualified STEM candidates have an opportunity to use a Mentor Chains® Project to address those challenges. By tailoring the project to identify and develop the skills they are looking for, companies can source and develop relevant talent. The program also allows companies to showcase their value as a career choice to an exceptional and relevant candidate pool.

It’s a precise approach to STEM student development that gets right to the heart of what students and companies need most. Mila said, “I know that with this experience, I’ll be able to get the job I want and have the skills and experience to do the job well.”

Along with the project, participants can use another pivotal STEM-Away® tool, the 1-click® Resume. This tool enables the project participants to showcase technical skills, soft skills, and experience gained through the project to future employers in a format that hiring managers can easily see, understand, and verify.

Inviting Collaboration

The Silicon Valley Tech Fair affirmed the prominent need that both businesses and students feel toward the continually expanding STEM field. As Debaleena noted after the event, “We were blown away by the interest we had in STEM-Away® and the Mentor Chains® program. We gave away a T-shirt for the 100th sign-up within a couple of hours.”

The level of the interactions amazed Mila,

” We barely managed to take a lunch break because so many people wanted to hear more about the program and our experience. People wanted details about the project we are working on and how the team works together to deliver the solution.”

Ash adds,

“I had an awesome discussion with a group around the viability of working virtually on a Mentor Chains® Project. We agreed that the right project with the right mentors would definitely work and that having a virtual team may have other cool benefits around learning new skills in areas of communication, project management, and time management.”

According to Dr. Shiva Kintali, the organizer of the Tech Fair,

“The Fair aims to give companies like STEM-Away® an opportunity to showcase themselves. The quality of the companies on show ensures that our attendees are excited by what they see and hear. STEM-Away® was an excellent exhibitor, and it was exciting to see the buzz that they created. Experience shows that the connections that come from the Fair will offer long-term value to all involved.”

Debaleena concluded,

“There is a hunger from companies and students to find ways to improve the pipeline of quality STEM candidates for entry-level jobs. Every conversation we had at the Fair made us more convinced that STEM-Away® and Mentor Chains® Projects can play a vital role.”

For the STEM-Away® students, and the program, their presentation at The Silicon Valley Tech Show was a resounding success. May it be a harbinger of things to come.