For the second year in a row, Prosum has worked with our partners to host workshops for students in the community. Along with Prosum volunteers, our friends at Microsoft and City of Los Angeles gave their time and resources to run workshops for students from Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy, Santa Monica High School, and East Los Angeles College.
Students participated in coding workshops, attended an interactive Q&A panel with Prosum and Microsoft recruiters and managers, listened to an expert regarding self-branding on LinkedIn, enjoyed a lunch break thanks to Well Made Lunches, and got professional headshots taken. Below is a brief recap of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Camp 2019.
We kicked off Camp with our invited keynote speaker, Carol Workman. Carol has been with Microsoft since 2011 and is currently the Enterprise General Manager for State and Local Government. If there was one key takeaway from Carol’s address, it’s be adaptable.
Carol explained to the students that she learned this lesson after graduating with a marketing degree during an unhospitable time in that industry. After working in an unrelated field, Carol decided to head back to school for her master’s degree in Information Systems and found herself with five job offers immediately after graduating.
Adaptability, Carol argues, is also the key to innovation. Revolutionary ideas like driverless vehicles are dreamt up by people that adapt to the changing world.
Carol wraps up her address by telling the students that taking a chance on yourself takes courage. “If there’s a moment where you’re doing something scary or just say to yourself, I want to be brave and ask a question, we encounter these moments every day. It’s about being courteous.”
Q&A with Prosum and Microsoft
The next item on the schedule was a Q&A with a panel of Prosum and Microsoft recruiters and managers. Panel members were on hand to answer any and all questions regarding applying and interviewing for a job.
One student asked what they can focus on besides grades and GPA’s to get the attention of recruiters. “What recruiters love to see is people who do things,” Andrew Gottlieb, college recruiter at Microsoft, continued, “let’s say you don’t get a first job… Start tutoring. Even if you are still learning yourself, everyone has something to teach.”
Eleni Tio, Head of HR at Prosum, offered some advice about being conscious of the time and location of the interview. “Be there in advance. Even if you must sit in your car beforehand, so be it,” Eleni continued.
One final tip for the students as provided by Jim Nichols, a Prosum Account Executive with over 20 years in the recruiting industry – “don’t use the email address that you created in high school. Create a professional email address so you potential employers don’t see and email from firstname.lastname@example.org with your resume attached”.
Bot Coding with City of Los Angeles
After a brief introduction to chatbots and how the Information Technology Agency (ITA) of City of Los Angeles has used them to help their users, they broke the students out into groups with the goal of programming their own chatbot to respond to users.
The first objective was to choose which organization they want the chatbot to operate for. Then the students started writing down several possible questions users may ask along with their respective answers. Using Microsoft Bot Framework, the students began loading these questions into the knowledge base, which is a database that chatbots pull information from at lightning fast speeds.
Finally came the time to take the bots out for a spin. The students were asking questions and checking to see if the bot answered it correctly. They were also encouraged to ask questions in Spanish and watched as their bots pulled the translation using Bing Translate and responded in Spanish.
BrainPad Coding with Microsoft
Students were tasked with using code to manipulate a small device called BrainPad. The BrainPad is a tiny computer which contains sensors that take input using an accelerometer, light sensor, temperature sensor, and buttons to provide output using a display, light bulb, servo motors, and a buzzer. To accomplish any output though, the students were required to write the proper code in Visual Studio 2019 so the BrainPad can process it.
Before the students can really dig into experimenting with all the widgets on the BrainPad, they first had to program the display with C# to say, “hello world,” which is a sort of rite of passage for anyone learning a coding language.
After completing this introductory project, the students were encouraged to experiment. Some students programmed the display to show the temperature in the room, made the buzzer sound, made the lights blink red on a one second interval, and much more. The workshop allowed the students to really let loose and flex their creative muscle.
The workshops were not only meant to teach and inspire the students to learn new, in-demand skills, but to also learn how to represent themselves using the most widely used professional platform. Karla Torres from Microsoft was on hand to explain how to use LinkedIn to stand out among candidates.
Karla gave the students some tips to improve their chances of getting noticed on LinkedIn, including; adding a profile photo, writing a catchy but brief headline, and filling out the profile as completely as possible. She also encouraged the students to reach out to influencers or employees in organizations or industries they want to get into. Leaders are usually more than happy to have conversations about their industry, especially if the interested party is a student.
Karla offered to help any student that wanted to create their own LinkedIn profile if he or she met the minimum age requirement. Many of the students took her up on that offer and Karla became their first official connection.
And that’s a wrap! Thank you to our partners, the students and chaperones, and all the amazing people that volunteered their time to make STEM Camp 2019 a success! Prosum will continue to live by our core value, Giving Forward, and work closely with the bright young people within our community to inspire them to pursue careers in STEM.