Tales from the Trenches

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Thinking of Taking a Semester off from College? Want an Experienced Mentor to Guide you on a Remote Internship?

Make this a productive year! Build skills and practical experience by demonstrating your initiative on a project-based internship.

Who are the Mentors Currently Guiding our Students?

  • The CEO of a dynamic startup that was accepted into the 2020 #MassChallenge cohort of 100 companies (from over 1,000 applicants world-wide). She is a former Wharton grad and management consultant.
  • Director of Events and Partner Relationships at a data-driven technology company that is leading a sports research revolution. She was formerly the director of events at the Massachusetts Sports Marketing Office. The company founder is a Harvard MBA, Olympic Gold Medalist and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
  • The Communications Manager of a National Arts program that educates, inspires, and empowers youth through the arts and in-school performances. With a Masters from Emerson, he has years of experience in creative writing and arts administration.
  • The Director of Development at a non-profit that collaborates with the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families to connect potential adoptive parents with youth waiting for adoption. She has 2 decades of leadership experience at organizations including the United Way and the Ronald McDonald house.

An internship related to your talents and interests will help to confirm a future college major and create professional connections for the future.

Insights from Boston’s Leading STEM Expert, BostonTechMom

When we speak to the parents of high school and college students about #STEMinternships, we hear that even younger siblings are interested in STEM activities. With so much available, how can a parent both nurture that interest and decipher the best program for their child?

BostonTechMom

As an educator connecting students to the Boston tech community, it was my privilege to interview Cyndi Reitmeyer, our trusted advisor and the founder/editor of BostonTechMom.  Cyndi is the definitive resource for families on #STEMeducation.

Cyndi, you worked in tech for many years. Why did you decide to start BostonTechMom?

As a business professional working in the Boston startup industry, I saw first-hand the power of technology and its essential role in driving innovation, solving problems, and creating new products and services. I worked closely with scientists and engineers to help commercialize new technologies, which gave me great exposure to a breadth of interesting and important jobs in STEM fields.

I am also a mom to two girls and my oldest expressed an interest in coding and technology at a young age. She attended her first computer camp when she was in elementary school and absolutely loved it and asked to do more. That experience put me on a path to finding other opportunities for her. After a few years, I had the idea for BostonTechMom, so I could share my knowledge and experience searching for STEM programs with other parents who were also looking for activities and programs. BostonTechMom is a passion project for me, and I’ve been building its services and my own knowledge base over the past 6 years. Both families and program providers are finding it helpful, which is inspiring me to continue to expand.

You started BostonTechMom in 2014. How have STEM offerings changed over the years?

During the past 10 years, the range and number of programs have grown and so have the number of program providers. There really is something for everyone today. Learning to code, game development, and robotics have always been very popular, but there’s an increasing number of niche offerings. For example, I’ve recently reviewed and written about programs in artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR), and cybersecurity.

What about programs for girls?

Having two daughters and being a woman in tech, it’s important to me to encourage and support girls and women in STEM. We have made strides in some areas, but it’s not enough. There are so many wonderful organizations that offer STEM programs and support for girls today and they are doing incredible work. In many cases, the programs are free, too! You can get a list of some of the organizations by visiting Resources on my website.

Your website offers a monthly roundup of activities, posts of events and STEM guides. How do you go about doing all this research?

My monthly roundup post focuses on free and affordable STEM activities around Boston and throughout Massachusetts for kids, teens, and families. There are some popular annual STEM events like the Cambridge Science Festival and MIT Splash that I feature every year. I also follow local STEM organizations and look for upcoming events. Finally, organizations often contact me directly to make me aware of their programs and activities.

Can you tell us about your STEM Consulting Services for families?

Parents are welcome to search BostonTechMom’s STEM resources for themselves, and lots of families do that. But for families that are overwhelmed by the volume of resources, aren’t sure how to find the right program, or just don’t have time, I offer personalized consulting services to help Massachusetts families find programs, summer camps, and after-school classes that are a great match for their child’s and teen’s needs and interests.

I enjoy helping parents find programs for their children. I use my professional background, as well as my many years of STEM program research, and add my perspective as a parent who searched for STEM programming for my own daughters. I find that I can save parents time and eliminate the uncertainty of choosing by searching my database with the specific child in mind to find several program options that will match the family’s criteria.I love hearing that a child had a positive experience!

Can you give us an example of a family that you’ve helped?

I hear from parents with children of all ages, interests, and experiences levels. Some parents who contact me have children with no previous STEM experience outside of the classes they’ve taken in school, and others have children with extensive experience or a very specific interest. One high school student that I worked with had a deep interest in math and science and was learning to code. The teen wanted to explore new STEM opportunities before heading to college so they could decide what to study in school. I provided a range of opportunities for both the school year and summer that were focused on conducting scientific research, engineering, and computer science and explained why each program would be a good match for the student.  

In this Covid-19 era, how can kids still get involved with STEM?

Before the pandemic, most kids participated in in-person hands-on STEM activities, but once we went into quarantine those kinds of activities were not available anymore. Many STEM organizations have quickly developed curriculum that can be taught online by instructors in a live, virtual environment. In fact, there are quite a lot of options for online STEM camps this summer. There are also many free and fun online educational activities, hands-on projects, instructional resources, and videos that families can explore at home.  

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I enjoy learning about new STEM programs and each organization’s unique approach to teaching STEM. I also like to learn about new advancements in technology, like Artificial Intelligence, and am always pleased to see emerging technologies being applied to programs for K-12 students. It’s so important for kids to get exposure to different STEM fields and disciplines before they head off to college and enter the workforce. Finally, I love hearing directly from parents—especially when they tell me that their child enjoyed a program that they discovered on my website.

About Cyndi Reitmeyer

With over 20 years of experience as a business professional in the consumer products and tech industries, Cyndi Reitmeyer is the founder and editor of BostonTechMom. Cyndi connects parents with high-quality STEM programs that expose kids to technology in fun, meaningful, and engaging ways. BostonTechMom is the go-to resource for STEM opportunities in Massachusetts, focusing on computer programming, robotics, math, engineering, and other science-related subjects in a variety of formats.

Thinking about a Gap semester in this Covid-19 world?

For those students thinking of delaying college for a year, why not consider a productive, project-based internship related to your interests? Read about just a few of our in-person and virtual internships happening over this summer…

For a college athlete whose career interest is event planning:

A virtual internship at a data-driven technology company that is leading a sports research revolution. They are planning a major virtual event in Boston this fall.

For a sophomore college criminal justice major:

An internship at a District Courthouse with the Assistant Clerk Magistrate.

For a college junior with a double major English and studio art:

A project-based virtual internship at a national program that educates, inspires, and empowers youth through the arts and in-school performances.

For a high school junior interested in psychology and human development:

A virtual internship at a non-profit that collaborates with the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families to connect potential adoptive parents with youth waiting for adoption.   

Those in the know realize that an internship is a productive way to delve into a potential college major as well as creating professional career contacts.

How One Student’s Gap Internship Related to both History and Data Analytics

Already accepted to Bentley, and wondering about a college major, Zach decided to take a year off for a bit of experiential learning.  In our meeting with him, he was so passionate about his love of History as well as Analytics. Having taken AP History and AP Calculus in high school, we sought an internship for him where he would understand how these interests could be combined, perhaps leading to a career.

Zach held a part-time job so a local internship sounded appealing to him. By researching and contacting a variety of history organizations, we spoke to an incredibly talented researcher at a local historical society who was happy to take on an intern.

With a background in collections and archives management, Zach’s mentor gained curatorial experience at Harvard’s Mineralogical & Geological Museum. She received her MA in Library and Information Science at Simmons University with a concentration in Cultural Heritage Informatics, and her BA in the History of Art from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. 

Zach’s role related to their antique map collection.  Using a database, he inventoried maps, using descriptive entries that helped the historical society staff make crucial decisions on which maps to keep or send to other organizations.

We love visiting our interns. There are so many interesting organizations and talented mentors in the Boston area. We often feel that we learn as much as our students do!

A Boston STEM Internship for a high school student interested in debate and science

In our school-to-career program, we help students think about their interests, talents and skills and how they can be applied in the workplace. What skills do they already have? What academic areas really excite them? What would be the best businesses or organizations where they could put those skills to work? Whether it’s programming, public speaking, knowledge of social networking channels or artistic talent, an internship is a great way to apply those skills, make professional contacts and “try on a career.”

Over the last two decades we have been privileged to place students and their younger siblings, such as Ahrav, on summer internships. We loved his enthusiasm as he described his passion for debate and began to think how he could apply those skills on an internship.

Research is an important skill students learn by participating on high school Science and Debate Teams. Research is needed in many fields and can be very useful at a startup. We matched Ahrav to two terrific mentors, Turner and Carolyn at Beagle Learning, an Educational Technology startup at the Learnlaunch accelerator in Boston.

In his journal, Ahrav wrote: I really like talking to all the people there, observing how the company operates and working on all the cool projects.”

His responsibilities included:

●  Making/interpreting and coding algorithm to categorize questions

●  Compiling a list of dozens of universities and professors to contact

●  Writing descriptions of how they teach, their goals of teaching to determine if they can potentially use Beagle

●  Finding articles/forums/blogs useful to Beagle for potential professors

●  Talking to Turner and Jeff about how data is compiled and used at Beagle and then seeing programs they use

●  Being part of Beagle meetings/updates

An interesting STEM internship for a very bright young man who loved being on his debate and science teams...internshipconnection.com

Mahima’s Pre-College Internship at the Harvard Innovation Lab

Mahima at the Harvard Innovation Lab

Many parents ask us how we establish internships, considering it’s especially difficult to do for high school students. It really requires extensive research, visiting work sites and creating relationships, which we’ve been doing over the last 15 years. Pictured this past summer at the iLab is Mahima, a sophomore at a public high school that is ranked #2 in MA.

 

Dr. Jabbawy visiting the iLab

We Create Relationships in the Workplace

During the school year, especially in the fall, we visit with potential mentors and workplaces in order to identify the best career match for our students’ interests. We look for mentors who can assign specific tasks and projects for each student to work on. Many mentors have been interns themselves at some point in their career and are happy to mentor a student with shared interests.

After Dr. Jabbawy attended a startup pitch at the iLab in order to identify potential mentors for summer internships, we met a very personable CEO who was very open to the idea of hosting an intern.

Sean Eldrige, CEO of Gain Life

Sean Eldridge: Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer of Gain Life

With an MBA from Harvard Business School, Sean spent his 15-year career in the health behavior change space at Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Weight Watchers. He co-founded Gain Life that provides solutions in the employer wellness market.

In Mahima’s letter of recommendation, Sean wrote:

“Mahima worked for our Harvard Innovation Labs startup, Gain Life, during the 2019 summer. While reporting to me, Gain Life’s CEO, Mahima led a variety of projects where she:

  • Researched and synthesized state-specific insurance regulations
  • Edited privacy and terms and conditions documents for a new product
  • Sourced and conducted consumer research interviews
  • Found and reported bugs in native and web-based applications
  • Built a research presentation for a large, blue chip, company

My team and I found Mahima to be friendly, diligent, and capable of delivering quality work with little direction. Mahima is mature beyond her years. I’d gladly offer her another position with our company at a later date. I happily recommend Mahima without hesitation.”

How this marketing internship affirmed Ella’s career interests.

What happens when your interests run in different directions? You excel at more than just one thing and that’s great. But how about honing in on the academic interest that can turn into a career one day?

Ella ran into this scenario. Together we brainstormed and pinpointed which of her interests could turn into more than a hobby. Social media was her answer. Based on what Ella had accomplished thus far and how she wanted to expand her skill set we matched her with our friends at Her Campus, the #1 media site for college women.

Ella spent her summer internship getting familiar with key influencers on different social media platforms and analyzing their messaging and audience in order to ultimately increase their visibility across the board. We had a chance to regroup with Ella at the end of her time at Her Campus and she let us know that ” I love the work environment. Everyone is very nice, the office is fun and relaxed. I like being in Boston, being able to walk to get lunch and see the city. My favorite part has been hearing from my supervisors about what their job entails, it affirms that I want to work in marketing.” What Ella learned at Her Campus was that marketing, more specifically social media, was something that both interests and challenges her. Two key ingredients for a promising career.

So… which of your many interests do you think could be the right path for you?

Former IC intern named to Hall of Fame!

Congratulations to Hannah, our former high school intern from Needham High. Years ago, we had placed her at Her Campus Media, the #1 media brand for college women. Coinciding with their 10th birthday this year, they created the Her Campus Hall of Fame to recognize 10 alumnae whose accomplishments are truly outstanding.

“Announcing Inaugural inductee, Hannah Orenstein, Senior Dating Editor, Elite Daily and author (NYU ’15).”

After her high school internship at Her Campus, Hannah became a Her Campus National Writer, Editor and Founder of their High School Ambassador program. Currently, she is the Senior Dating Editor at Elite Daily, as well as the author of two novels: PLAYING WITH MATCHES (2018) and LOVE AT FIRST LIKE (coming August 6, 2019). Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the New York Post, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, The Cut, Us Weekly, Good Morning America, and more. Previously, she was a writer and editor at Seventeen.com.

Even in high school, we could see that Hannah’s maturity, drive and outstanding abilities would take her far in her career journey.

 

Applying to MIT? Better not list more than four activities.

 

Thank you MIT. How refreshing!

In our school-to-career program, we have seen stressed out high school sophomores show us resume drafts that are 3 pages long. We ask ourselves, what is driving this insanity? Is it worried parents or the students themselves?

More, more, more is not the answer. Who are you? What are you passionate about? These are the questions we ask students when we meet them.

Here is what MIT says…

Please use our form, not a resume, to list your activities. There is only enough space to list four things—please choose the four that mean the most to you and tell us a bit about them. This will tell us more about you than any “laundry list” of everything you’ve ever done in high school.

Finally, one of the better articles by the National Educational Association on the worsening dilemma of anxiety in teens:

http://neatoday.org/2018/03/28/the-epidemic-of-student-anxiety/

 

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