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?
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.
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.
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.
We all know that resumes are the the first step required when submitting a job application, but did you know that resumes are crucial even for students in high school? They can be included in college applications and are required when applying for a high school summer job or internship.
Selena Jabbawy, Director of Business Development and Carole Jabbawy, Ed.D., Founder and Director, recently presented a workshop for parents and students on “How to Create a High School Resume.” The presentation offered tips on format, lists of action verbs and resume samples. Thank you to the Russian School of Mathematics, a national program for K-12 math education, for inviting us to speak to students and parents.
Recently, at 3 Summer Opportunity Fairs for Teens, we were swamped by students and parents inquiring about STEM –science, technology, engineering and math internships. Yes, in our school-to-career program we do connect students to exciting STEM internships, but what happened to students interested in government, journalism, and arts? Just as it always does, it seems like the pendulum has swung, this time away from liberal arts to STEM.
Of course technical skills will be more and more sought after in the workplace but studies by Google and LinkedIn relating to both labor market skills and gaps had surprising results. Parents and Students …Take note!
Soft Skills prized by Google and other Corporations
Google’s Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last!
Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post detailed Google’s research.
She writes that the seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.
This spring, Google’s study named, Project Aristotle, further supports the importance of soft skills even in high-tech environments. They analyzed data on their high level technical teams of scientists and specialists, and actually discovered that the company’s most important new ideas come from non-technical employees who possessed a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence.
Chevron and IBM, also rank communication skills in the top three most sought after qualities by job recruiters. They prize both an ability to communicate with one’s workers and an aptitude for conveying the company’s product and mission outside the organization.
Workforce Report: Boston Among Top Cities with Largest Skills Gap
Srividya Kalyanaraman in Boston Inno, referred to LinkedIn’s Workforce Report that identified the top four Largest Skills Gap in major US cities. https://www.americaninno.com/boston/inno-news-boston/workforce-report-boston-among-top-cities-with-largest-skills-gap/
In Boston, NYC and all major cities, Soft Skills are highly in demand. The number one skills gap is oral communication, followed by business management, leadership and digital literacy. Also: people management, development tools, social media, time management and data research.
The Case for Internships Relating to Soft Skills
Soft skills are observed and learned on all types of internships:
- Communication – verbal, written, active listening, netiquettes, body language
- Strategy – decision making, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, ability to locate and use information
- Self-management – professionalism, emotional intelligence, work ethic, time-management, attitude, integrity, resilience, predictability
- Team work – collaboration, ability to operate effectively in a team environment
- Leadership – negotiation, compromise, conflict management, managing diversity and inclusion, cultural awareness, negotiation, delegation
The best advice I always give to parents is, “Take your child’s interest and run with it.”
If they enjoy writing, we can connect them to a journalism or tech internship where they can write for the company blog.
If they are interested in education, we’ll connect them to a teaching internship where they will learn how to communicate and present ideas.
If they are interested in art, they can learn how art relates to technology in game design or how graphic design is used in every business.
If their interest is law, they can experience an internship in government where they will see how laws are passed or how tech attorneys help startups.
Parents- Don’t discourage your child from a career they may love. All career interests are valid and their value stands alone. Surprisingly enough, that career interest could help them develop the soft skills that are highly desired in STEM related fields.
In the book 21st Century Skills- Learning for Life in our Times, author Charles Fadel explores three main categories of skills needed for students to excel in modern times:
- Learning and Innovation
- Digital Literacy
- Life and Career Skills
As early as sophomore year in college, students are expected to choose a college major, but without workplace exposure, how is a student really able to make that determination?
In the interview with Cyndi Reitmeyer, the Boston TechMom, Cyndi and I discuss ways that students can gain exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math through workplace experience.
Stop by and say hello at the following Summer Opportunity Fairs for Teens. We love speaking to families about our internship program!
-Dr. Carole Jabbawy Founder and Director www.nkg.545.myftpupload.com
Todd Stone, a writer for “Business Insider” in New York City contacted me about our students interested in entrepreneurship. We had quite an interesting conversation and I was happy to tell him that many students lately have a real interest in business. I love placing students with young entrepreneurs who may be 5-10 years older and just a few steps ahead of them career wise. The mentors are so enthusiastic about their new ventures and our students learn what it takes to create and run a successful business including all the highs and lows. Students learn about venture funding, marketing, managing employees, the importance of networking and much, much more.
Currently we have placed students with interests in entrepreneurship at: a young NYC digital marketing agency, a Harvard University incubator, a science related start-up in the Boston Innovation District, a fashion forward start-up on the Boston waterfront and a focus group for a new beauty company in NYC.
Could your Business Benefit from an Intern?
The U.S. Labor Department rolled out new guidelines for 2018 that make it easier for companies to hire unpaid interns.
Our highly structured, educational program has always met the strictest guidelines for both paid and unpaid internships. We have matched talented interns to startups and businesses for last fourteen years. Students are pre-screened, receive assistance with resume, interview prep and are supervised during their placements. Interns add value in many areas including research, social networking, marketing and more.