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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.

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.

 

The Importance of Creating a High School Resume

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.

 

Selena Jabbawy presenting a High School Resume Workshop

OK Parents…STEM Internships are great but even Google says…….

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.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/12/20/the-surprising-thing-google-learned-about-its-employees-and-what-it-means-for-todays-students/?utm_term=.56b2612bb54a

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

 

 

21st Century Education: The Importance of STEM Internships

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.

7 Summer Internships for High School Students in Boston

1. David Zhao from Acton Boxborough High
Tell me about your experiences.
The workplace feels more like the set of “The Social Network” than an actual workplace; FanPier’s harbor location and the informal work environment are truly invigorating and inspiring. The work was involving, but all I needed to recuperate was the view out the 14th floor-windows, where I could see all of Boston sprawling beyond the harbor. In terms of the internship, my mentor Jason started me off with a research project for potential business partners (preferably start-ups) and I compiled an Excel spreadsheet with data for each partner. That project took the entire day, though Jason took me out to lunch with a fellow MIT-Sloan peer. We discussed my college plans, the application process, and potential majors.
Jason truly embraces the role of mentorship–he’s been recommending books, checking in constantly, and teaching me various business essentials (e.g. LinkedIn, database-use, etc.) Jason’s also been asking me for ideas. All in all, the first-day experience was really eye-opening and exciting. I really think that I’ll enjoy this internship and learn a great deal about business, particularly if I want to pursue entrepreneurial business myself.
2. Daniel Alpert from Needham High.
What has been the best part of your internship?
I am learning about business, especially how to run a start-up company. Also, there is a ping pong table there.
Describe a situation in which you took a risk by putting yourself in a new position, such as meeting new people, asking questions, making suggestions.
I’m the only high school kid with a lot of college students. I didn’t know anyone and they all knew each other so I had to put myself out there to make friends. Over time, I felt less intimidated and now I go out to lunch with them.
3. Ally Reiner Wellesley, MA.  Lehigh University College of Business and Economics.
It’s been going great at the fashion company. I have a lot of responsibility and have been learning a lot. I’ve been able to help out with a lot of the marketing ideas and events in addition to some PR responsibilities.  
4. From the Mentor of Max Lasser from the Dexter School in Brookline, MA.
Max is doing great! He attended the EACC meeting last week where he got to see how companies are awarded state tax incentives based on their job creation commitments. The meeting was open to the public; he saw various company executives, local, and state politicians. It was a good experience for him. He is very well mannered and always eager to help. We are glad to have him for the summer. Aiden
5. Emma Witherington from Deerfield Academy.
I’m really enjoying myself at the non-profit. Janel, Blake, and Kay have all been welcoming and helpful guides. That said, they still treat me as a mature adult and expect me to be able to handle important projects.  Because it is just these three women who work in the office, I have great opportunities to partake in hands-on work relevant to the organization. I am taken seriously, and feel I like I am genuinely helping them during their busiest season by providing a fresh and thorough hand on time-consuming projects.
List the kinds of things that you’ve been doing at work.
I’ve been three days so far. The first day was largely about understanding the organization, so I went over a binder of materials that Blake had prepared for me. After this introduction to the business, I completed my first task of choosing photos from recent events in Tampa and Dallas and uploading them, now displayed on the company’s Facebook page. Since then, I’ve been given a larger assignment in which I research other organizations (some for charity, others not) and put information like event size, fundraising means, and sponsorship into an organized spreadsheet.
6. Kevin Zhu from Newton South High School.
The internship at the State House has been quite relaxing and interesting. They said that the real fun begins in July, because that is when all the bills and policies really start to take motion into being passed, so next month will be quite hectic in the State House.  What I have been doing for my first week is participating in the Speaker series that they have at the statehouse, as well as creating a e-mail list for my representative when there isn’t a speaker at that time.
7. Griffin Green from The Rivers School, Weston, MA.
List the things you are doing relating to your interest in robotics and engineering: 
1.     I created a pallet of potential stained glass samples for use in their tesserae software
2.     I worked in Solid Works (CAD software) designing 3d models for a potential tool to cut the glass
3.     Started to make a design and cut glass tile by hand (soon to be replaced with a more efficient method)
I have been very excited about my internship. I feel that the work is very important to the company. I have had the opportunity to work extensively with Ted as he helps to guide me in the right direction and with Paul and Blake. Each of them has shown me a different aspect of the company. When I work with Paul, I focus on the design process, which eventually leads to the creation of the product. On the other hand, Blake allows me to explore the business aspects of the company. On top of all of this, the work environment is very relaxed and makes me feel right at home.

Internship Connection featured in Business Insider

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.

www.businessinsider.com/

Guidelines Eased for Unpaid Internships

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.

Read about the seven factors determine whether the internship can be unpaid

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