Tips

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.

Test Drive Your Career With A Fall Internship in Boston

Are you a recent high school graduate or college student seeking some real-world career experience? Or are you taking some time off to explore new opportunities through a Gap Year?

You may already be aware that an internship is a fantastic choice for those purposes. But perhaps you associate such an option exclusively with summer.

The fall, however, can actually be the ideal time to complete an internship—and the highly trained team here at Internship Connection is here to help you do so.

The Benefits of an Internship

An internship offers an unparalleled opportunity to advance your academic and professional future. It’s a way to test drive your career: to sample the waters of an industry and see how it appeals to you.

You can fantasize about one job or another, but you can’t know what it’s really like without diving in. As an intern, you can try a job on for size and start mapping out a nuts-and-bolts career strategy.

It’s rewarding whether you’ve got a narrowed-down field of interest or not. Perhaps you’re drawn to the healthcare industry, but also harbor an abiding passion for politics. Internships shed light on the day-to-day jobs available in those fields, and thus help steer you toward one or another.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve got your heart set on a career in environmental work, but don’t know exactly in what capacity. Non-profit group? State management agency? Interning helps you navigate to a position best suited to your inclinations.

Let’s not forget that internships can lead directly to paid jobs: Think of them as auditions!

Fall Internships

What are the benefits of a fall internship? For one thing, a position tends to be easier to land: You’ll have less competition than in the summer crunch, when out-of-town students can compete directly with Boston-area locals.

Furthermore, most companies tend to take on fewer interns in the autumn. This means fall interns can cultivate deeper relationships with their workplace environment and colleagues as well as tackle more tasks, thus broadening their skill sets.

Internship Connection Works With You

Internship Connection is dedicated to connecting students and recent grads with internship positions and helping them succeed there. We’ll help you focus your goals, design your resume, and prep for interviews; we’ll also be there throughout your internship as guiding support.

Contact us today and test drive your career with a fall internship!   https://internshipconnection.com/

Photo credit: City of Boston Archives

Fall Internships for Deferred College Admission

So you’ve been accepted but asked to wait a semester until January. What to do now?  We are hearing from many students facing this dilemma.
Why not get a jump on your peers and experience a fall internship in a career that you might be   thinking about?  You’ll start to make professional contacts, build your resume, hear about exciting meet ups and panels, and have much to offer in future class discussions. Finally, experiencing the workplace can help to confirm or eliminate your thoughts on a potential a college major.

Businesses and organizations welcome a student applying for a fall internship. Summer interns are back in college, so you are not competing with dozens of students for the same internship.

We have placed many college freshman on exciting one semester internships:

  • Travis was a recent graduate of Phillips Academy Andover was looking forward to starting Brown University. We place him on an internship related to engineering, computers and investments.
  • Camila and Claudia, twin sisters from a private school in Puerto Rico had been accepted to Babson as January freshman. We connected the girls to a wonderful fashion startup entrepreneur in the MassChallenge incubator.

Read more about more student experiences in our Gap Semester program: https://internshipconnection.com/programs/gap-year-internships/

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

Spring Break in Cancun vs. Interviewing for your Summer Internship

A no-brainer you say? Well let’s see college students. Maybe you can do both. It takes quite a bit of planning, but here’s how our current students are making it happen. We started taking calls and emails beginning in November, getting to know all of you from Emory, Vanderbilt, Boston University and even Seoul, South Korea.

You sent us your resumes- some great, some not so great. We started from scratch for some of you and polished them up for others. Next we sent them out to our contacts for summer internships in Boston, New York City, Austin and set up interviews for you in March. It’s amazing to me the far flung places you go for Spring break, but at least for those of you who were nice enough to squeeze in a few days to come back home to visit your parents (or high school buddies), you’ll know that you’ve got a jump start on your internship search.

Don’t forget to pack that suntan lotion!

5 Simple Steps To Ask For A Letter Of Recommendation

Perhaps you’ve completed a summer internship and are easing back into the school year. You’re suddenly struck with the realization that you haven’t yet asked for a letter of recommendation from the organization you interned with.  A letter is key—you’ll need it for college or job applications. It’s crucial “proof” of your experience reinforcing your resume.

It’s not too late to solicit that letter of recommendation. Follow these five easy steps to gracefully and effectively land a well-crafted one.

How to Get a Letter of Recommendation:

(1) Acknowledge how busy your supervisor is. The last image you want to project is one of self-absorbed entitlement; this person is taking time out of his or her busy day to do you an important favor, so acknowledge that generosity. At the same time, somebody taking on interns is obligated to provide letters of recommendation, so don’t be bashful about your request.

In short, be assertive—but not presumptuous.

(2) Offer options. Make it easy for the person to get the letter into your hands. If you’re still interning, ask for it well in advance so you can carry it home on your last day—about as easy for all involved as can be. Include your mailing address in your request no matter what to be safe.

(3) Ensure the letter of recommendation looks legitimate: Request that your supervisor print it on company letterhead. Also, ask that the letter be addressed “To Whom It May Concern:” so that it’s applicable in whatever situation you need it—applying for schools, jobs, or internships.

(4) Make sure academic interests are emphasized. You don’t want to suggest you were simply running around making copies as an intern, but instead forging practical workplace and problem-solving skills. Ask your supervisor to highlight the relevance of your internship duties to academic interests.

(5) Ask for a story. Encourage your supervisor to incorporate anecdotes that demonstrate your personality and abilities. This is partly to make the letter enjoyable to read; it’s also about humanizing yourself. Your letter should demonstrate you’re a real person with unique attributes—someone really worth hiring or accepting into a program.

Follow these straightforward tips, and you can feel more confident that a genuine, encouraging letter of recommendation is in the hands of people you’re trying to impress.

Photo credit: losmininos

Should you Include High School Activities on your College Resume?

Continuing our series on resume writing, college students often ask us if they should include their high school experiences on a college resume.

Staff members at college career centers will often tell students that once in college, you should never list high school activities on a resume. However, from our perspective, most college freshman and even sophomores really don’t have enough college experiences that would reveal enough to a potential employer.

Plus, students should really be focusing on academics for the first year! Therefore, we suggest a combination resume that lists college activities first and relevant high school activities second. As the student gains more experience each year, high school activities can be pared down or eliminated.

 

6 Tips When Asking for a Letter of Recommendation

SAMPLE LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION FROM OUR WORKPLACE MENTORS

Colleges are interested in students who seek out experiences related to their academic interests and talents. Most colleges accept up to three letters of recommendation- from a teacher, guidance counselor and one additional letter from another adult such as a coach. Including a letter from a workplace mentor shows that the student has sought out this type of experience and has excelled.

In our school-to-career program, we help students as they ask their mentors for these letters. Whether on a job or internship, asking for a letter of recommendation is one of the most stressful, but important tasks. Students in our program tell us that they use their letters for many years to come, as they apply for jobs and internships in college.

Asking for a Letter of Recommendation….Here are a few helpful tips:

1. Ask your immediate supervisor, the person who you are working directly under.

2. Don’t wait until the end of your internship. Two weeks before your end date would give your mentor enough time.

3. Ask if you could possibly get the letter on your last day but have a stamped, self-addressed envelope ready to give them in case they need more time.

4. Hand them a written request. This will make it much easier for your mentor.

Your written request should look something like this

I have learned so much working here. If possible, I would appreciate a letter of recommendation on your company letterhead for my files. I will be using this letter for college and work applications.

My email is:
My mailing address is:

I would appreciate a hard, signed copy as well as a digital signed copy.

It should be addressed as: To Whom It may Concern

Since colleges are particularly interested in my academic interests, I have described them below. If possible, I wondered if you might mention them and how they related to the internship.

 My academic interests are:

I have also bulleted a list of tasks and activities that I participated in on this job:

Thank you for taking the time to mentor me on my internship.

-Your name

5. Don’t pester your mentor if you haven’t received the letter. Wait 1 month and only ask them one more time.

6. After you receive your letter of recommendation, send a hand-written thank you note.

 

 

Pragmatic Tips for Parents: Internship Connection Interview with Boston Tech Mom

“My son is great in math. He may be interested in engineering but is not sure if he should apply to a liberal arts college or engineering school.”

Getting exposure in high school to a field the student may be interested in gives them the chance to “try on” a career. They will absorb the work culture, understand what the day-to-day experience is like and the types of projects people work on. Often the experience confirms a career interest but sometimes the student realizes that field is not right for them. It’s certainly better to discover this early on. These days too many students lose time and money by changing their college majors mid- course.
Continue reading “Pragmatic Tips for Parents: Internship Connection Interview with Boston Tech Mom”

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