Leaders Unite to Expand Internships for Young Women in High School

The reality of allowing talented young women with innovative skills and technology-related accomplishments slip through the fingers of Minnesota employers will soon come to an end.   And… that’s great news for young women from Minnesota’s high schools, as well as employers who are experiencing challenges finding diverse talent to fill technical roles. 

For nearly a decade, the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing (MNAiC) Award program has been at the forefront of supporting equity and inclusion for women in tech. It’s no secret that the tech sector continues to have a prevailing issue with diversity and inclusion. As technology evolves and continues to influence the way we live and interact, it’s incredibly important that a diverse perspective is fostered at the early development stage to ensure inclusivity reigns and unjust biases are diminished. Industry giants like Google, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, and others have recognized the social impact of the lack of diversity within their workforce and the resulting product outcomes — and they have all launched strategies and programs to address these issues.

Summer 2019 high school MNAiC interns (front row) Olivia Alberts and Isabella Kemling flash their appreciative smiles with SPS Commerce supervisors/mentors Logan Kelly, Alex Idelkope and Megan Tischler.  Interns not pictured are: Grace Su and Anna Carow. SPS Commerce enjoys a five-year history of utilizing the impressive MNAiC generated talent.


“It’s time for a quality and speedy solution before we lose any more MNAiC talent to the broader marketplace.” — Amy Patton, VP of Technology at SPS Commerce & MNAiC Internship Committee Chair

To this end, MNAiC has worked diligently and successfully to bridge industry with K-12 institutions and young women with computing talent and interests.  Our 30+ industry partners support and recognize program participants who are ready and eager to contribute to positioning Minnesota as a competitive tech ecosystem that boasts a diverse and rich talent pool. 

MNAiC intern Lin Pierce, joined by MNAiC job-shadow Stuti Arora pose with the Minnesota Twins technology team. Pictured background: Twins fans cheering on their 2019 Central Division Championship Team. Go Twins!


Aspirations Internship Committee Chair Amy Patton, SPS Commerce is joined by a powerful supporting cast of partners, all focused on generating awareness of the Minnesota-grown IT talent pipeline, and the desire to significantly increase business involvement.   The internship development team includes; Beth McMillan – Senior IT Portfolio Manager, Land O’Lakes, Shelley Andrew – Business Systems Manager, Minnesota Twins, Denise Morelock – Client Engagement Director, ThreeBridge | Boom Lab, Julie Urban – Development Leader, Veritas Technologies.

“Intern Lin Pierce’s work on gathering requirements and building a prototype to automate the process to track our game using authenticated items has set up our small development team to be successful this off-season.  This application will be deployed shortly and would not have been possible without her hard work this past summer.” — Shelley Andrew, Business Systems Manager at Minnesota Twins

Since 2013, fifty-two MNAiC honorees have been hired as summer interns.  This past summer, 25 young women with strong computer science backgrounds applied for 9 internship opportunities with program partner companies. Due to limited offerings, 16 highly capable, eager and skilled individuals, did not get to spend their summer immersed in experiential tech learning, nor have the opportunity to address unique workplace needs.  With IT talent acquisition being an acute need, we find the lack of opportunities for these young women to learn, enhance and grow in the business/tech space to be problematic.  

In preparation for the MNAiC Awards Ceremony in April, the Internship Committee leaders are anticipating employer talent acquisition needs for summer 2020 and are calling for more Minnesota businesses to commit to offering summer internship opportunities to the young technologists, identified and nurtured through the Aspirations in Computing program.  

“MNAiC interns worked on real projects with long-lasting value to the company.  They built critical visibility dashboards from logging data, wrote an application to pull data from our code repository and populate important software delivery metrics in our Service Registry, and created tools to automate previously manual tasks.  The interns gained new real-world technical skills in Python, GitHub, PyCharm, Ansible, SumoLogic, Docker and AWS. They also were provided opportunities to learn important presentation and communication skills through code demos, large and small presentations and getting involved in the SPS and larger tech community.  One of the interns presented at Devopsdays in Minneapolis, as part of SPS sponsor pitch.”  — Amy Patton, VP of Technology at SPS Commerce 

Land O’Lakes has tapped the MNAiC talent pipeline each summer since 2016.  In the summer of 2019 they utilized the strong technical talents of Stuti Arora and Amiyah Hunter. Many MnAiC interns return for summer work during their college years.


MNAiC Committee members believe it is imperative to inspire and reward young talent through internship experiences while increasing the likelihood these young people will remain in Minnesota to continue their education and move into careers. Through collaborative efforts with the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence, the group is working to understand and develop solutions to the obstacles that keep businesses from providing summer internships to teenagers. 

“Stuti and Amiyah made impressive contributions on the Land O’Lakes AgTech team during their summer internships. They worked alongside the Agile project team completing real work including; coding a mobile App using Android Studios and Google Firebase, testing code using virtual devices and emulators, conducting a competitive analysis, and creating a user manual. We couldn’t have been more delighted with the quality of their work!” —  Beth McMillan, Sr. Manager, IT Portfolio at Land O’Lakes

MNAiC is reaching out directly to more businesses and leaders to increase awareness of the strong technical skills possessed by program participants.  Through the Aspirations in Computing program, Minnesota companies can gain access to an unparalleled, technical and diverse talent pipeline. To learn more about the MNAiC program, and to ensure your company benefits from the rich talent cultivated by the program, contact Russell Fraenkel, Director of IT Career Pathways and Partnerships at Russell.Fraenkel@metrostate.edu.


ABOUT MINNESOTA ASPIRATIONS IN COMPUTING 

The Minnesota Aspirations in Computing (MNAiC) Awards Program partners with the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) to inspire, empower, and honor young women of high school age for their computing-related achievements and interests. The program is supported by Minnesota State – IT Center of Excellence and numerous businesses and organizations. The powerful story of honoree accomplishments does not end at a recognition ceremony in April of each year, it’s just the beginning! Over 300 young women who have been honored since the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Program inception in 2012-2013 continue to pursue life-changing education and career opportunities, becoming accomplished practitioners and leaders in a variety of Science Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.