Technology Talent Pipeline is Delivering – for High School Students and Minnesota Employers

The Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence (IT Center) and the Aspirations in Computing Program (MNAiC) have enjoyed a highly productive summer 2023….ensuring award winning high school students were mentored by IT practitioners, students benefitted from job shadow experiences, and many students contributed as paid technology interns at sponsoring businesses.

In spring 2023, ninety-one Minnesota high school students who identify as female, genderqueer, or non-binary were selected by national and state review teams as Aspirations in Computing Award recipients.  One of the many benefits of being selected as an honoree is the ongoing opportunity to engage with IT practitioners and businesses throughout the summer months to grow awareness of workplace expectations, develop a professional network, and determine if a technology career and related higher education opportunities are of strong interest.


Thirty-two students were matched with an IT professional via the MentorMash program which involved meeting virtually four times (45-60 minutes) throughout the summer.

Here’s what a few students shared about the mentoring experience:

“We planned what we wanted to talk about so that we had a few topics each meeting. There were also small things that I did to prepare, like think about career possibilities, make a checklist of things to do before classes start, etc.”


“I learned a lot from my mentor. The college application process is daunting, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to major in computer science. From this experience, I am now certain I want to major in computer science, and I have an amazing connection to message if I need support!”


“I learned to appreciate the process. Sure, the end goal is important, but the journey of getting there is too.”

Special thanks to the following mentors/companies:

Abbott – Katherine Myers

Agtegra Cooperative – Bri Sprenger

BDO – Stephanie Schmidt

Cargill – Erika Johnson

Code42 – Abnita Munankarmy

DatOculi, LLC – Lara Gureje

Donaldson – Vaishali Mahajan, Kristen Thurber

Fidelity Investments – Carol Bice

General Mills – Liv Wolfson

Microsoft – Valerie Bergman, Shauna Lynn Menning

Minnesota Twins – Shelley Andrew

Nerdery – Laura Etches

Outsell – Remina Sangil

Qualcomm – Lulu Wang

RBC – Puja Bajaj

SPS Commerce – Katie Anderson, Katie Downs, Jill Stroze, Megan Tischler, Sarah Zumwalde

Target – Tania Bandyopadhyay, Emi Lyman, Sonja Pylvainen, Alyssa Ronquillo, Rachel Whitcomb, Sunny Zheng

Turnberry Solutions – Nina Vo

Travelers – Linnea Finney

Unisys – Kris Wilmunen

Xcel Energy – Anna Pohmer



Twelve companies provided 39 job shadow instances ranging from part-day to full-day.  According to student participants, the job shadow experience was beneficial in a variety of ways:

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue pursuing computer science as a career because I didn’t want to feel isolated. After a job shadow, I saw that it actually involved a lot of collaboration and some in person meetings as well. I also think I don’t want to do very technical computer science, I think I want to go into more theoretical work with machine learning. This was really helpful to realize now and not after I begin college.”


“This was my favorite job shadow! It was absolutely AMAZING! I really liked the format of this experience, and how I was able to actually shadow an engineer in the sense that I sat by his desk and he showed and explained to me the projects he had worked on. Andrew was able to dive deep into different questions I asked and I really appreciated his time and thoroughness. Thomson Reuters provided an amazing environment and an incredible experience. I am so grateful I was able to job shadow with Cristina and Andrew.”


“It helped give me perspective on moving from an engineer-type role to a management position and helped me consider that for my own future in a more informed way. I still plan to work in the STEM field, but I don’t think I will do software engineering. My job shadow mentors were super supportive of my desire to go into electrical engineering, which I really appreciated.”


Special thanks to individuals and teams at these Minnesota companies for coordinating and hosting site visits:  Canon Medical, Donaldson, Land O’Lakes, Microsoft, Minnesota Twins, Pentair, Securian Financial, SPS Commerce, Surescripts, Tokyo Electron, Thomson Reuters, and Veritas Technologies.

Click on this link to view photos of students and providers.




 Fifteen students experienced summer paid internships at six MNAiC sponsor sites.  This is the eleventh year of the internship program that has placed 107 students since 2013.  Many students return to the businesses as college interns.  Post college, some have been hired by the companies to perform entry-level technical roles.  In August, a showcase and celebration of the intern contributions occurred.  This link provides a view of the internship experience from the intern’s perspective.  We’re grateful to Datasite, General Mills, Land O’Lakes, Minnesota Twins, Securian Financial, and SPS Commerce for being internship provider partners.

The IT Center is grateful for the volunteer leadership of Amy Patton – SPS Commerce, Denise Morelock – Turnberry Solutions, and Shelley Andrew – Minnesota Twins, to offer students three substantial ways to engage with employers to enhance their technology education and career readiness.

If you and/or your business is interested in becoming involved this school year and next summer, please email Russell Fraenkel, MNAiC Development Officer at