Past Event- The Minnesota Twins SPARCS a Field of Dreams

Past Event- The Minnesota Twins SPARCS a Field of Dreams

The Twins’ team hit a technology home run with the SPARCS visiting team this past October. Young women who are passionate about tech took part in an exclusive “behind the scenes” tech tour of Target Field and the Minnesota Twins Baseball Club as part of the Fall 2018 lineup of SPARCS Employer Engagement events.  Participants enjoyed an adventure-filled day learning how the Twins and Major League Baseball use technology to ensure fans at the ballpark and everywhere else in Twins Territory love their entertainment experience.


Securing and retaining female tech talent is quickly becoming a top priority for U.S. companies.  Why? Consider these convergent data points (source: NCWIT):

  • It’s expected that by 2026, the number of U.S. computing-related job openings will number 3.5 million
  • In 2017, 26% of professional computing occupations in the U.S. workforce were held by women (including 5% Asian, 3% African-American, and 1% Hispanic women)
  • In 2016 only 19% of computer and information sciences bachelor’s degree recipients were women


This mixture of data reinforces the challenge and opportunities that exist for educators and business leaders to collaborate on talent readiness and recruitment strategies. Clearly, one of the surest strategies to address the existent and expanding I.T. talent gap is to unify forces to ignite the passion and interest of young women in secondary schools to pursue an I.T. career path.


[VIDEO: Participants in the SPARCS-Twins event attend Minneapolis’ South and North High Schools, Century High School in Rochester, as well as Edina and White Bear Lake High Schools]


As a career exploration strategy, SPARCS learning and networking experiences was first introduced as a complementary Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards (MNAiC) program effort in 2014.  Since then, numerous employer engagement experiences have exposed hundreds of young women to a myriad of tech roles, companies, entrepreneurs, and professionals who love their work and are interested in guiding the next generation to follow in their footsteps.


The Minnesota Twins-SPARCS event participants were not the only ones who enjoyed the all-star day at Target Field. John Avenson, Vice President of Technology for the Twins, shared his observations about the tour group and their common interests — “While the SPARCS group came from schools all around the area, it was fun to see how the girls quickly connected with each other.  They enabled their tour experience with so many good questions about converged networks, mobile connectivity, and broadcasting technologies here at Target Field.  It is obvious that their passion for knowledge guided by their curiosity will take them to some pretty exciting careers – using technology skills as their common denominator.”



Shelley Andrew, Twin’s Manager of Business Systems, was the chief architect of the day-long event. She is passionate and committed to exposing young women from diverse backgrounds to a career in tech. Shelley believes hands-on, immersive events like the SPARCS experience are essential for inspiring and sustaining female interests in tech.


According to Shelley, “I was first inspired by the young women at the Aspirations Awards Ceremony earlier this year.  I knew I needed to get involved with the program to help them continue their STEM journey from the classroom to the workplace.  It was a privilege to host the young women and show them an area of technology that not many think of – professional sports and a major league facility.”  


After their tour and lunch, students were separated into groups, and with professional assistance, tasked with working together to address a problem, and develop a brief presentation using a storyboarding process summarizing their collective learnings to an audience of professionals from the Twin’s organization, business partners and their high school peers.  The experience modeled how businesses work in teams to solve problems and create opportunities of shared value.


The program concluded with an interactive session featuring industry professionals who described their education and career paths, as well as their technical roles, offered advice and encouragement, and discussed the aspirations of the SPARCS attendees.  Special thanks to:

Jason Meszaros, Senior Manager, Technology Projects and Security, MN Twins

Jeremy Raadt, Manager, Baseball Systems, MN Twins

Rachel Lockett, CIO, Pohlad Companies

Virginia del a Riva, Senior Engineer, Medtronic

Varda Nauen, IT Consultant

Liz Overbo, Engineer and Energy Management Consultant


More SPARCS events in 2018-19 are in store for young women in high school with technology learning and career aspirations, with the next stop being Microsoft in Edina on December 18.  The new year boasts of events that inspire creative learning and emerging technologies.  If you are a business or organization interested in connecting with SPARCS, contact or call 651.253.9438.



Starting in 2014, SPARCS learning and networking experiences became a complementary Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards (MNAiC) program strategy to inspire and empower young women in secondary schools to Go for IT!  Click here to learn more about SPARCS.



Formerly known as Advance IT Minnesota, the MN State IT Center of Excellence engages employers, educators, technology professionals and learners to develop a more robust IT workforce in Minnesota. A Center of Excellence within the Colleges and Universities of Minnesota State (formerly MnSCU), it is located at Metropolitan State University, St. Paul Midway campus. For more information, visit the IT Center of Excellence.