Finding Meaning in Mentorship at Scale

Posted on by in Culture, Mentorship

Last month, Carbon Five New York participated in Tech: NYC’s Summer Bridge 2020 program in coordination with local nonprofit, El Barrio’s Operation Fightback.

Summer Bridge is the nation’s largest youth employment program, giving some 35,000 disadvantaged NYC teens and young adults paid experience along with an opportunity to build important life skills and get exposure to new disciplines. The program centers around a workplace challenge bringing underprivileged young adults across NYC together to solve real business problems.

The challenge we presented to our Summer Bridge cohort of about 20 students was “How might we keep employees engaged now that we’re all remote?” This is a hard problem and is on the minds of business leaders everywhere. In a recent study by LinkedIn subsidiary, Glint, nearly 40% of employees reported feeling less connected to their teammates than before the pandemic. 

The engagement predicament feels doubly difficult for a consultancy like ours. We spend upwards of 85% or more of our time on client work and our offices served an important grounding function to our sense of connection.

During our weekly Zoom meetings with our Summer Bridge team to discuss the problem, we also had a chance to explain what we do as software creators, answer questions about how we got to where we are today, and hopefully changed some perceptions along the way.

Surprisingly, only one out of the twenty students in our cohort, was considering a career in tech. Similar to what USV’s Fred Wilson found from his participation in the program, some participants felt you had to be good at numbers to be in tech. Others believed tech lacked the creativity that a career in film might provide.

“It’s clear that folks from these communities want to solve problems and see careers in social work and film, for example, as a way to flex their creative skills in order to effect change,” says CodeScty, Head of Product Marcie Chin with whom I recounted our experience. “Technology can be a meaningful career for these individuals if they can see tech as a tool to solve the problems they care about at scale.”

If we truly want a more diverse and inclusive tech community, opening minds to tech as a possible career path seems like a critical first step and that’s why we are really excited about this program.

Through participating, we were able to show the students that we are very much alike. Most of us didn’t know what we wanted to do in high school, paid our own way upward, and have a preference for iOS over Android. And, we proved the very behavioral skills they were learning in this program are the same ones we recruit for in our consulting practice.

If your team is looking for a low commitment yet meaningful way to effect positive change at large, we encourage you to check out the Summer Bridge Program.