Cultivating diversity in STEM-related K-12 programs is critical to ensuring that we have future generations of diverse talent interested and qualified to work in high tech. As such, Brocade recognizes that we must play a role in helping to seed interest in STEM careers among the youth in our community as a way of increasing the likelihood of a more diverse future talent pool. At the same time, we actively seek opportunities for our employees to participate in the advancement of our diversity strategy and to engage in positive ways with the communities we serve.
The goal of Teen Tech is to inspire future generations, particularly those from underrepresented minority groups, to pursue STEM-related fields and to broaden their understanding of the tech industry. At the same time, this program provides an opportunity for employees to support the development of future, diverse talent.
Started in 2013, Teen Tech welcomes up to thirty children, ranging in age from 12 to 15 years old, to Brocade’s San Jose, Calif. headquarters each summer. These teens participate in an immersive 5-day program to learn what it’s like to work in a high-tech company, highlighting a range of potential careers. Participants apply to be a part of this experience and are selected from a pool of candidates that includes students from local nonprofit organizations that serve diverse populations, as well as children of Brocade employees. Recent local partners include the local Boys and Girls Club and Greene Scholars Program. In addition, effort is made to insure equal representation of girls and boys.
On Day One of the program, students are placed into small teams, and each team member takes on a distinct role in a company of the team’s creation—CEO, CFO, CIO, CMO, CHRO, etc. Through product development exercises, teams “invent” a hypothetical product and build a strategic plan to bring it to market. Throughout the week, students learn from company experts, work on hands-on projects, and get an inside look at what it is like to work in a high-tech company.
On the last day of the program, teams demonstrate what they learned by presenting their companies’ business plan to a group of “investors,” made up of parents and Brocade volunteers armed with Monopoly money.
In smaller Brocade campuses, Teen Tech is conducted as a one-day experience, in partnership with museums and schools, to teach computer networking and to provide a taste of the different roles and functions in a high tech company.
Over the last four years, more than 200 students have participated in Teen Tech across several Brocade locations, with the pool of interested candidates increasing each successive year. The hands-on product-to-market experience has inspired innovative thinking and product design, fostered an understanding of networking principles and business processes, sharpened presentation skills, and provided fun times with new friends.
In addition, more than 300 Brocade volunteers have participated to make the program a success. Employees have likewise felt inspired by the enthusiasm of the participants and consistently report a sense of gratification in engaging with youth in our community.
As an immigrant, a minority, and a CEO, the CEO Action for Inclusion pledge has personal relevance for me. Now, more than ever, diversity and inclusion are essential to enhancing our capability for innovation, enabling us to have a more informed viewpoint on global issues, and helping to create strong communities that are rich in traditions and shared learning. In the IT industry, we know that achieving a more gender and ethnically balanced workforce is hard, but it is essential to providing us the perspectives and resources to tackle issues that are critical to our future and our competitiveness. This pledge reflects my personal commitment to continue to do better, to be better, and to have a hand in providing the next generation of Americans – many of whom will be immigrants and minorities, like me – with a future that reflects the very best of our aspirations.