The Community Corps, a skills-based tech volunteering program within NPower, teamed up with NYC DoE’s Digital Ready program to give students from NYC public high schools an opportunity to interact with STEM professionals in their work environment. On February 12, 2015, students from the Urban Assembly Gateway (UAG) School of Design and Construction and Hudson High School for Learning Technologies were ushered into the offices of Sapient / Sapient Nitro NYC to learn about how STEM studies can be applied in consulting and advertising.

The student visit started with a panel discussion among a diverse group of professionals from Sapient who outlined their interest, career paths, and accumulated wisdom. The panelists encouraged the students to pursue what they liked, and learn from every experience. One panelist, who is currently Vice President of Global Digital Marketing and Brand Content, talked about how his ability to improvise which he learned as a professional jazz guitarist helped him learn how to harness the creative abilities of diverse teams and develop innovative client campaigns. Another panelist who currently works as an Account Manager explained that her experience as a TV interviewer, helped her learn how tease out the perspective of different team members and clients so that marketing solutions were as rich as possible. Another panelist was a recent college graduate who shared job search strategies and why she found the Sapient environment to be the best for her. A Sapient Creative Director asked students if any of them work now or plan to work once they are in college. He added that everything he does now is about client service, and that his understanding of what it meant to excel in the service industry started in college, “I learned so much about client service by waiting on tables in college – don’t discount any experience, you are always learning.”

Students also opened up and shared personal stories. A junior from Hudson High School explained that she liked math more than any other subject – but she didn’t know how to pick a career or an engineer specialty. A panelist with an engineering background jumped in and explained that mathematics and numbers were not identical. “For someone who enjoys working with numbers, accounting could be a good career choice. However, if you enjoy equations and physics, then Civil Engineering could be a great choice.” The student quipped, “I love it all; I love numbers, equations – all of it! But I haven’t studied Physics yet.” She agreed that Physics and Economics would help her narrow her interests.

A senior at UAG shared his hope of becoming an architect and told the panelists that he had already received acceptance letters from universities, explaining that he would be the first person in his family to attend college. The panelists were very moved by his story and provided advice on how to choose the right architectural specialty that would feed his artistic interests. As the panel concluded, the panelists invited the students to reach out to them for more information after the site visit as needed.

After the panel discussion, students were invited to observe a Digital Marketing workshop where the Digital Marketing team shared recent campaigns with Account Leaders and explained how SapientNitro Account Managers could promote compelling social media campaigns on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Following the workshop, Rob DiRenzo of Digital Ready adeptly led a discussion that enabled the students to see how the SapientNitro working session was a quick demonstration of skills and career paths that all the students were interested in.

For the final activity, Sapient Project Manager Henry Bruce divided students into two teams. Each team was given one half of a map, and then the teams were asked to describe their map to the other team only using written communication. Each team then had to use a white board to draw the map that had been described to them. The students were quickly able to draw a map. But then the students were floored when they received all written instructions and asked to individually draw a complete map. The activity enabled students to personally experience what happens to team effectiveness when communication is constrained – and why “collaboration” and “innovation” requires both STEM skills and hard-to-test skills like team dynamics, perseverance and leadership.
The students concluded their visit to Sapient buzzing with energy, and excited to have received such customized and actionable advice from people at the top of their game. Teachers shared that the visit exceeded their expectations – and that they were truly impressed by Sapient’s time and talents.