San Francisco is a great tech city, but this doesn't mean that tech always does great things for the city. Our team is fortunate to work with districts across the country on creating more efficient school systems, but when it comes to our volunteer efforts, we're intentional about working with our local community organizations.Recently, we hosted a group of students from Mission Graduates, a local non-profit aimed at creating a college-going culture in the Mission District of San Francisco. We were drawn to this organization because of its focus on working with first-generation college students and students of color.
This event was initiated by our employee resource group for people of color because many of us know from personal experience how impactful it can be to hear from successful people who look like you and have a similar background. During the event, we had a panel Q&A for the Mission Graduate students regarding some of the challenges each of us has faced in our academic and professional journeys, ways we overcame them, and advice we had for the students. Below is a brief synopsis of each team member’s story.
- Rachel, Engineer: Rachel shared her story about growing up and having to navigate the higher education landscape solo. After discovering a love of robotics, she decided to pursue an education in computer science. However, as a black woman in higher education and later in tech, she described going through imposter syndrome, the feeling of doubting your accomplishments and the (unfounded) fear of being exposed as a "fraud," often felt when you don't see anyone who looks like you accomplishing the same things. Rachel's story was received well by the students, many of whom learned about imposter syndrome and were able to both give a name to the feeling they might have felt and realize that they're not the only person who has felt it.
- Lupe, Account Executive: Lupe shared her experience as an immigrant learning to adjust to life in the United States as a young child and then having to work through college. Beginning her higher education journey at a community college, she shared with students that journeys are not uniform and sometimes things that we see as a disadvantage (ex. working to put yourself through college) can actually end up being our biggest edge. Lupe highlighted that success shouldn't be measured by how quickly you finish college or where you go to school, but rather by how you face challenges that inevitably arise and use those experiences to make you a stronger person.
- Juan, Engineer: Juan described how his immigrant journey has shaped his academic and career journeys. Growing up in Watts, CA, Juan was consistently a top performer in school. Still, he was repeatedly discouraged from pursuing his dreams of becoming a software engineer because he was told that that was something that would be "unrealistic" for someone with his background to accomplish. Not only did Juan get into top schools, he received an offer to become a software engineer from Informed K12 an entire year before graduating from college. Juan's story of overcoming obstacles was powerful to hear, especially since many of the students have faced similar challenges.
After our panel, our technical and business teams hosted breakout sessions. Our engineering team led an interactive coding activity where students experienced first hand some of daily applications coding has in their lives, while some of our business team members led an activity that exposed students to the breadth of roles in tech.
A program leader at Mission Graduates noted, “Hearing from so many first-gen students really made these career aspirations that much more within reach for our youth.” For our team, these words validated why we wanted to host the event.
We are also excited to deepen and continue the relationship we established with Mission Graduates. After the event, I had the opportunity to serve as a committee member for Mission Graduate’s Promise Scholarship, interviewing Mission Graduate students for this prestigious scholarship. Even though I had an opportunity to speak with students during our event, speaking with them 1v1 reinforced how talented and inspirational our local Mission District students are and our team is excited to continue partnering with such quality organizations.