Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM, for short) are vital to our future. Almost all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade will require at least some background in STEM. This subsequent demand provides students considering careers in these fields an advantage by providing pathways to explore careers that both interest them and offer significant opportunities. Everyone at Digium is excited and proud to offer opportunities for local students to get involved with, and fall in love with, STEM.
These efforts really took off when I met Chris Scribner, teacher at J.O Johnson High School and Executive Director of the Cap & Gown Project, a college access nonprofit for underrepresented students in Huntsville. Chris described the issue that led to the birth of the Cap & Gown Project when I met him through a local organization, the Huntsville Committee of 100. He explained that some of the brightest kids in Northwest Huntsville don’t have the network or opportunities to get exposed to the technology companies within Cummings Research Park, which is essentially in their back yard. I offered to get the ball rolling by offering a local student a trial internship at Digium.
During the early part of Fall 2015, Chris spread the word around Johnson High School that this internship was available and that those interested should apply directly to me via email. I wanted to make the experience as “real world” as possible, so I asked each applicant to prepare a resume and send it to me. I then scheduled in-person interviews at Digium headquarters, which included an introduction to the company and a tour of our facilities.
Toward the end of the fall semester, Kennon “KJ” Nairn was selected for an internship that began in January and concluded in May. He worked after school three hours every week so that his work responsibilities wouldn’t interfere with his ability to be successful in the classroom. KJ worked on two major projects during his time with us. First, he did competitive research in order to better understand the industry we are in, and to learn what product managers do when trying to figure out how a product should fit into the market. Secondly, he conducted user-testing of some new Digium products. The research KJ was involved in exposed him to technology, terminology, and companies that he’d never heard of. The experience also encouraged him to think and write critically- two sought-after abilities in STEM fields.
“On my first day at Digium I had to build my own computer, which was a pretty big task, but it was really cool. It was fun to learn the different parts and how they operate to make the computer run properly. Each time I got a part right I got a little more comfortable in my position. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Davenport taught me more in few short minutes than what I knew in my 17 years here on earth about the computer and its components.” – KJ Nairn
After the success of KJ’s internship (both for KJ himself, and for our employees), Chris and I followed up to discuss the next steps. We decided to provide a Digium tour, corporate overview, and a Q&A session for the Cap & Gown Project’s STEM Summer Institute. The first tour occurred last week and we had a blast hosting the students and answering their insightful questions on topics that included everything from women in tech to the economics of decreasing geometries in microelectronics. Since we had an ice cream truck visiting the Digium campus at the same time as the tour, we stopped by the truck and each student got a complimentary treat.
It was a pleasure hosting these bright students, and we look forward to providing more opportunities and experiences through participation in programs such as these. My hope is that our internships, co ops, and tours will provide several benefits. First, I hope that the exposure and education will inspire our local students to pursue a future in STEM. Secondly, I’d like to provide an example for other local businesses to do the same. Huntsville is a cosmopolitan city that places a high value on education. We have the tools and resources, and therefore the responsibility to provide opportunities to our local students across our community.
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To inquire about internship opportunities or to request Digium’s participation in your STEM-related cause, email HR Director Ellen Martin at [email protected]