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Monday November 13, 2017 10:57 pm

Technology Access Foundation Kids Visit Capital One to Talk Tech Careers




Posted by Andru Edwards Categories:

As I waited in the lobby at the Capital One building in Seattle, a group of well-dressed, inquisitive 13-year-old arrived - joking, laughing, all while keeping their voices down in order to mind their manners. I eavesdropped a bit to get a sense for what they were feeling, and it was a mixture of excitement and nervousness. They were here at the Capital One building to learn about what it takes to succeed in a career in the fast-growing world of tech.

As I waited in the lobby at the Capital One building in Seattle, a group of well-dressed, inquisitive 13-year-old arrived - joking, laughing, all while keeping their voices down in order to mind their manners. I eavesdropped a bit to get a sense for what they were feeling, and it was a mixture of excitement and nervousness. They were here at the Capital One building to learn about what it takes to succeed in a career in the fast-growing world of tech.

I met with Steve, a Capital One PR representative, who explained the company’s position - Capital One believes that tech is not only the future for business in general, but it considers itself a technology company first. This may be a surprise to those who traditionally think of Capital One as a financial company - but it makes sense. Between keeping customer data safe from prying eyes on the web, to the development of new products with a mobile-first mentality, to the machine learning future that is fast approaching. Capital One is ready to face it all head on, and it knows that the competitive landscape of securing talent is tough. There are more jobs in tech, especially here in the Seattle area, than can be filled.

And this takes us back to the kids - a group visiting from Seattle’s Technology Access Foundation. TAF aims to equip students of color for success in college and in life by way of a focus on STEM education and supportive relationships - and this group of kids came equipped with questions and a willingness to learn everything they could over the course of the three-hour experience.

We took the elevator up to the floor where everything was happening, and it was immediately apparent that this wasn’t a hastily thrown-together day as far as Capital One was concerned. I’ve seen plenty of these kinds of events, and have appeared on stage to speak to students about tech many times as an invited guest - and many times very little thought it put into what will appeal to the age group of the visitors. Here, it was the complete opposite.

There were snacks waiting for the kids to enjoy during a quick introduction session. After learning everyones names, they were taken on a tour of the different workspaces on that floor. As I followed the group, I enjoyed the friendliness of the staff towards the TAF students - it was an environment where they felt not just encouraged to ask any questions that were on their mind, but welcome to do so as well. They kids were intrigued by the SCRUM board and methodology, they asked about working in groups vs. working alone, they wondered aloud about when you’d meet in a conference room and when you’d meet in one of the open group areas - and the Capital One crew was with them with answers that they could understand every step of the way.

After the tour, the kids sat together to hear from Capital One’s Tony Wilson, Zoe Yang, and Nagkimar Arkalagud, each of whom discussed their roles within the company and where they see the tech career landscape going in the future. They told the kids about work ethic, about caring for customers, about doing not taking shortcuts, and about the value of education.

Afterwards was an extremely well thought-out activity followed, which all the students enjoyed. It was part puzzle game, part scavenger hunt, which required teamwork, discussion, and thinking outside of the box. The kids broke up into small teams in order to try and solve the challenge before the other groups, with the Capital One crew splitting up and joining the teams as well to help the kids work out the various questions. Each and every one of the kids was engaged, using a mixture of logic, coding, and process of elimination to solve the challenges.

Once a winner was chosen, the true team spirit came out, as the one child who figured out the last puzzle wanted to make sure everyone knew that his teammate helped him get to that point - a great moment for sure. 

The kids then mingled a bit more with each other and with Capital One representatives over a meal. While everyone enjoyed sandwiches and other snacks, I asked Caesar Vaughgn, one of the TAF students, what his favorite part of the day was - he looked at two of his friends, and they simultaneously exclaimed “Everything!” 

There’s no doubt that the TAF students had an afternoon where they found learning to be fun, and where they were able to dream of the possibilities of a future where they could contribute to the tech industry. This is what the Technology Access Foundation is all about, and for this group of kids, it was mission accomplished.

I want to thank Capital One for inviting me along to observe this process and to learn more about what TAF is doing for kids here in the Seattle area. Every student should have equal chance to learn the skills of the future, and it was refreshing to see it first hand. Capital One sponsored my appearance at this event, but all thoughts and opinions above are my own - this was a job well done.

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