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The Intern Files: The Importance of a Mentor
August 29, 2017 | Express Scripts
Ashley S. is an intern on the HD Web Optimization team working on epics.
What do you want to be when you grow up? This is the one question that I, along with my fellow millennials, are constantly asked. As more of us are entering college and earning degrees, we’re searching for jobs that not only set us up for a successful career, but allow us to make a difference in the world around us. However, while “what do you want to be when you grow up” may be simple to answer, knowing how to get there may be a more difficult task.
I discovered my passion for technology my freshman year of high school when I took on the role as a programmer during a group project. From there, I was inspired to enroll in computer and engineering classes – each one reaffirming that computer science was the right career path for me.
Advancing My Skills
After my initial exposure to coding, I became obsessed with continually improving my skills. That’s when I learned about Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), a national organization for minority students and professionals focused on charting the future of the IT industry. I became a member during my junior year of high school and qualified to compete in the annual High School Computer Competition. As part of this competition, high school students compete with a team for eight hours to build a website, present their final product and complete a computerized written exam. Mentors and instructors from the BDPA assist students, which is how I first became connected with my mentor, Artem. Meeting Artem and seeking his help and guidance played a crucial role in not only the advancement of my coding skills, but my career progression as a whole.
In college, while I was completing my sophomore year at Florida A&M University, Artem told me a little bit about his employer, Express Scripts, and urged me to apply for a summer internship in the HD Web Optimization Department. During an interview with the hiring manager, Jeffrey, I learned I would be part of a team writing code that 83+ million patients see every day. He described the role as “moving the Titanic” in regard to the change my work would bring. That’s when I was hooked.
Soon after my internship began, I reached out to both Artem and Jeffrey to see if they could help me find a way to participate in the BDPA conference at a colligate level. I loved competing in high school and wanted to find a way to stay involved with the organization. Express Scripts leadership heard about my journey with coding and offered to sponsor me in the competition.
To compete, participants were given two months to create and develop a fully functioning android app and present it at the annual BDPA conference. At first, I didn’t know where to start. I thought back a few months prior to when I traveled to Silicon Valley with a group of diverse students interested in technology. Much like me, they knew they wanted to pursue a career in technology, but lacked the guidance on how to get there. I realized that connecting with Artem was the turning point for me and not all students are lucky enough to have that kind of support in their careers. I wanted to find a way to match technology students with mentors to help them in the same way Artem helped me. That’s when I came up with Mentor Match.
Creating Mentor Match
Mentor Match is an app set up to match college students early in their careers with an experienced mentor who shares similar interests. The app enables real time collaboration and cloud technologies through messaging and maps. The messaging system gives users the ability to communicate one-on-one or through group chat, offering students more flexibility in their mentorship. Users also have the ability to view multiple mentors’ current locations, so they can meet in person if needed.
Throughout the process, my mentor, Artem, was always happy to answer any questions I had or just act as a soundboard to bounce ideas off. When the competition rolled around, Artem and Jeffrey even drove me all the way to Cincinnati and took on coaching roles to prepare me for my presentation. I can never thank them enough for the time they invested in me. However, I’m happy to say their time and confidence in me were not wasted as I placed first in the Mobile App Competition, winning three scholarships – and the satisfaction of my hard work paying off!
From participating in BDPA in high school to being sponsored by Express Scripts as an intern at the recent conference, I’m very grateful for my experiences. Without the guidance of my mentor, Artem, I would have had no idea where to begin my career journey. My hope for Mentor Match upon launch is that it will connect mentees beginning their journey in the technology field with mentors who can offer them guidance on how to achieve their career goals, because I’ve hit the jackpot so far with mine.
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