Technology Industry Fund
Industry Fund Partner
New York City now has more than 300,000 technology jobs and Mayor Bill de Blasio is actively trying to attract additional tech companies from Seattle and California to bring the City tens of thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in new investments.
Those new companies – and the many tech firms already here – will need a pipeline of new workers to fill those slots, bring a smart, fresh way of looking at things and diversify a sector that is still sorely lacking.
The de Blasio administration launched the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (MOTI) two years ago with the idea of supporting this growth, while making New York City’s tech sector the most equitable in the country. MOTI has partnered with Ladders for Leaders, a competitive summer internship program run by the Department of Youth and Community Development and supported by the Center for Youth Employment, to connect technology businesses of all sizes to local, high-achieving high school and college students.
Ladders interns include some of NYC’s best and brightest students, with at least a 3.0 grade point average and work experience. Candidates are selected after a rigorous application, receive up to 30 hours of pre-employment training and are guaranteed a minimum of 25 hours of work for at least six weeks during the summer.
Some of the companies taking part in Ladders for Leaders include AppNexus, an independent internet technology company, Vizalytics, a 5-year-old startup, and Mapzen, an open source mapping lab – all based in New York City.
And they are all avid supporters of the program.
AppNexus first participated in Ladders for Leaders in 2016 and the company is signing up again this year. The company has always run its own internship programs for college students. Ladders is its first external internship program, with the goal to identify and host high school student interns.
According to Brandon Atkinson, Chief People Officer at AppNexus, Ladders for Leaders “aligns with our hiring philosophy, one tenet of which is to ‘seek diversity,’ based on the belief that diversity, in all its forms, promotes innovation and creates better business outcomes.”
One of their interns was Sandra Deng, now a senior at the High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College, who was assigned to their Audit team.
“My internship at AppNexus was my first experience working in a large company. I wanted to take advantage of the resources available, so I asked my manager, Allison, if I could spend some time, throughout the internship, shadowing different departments, in order to learn more about the variety of people needed to run a company,” Sandra says.
“She was more than happy to give me this opportunity and even helped me schedule everything. It was a wonderful experience, and I would recommend the Ladders for Leaders program for any curious high school student who wishes to familiarize him or herself with the professional setting.”
Brandon Atkinson, chief people officer at AppNexus, says the company “is built on the belief that diversity, in all its forms, promotes innovation and creates better business outcomes.”
Aileen Gemma Smith, CEO of Vizalytics, a tech firm that helps clients leverage open and private-sourced data (and the development firm behind neighborhoods.nyc), has been using Ladders for Leaders interns the past two-years. This year, Aileen hopes to place ten interns in her firm.
“Vizalytics joined Ladders for Leaders because we are proud believers in the NYC public school system,” Smith says. “It is important to us to hire people who don’t necessarily come from a background of privilege. We’re looking for different perspectives, challengers to assumptions, and an eye for real-world applications.”
Kimberley Dao, who graduated from Queens High School for the Sciences at York College and now attends Yale University, was in the Ladders for Leaders program and interned at Vizalytics two years ago. Kimberley hasn’t decided on a career path yet, but the tech sector is a strong possibility.
“Vizalytics was a great place to intern because it was such a professional environment. The work I did helping build databases was very meaningful. I felt I was really part of something and doing real work.” Asked if she would recommend any of her friends to apply to Ladders for Leaders, Kimberley responded: “I already have.”
Randy Meech, CEO of Mapzen, says Ladders for Leaders not only helps build a talent pool but it also identifies candidates with a wide range of different backgrounds.
“Mapzen is very focused on improving diversity in tech,” Meech says. “Diversity has long been an issue in the tech space, and we try to use internship programs as a way to help with that for the future. We try to be as diverse as possible and work with people of all ages. I think it’s really important to have different perspectives.
“We try to do as much as we can with internships to bring people in, and provide them with some real-world experience and encouragement, which will help them succeed in the industry later. For an intern in software, it is important that they can get in, learn something and do something productive. We love the Ladders program, and we will definitely do it again.”