22 September 2017

How CDK Global Helps the Next Generation

For the past 18 years, CDK Global has run an internship program at its offices around the country. The 2017 intern class spans six offices with 131 interns ranging from high school students to MBA candidates. In Seattle, we have a total of 32 interns, with 10 of them coming from a local Seattle high school. CDK partners closely with local schools to help get the next generation involved in technology. ChickTech, one of the largest organizations CDK sponsors, returned as a partner. Finally, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation helps to build minority participation in STEM studies.

The program partners with multiple areas of the business and matches the participants with mentors of all skill levels. The 131 interns represent college-age students with CDK software developers, data scientists, sales, and account advocates. There are also MBA-level product management students and high school-age software developers in our Code2Career program. The Seattle office hosted 10 high school student interns, all from Holy Names Academy. I recently had a chance to sit down with them and talk about their projects, goals and what it’s like to be young women in technology. All 10 high schoolers are from a local all-girls school — one of the Seattle office’s longest running recruitment pipelines. The ladies are all incoming seniors or recent graduates. A few are going into college planning to study software engineering and the others are seeing how software development works in a real-world setting before deciding.

The ladies were divided into teams by their CDK mentors and given projects to complete over the course of their time here. The teams are given a direction, such as “build a website,” and from there they have full control over execution, design and project management.

  • 1.Megan Parker, Milla Zuniga, Julia Marshall, Halina Tracey
    a.We are building an innovative music store in which a person could buy albums from several genres in multiple platforms, especially targeting our hipster consumers.
  • 2.Elena Fowler, Grace Tevaseu, Charlotte Beasley
    a.Our app is called SeaHunt, which is an interactive tour of Seattle, complete with riddles, information, and puns.
  • 3.Erika Ortega Ortiz, Maddie Neils
    a.A website that allows users to be matched with a recipe based on ingredients they enter as well as maintaining a shopping list and a collection of saved recipes on the user's account.

Each of them expressed similar excitement over being able to put their classroom skills to use in a real-world setting. They all highlighted how supportive their mentors are by allowing them to ask questions, shadow various employees in several areas of the business and help with new code. The ability to create something from start to finish and not just for a test was a high point noted by all the ladies.

Being a young woman in technology comes with certain unfortunate stigmas — even with many of them still being in high school. From family friends making off-hand comments to being encouraged to ask their male classmates for help in computer science classes before asking the teachers, they’ve had their fair share of people questioning their choices. All the ladies shared a similar sentiment about how they were anxious to break the stigma and appreciated how included and welcomed they felt at CDK.

“CDK especially has shown me how collaborative developers are and how much teamwork it takes to build a project. As someone who is fairly energetic and talkative, I have been asked if I really think working in tech would be a good fit. What people fail to understand sometimes is that there isn’t one specific personality type for computer science. People need to get rid of all the stereotypes they have for coders because it is hindering young girls from being interested in STEM fields. If young girls are told that they don’t fit a specific type, then they will not be encouraged to pursue something they might actually really like. We need to start being more open minded when it comes to tech and encourage everyone of all genders, ages, and walks of life to pursue the things they love to do, not just abide by someone else’s standards,” said Halina Tracey.

CDK Global has a long-standing tradition of helping young women break into tech and this year has been no exception. By empowering the next generation to take charge of their learning — and give them the ability to test their skills in real-world settings — it allows more students to consider coding as a future.