By Dave Cornelius, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP

PMI-OC Vice President of Communications, Marketing, and Outreach

Recently, John Okoro a friend and former colleague invited me to share my journey of becoming a leader and project management (PM) practitioner with members of his Urban Youth Technology Mentoring Program.  John is the co-creator of this technology careers workshop along with Nancy Harris, executive director of the Holman Community Development Center (www.holman-cdc.org) in Los Angeles.

This was a great opportunity to talk with the future leaders of the United States about project management as a life skill.  As an ambassador for the Project Management Institute Educational Foundation (PMIEF), this was an opportunity to share my PMI experiences and the value of a great profession.  The foundation is a catalyst for PM knowledge sharing, with a stated purpose “to promote economic, educational, cultural, and social advancement through the application, development, and promotion of project management concepts, theories, and life skills.”  PMIEF administers scholarships for many PM organizations, including PMI-OC’s $1,000–3,000 Charles Lopinsky Memorial Scholarship.

Beyond PMI, there is a movement in the United States for the inclusion of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in education.  This past April, at the third annual White House Science Fair, 10 prominent education non-profits and U.S. technology companies came together in support of STEM and introduced the US2020 program.  The goal of US2020 is to connect science, technology, engineering, and math professionals as mentors with students from kindergarten to college.  It was great to see John and Nancy proactively taking steps to equip students with the STEM skills needed to participate in the future global economy.

Urban Youth Technology Mentoring Program

The Urban Youth Technology Mentoring Program was started as an addition to the Holman Community Development Center’s Jobs For Kids youth employment program.  The goal is to provide exposure to the technology field by teaching the basics of computer programming to inner city kids between the ages of 14–18.  Minority mentors in the technology field were invited to share their education and career experiences with the class of African American and Latino high school students.  Six speakers with careers in technology, education, project management, consulting, software engineering, and video game development attended independent sessions to paint a vision of opportunity in the technology industry for the students.

The program consists of 15–18 hour sessions broken into 5–6 three-hour segments.  Students must attend a minimum of four workshops to be eligible for a paid internship with a technology firm.  The curriculum introduces students to the fundamentals of programming and object-oriented development that included topics found in a first-year computer science program.  The lab segment of the class uses Carnegie Mellon University Alice software to support an interactive and experiential learning experience for the students.  To demonstrate their understanding of the concepts, students are quizzed on each chapter of the “Fluency with Alice” textbook.

Take Away

The students I spent time with showed a strong sense of commitment and a desire to learn new skills for a sustainable future.  My message to them focused on what is required to make the journey into the project management profession and how to ensure that it is sustainable.  In closing, I asked the students to remember the following three goals for a fruitful life and successful career:

  • Practice the presence of God in your life
  • Build a legacy
  • Pay it forward

I am hopeful about what the next years will bring for them!  To learn more about the Holman Community Development Center Urban Youth Technology Mentoring Program, please visit www.holman-cdc.org.