Diversity & Inclusion Technology Internship Launches Careers and Bolsters Startup Staffs

How a diverse group of talented interns can fill companies’ tech needs

It can be challenging to be a woman in STEM, especially when you’re looking for internships. After applying to plenty of positions, Kent State freshman Hannah Haswell still hadn’t heard anything back. Majoring in digital systems analysis and software development with a concentration in data analysis, Haswell found the internship process difficult and often dominated by men like the rest of the field. But when she discovered the Diversity & Inclusion Technology Internship program, she hoped she found a way in. And after applying to the program, Haswell got a quick response from a company and had her first internship the summer after her freshman year.

“As a woman in STEM, I’m diverse in my field, so it’s great to find a place that’s accepting of that,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from my internships. I’ve never had a day where I didn’t have anything to do. They’ve always given me projects, and even if I’m not meeting with coworkers every day, there’s always something to fall back on like a long-term project or goal. I worked with clients, maintained databases and really felt like part of the team. It’s definitely not the type of internship where you get coffee; it can be hard work, but it helps you learn a lot.”

Haswell has participated in the program for two consecutive years. First, she spent several months as an additive manufacturing intern at Vista AST in Youngstown. Last summer, she applied again and was matched with Fontus Blue, where she served as a marketing assistant. She sought new clients, reached out, categorized them into databases like Salesforce and even made early introductions between new clients and the rest of her team. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she did all this remotely, and said even that didn’t hold her back.

“I enjoy finding new customers and making sure things are organized, and getting to talk to new clients is great,” she said. “When your bosses actually get somewhere with them, it feels good to be the one who made the connection. Working remotely worked out even better than I expected. Of course it was different, but I truly feel like I know my colleagues very well. Sometimes I think the job could be online full time.”

The Diversity & Inclusion Technology Internship Program can connect you with the best and brightest upcoming talent o fill your tech needs. From creating mobile apps, building out websites and developing social media platforms to implementing new software, conducting market research and enhancing cybersecurity, the program can help with virtually any tech need and pay the salary of college interns to keep your business on the move. Companies can hire up to three interns and be reimbursed up to $30,000. The summer 2021 round of applications for the internship opens for companies Feb. 1 through 22. Students can apply Feb. 15 through March 8.

“We were attracted to the program for a number of reasons,” said Fontus Blue COO Daniel Hampu. “It provides a pipeline to very talented, diverse individuals who could contribute meaningfully to some of our goals and bring unique perspectives to the table, it provides assistance with vetting candidates for various potential areas and the reimbursement support helps offset the cost. There’s plenty of research that shows that diverse teams consistently outperform non-diverse teams, and there are a lot of really talented, diverse students in Ohio. They’re more than capable of performing at high levels.

Haswell is the second intern to come through the program with Fontus Blue. After she interned there during the summer of 2019, Ashley Bair became a full-time member of the Fontus Blue team. Her success story showcases the ultimate goal of the internships: to match capable and diverse Ohio students with Ohio companies who could use a fresh set of hands to help with their innovative work. It’s why Haswell and Hampu both said they recommend the program to their peers.

“Interns that come from this program allow startups like ours to do things that we otherwise would not be able to do or test,” said Hampu. “It allows for significant progress to be made that otherwise would not have happened until much later. Additionally, this internship serves as a direct talent pipeline to highly qualified candidates that bring a plethora of diversity to the teams that they join through their internships and full-time roles. We would absolutely recommend that other companies participate, and they can look to our actions more than our words. We’ve participated twice and plan to again.”

By the end of her two internships, Haswell said the intimidation of working in a male-driven field has nearly melted away. She built strong relationships with both of her internship teams, and said she’s taken that attitude back with her. It was an experience she likely would have missed if she fell into an internship that was all coffee and menial tasks.

“I wasn’t even sure I was going to be considered because I didn’t consider myself diverse,” she said. “But once I got the position, I started realizing that simply being a woman makes me diverse in this field. I hope young women don’t overlook this program because I think it definitely helps to build your confidence. Even in class or group work, I’m more confident in helping others or being outgoing.”

The internship program is now open to applications from companies, with student applications opening Feb. 15. Internships are open to Ohio residents attending college anywhere in the United States or non-Ohio residents attending school in Ohio. For more information and to apply, click here.

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