Just this week, our high school Scholars visited Merit, a tech startup based in Albany, as part of our expanding career awareness program. Scholars met with Jason, the firm's co-founder and head of technology, Amy, vice president of marketing, and members of the client success and sales teams, Danielle, Brian and Mary.
We learned how the company started, and what it does--providing unique marketing software for colleges and universities that tells the stories of individual student accomplishments and facilitates networking for students, alumni and other key partners.
We also learned about the many roles that employees play within the growing business, from marketing, sales, project management (client success) and product development.
The speakers talked about the various skills they use in their daily work which included: writing; graphic design; public speaking; math; problem solving and coding. They also talked about some of the personal attributes that helped them to excel: relationship building; listening; persuasion; organization and, competitiveness.
They also candidly shared their own college and early career experiences, sharing a range of challenges as first generation-to-college students who struggled academically, student athletes, and overachievers.
To a person, each staff member highlighted the importance of connecting with professors and mentors to learn about opportunities for networking, internships, scholarships or even jobs.
Scholars asked probing questions of Merit's staff panelists including:
How did you start Merit?
How do servers work?
Are data farms an environmental issue?
When you got to college and you didn't know what to do, how do you know what classes to take?
We also heard from two of Merit's interns, who are both University at Albany students, Felix, a senior, and Camirr, a freshman. Both shared their insights about college (try things!), internships (do them!) and professors (they want to help you!).
Scholars wanted to know specifically about the interns' experiences at the University at Albany, and also how their high school experiences related to college.
Both young men had candid advice and insights, including:
Felix: "I never would have thought I'd be here, doing this. It's not where you've been, it's where you want to go that matters." He also advised our students to take advantage of the resources available to them in both high school and college.
Camirr stressed that it was deeply important for Scholars to "Befriend your teachers, and try things--after all, the worst the world can tell you is 'no'" Camirr also highlighted that when you get to college, "Everyone in that room is as confused and scared as you are."
Thank you to our friends at Merit, and to the Workforce Development Institute for its funding of our career exploration program.