I am part of a team of volunteer advisors for the JA Company Program, which Deloitte has been involved in for longer than anyone can remember around our Toronto office. JA Company program allows groups of students to form a real company, under the guidance of real business-world volunteer advisors for seven months out of each year. I bring my expertise and perspectives as a technology consultant building solutions for our clients, and I strongly encourage our students to develop a technology based start up.
At the start of each new program year, we welcome back some familiar faces, and a bunch of new students who are eager to learn about entrepreneurship. Something that surprised me, which I didn’t immediately consider, is how many contextual details students are picking up on which has nothing to do with the program we are teaching. At the end of my first year as an advisor, three female students who had initially chosen to study business in university changed their majors two days before add/drop closed to software engineering and data science. When I asked them about it later, they cited myself and a few other female advisors who are working in technology as having been strong influencers in their decision to pursue technical fields. I was astounded – by just being myself – a woman in technology, I’d inadvertently changed someone’s direction. Who knew I had so much power? Teaching these incredible young people and seeing the impact that I can have on someone both in my actions and in the insights I bring in the process has deepened my commitment to mentoring junior talent, as I find it to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
In addition to promoting STEM careers, I serve as a mentor to students, helping them to learn the skills that will serve them well in their careers and in their lives. I think one of the most important things you can teach a student is to enjoy the process rather than focusing on the destination. Knowing how to enjoy the ups and downs of starting a company and using each as opportunities to better yourself is a skill that benefits a person forever. Knowing how to translate this concept to a 17 year old is something I have had to learn and I am able to transfer that skill and apply it to a client setting.
I have also gained confidence through my volunteer work. I’ve fine-tuned how I articulate ideas and feedback, and I’ve been able to practice trusting my intuition. I have now branched out into additional student mentorship activities, with full confidence in the value I bring and the contributions I make.
I sum up my experience by saying that volunteering for JA is one of the best things I’ve ever done, professionally! I got involved to make a difference to someone, and one of those people ended up being me.
Deloitte Canada is providing young people with real-world business experience by supporting JA Company Program. Hear more from those involved and those impacted by this initiative by visiting our WorldClass page.