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Filtering by Tag: inclusion

Empowering the next generation of STEM Leaders

Kelly Salance


Diverse and inclusive companies are more successful and more profitable than those companies that are not. The most simple search on the correlations between a diversity and profitability immediately return numerous, well-researched and substantiated reports correlating these two goals positively.

For instance: “Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity at the executive level are 33 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile, according to McKinsey’s report, “Delivering through Diversity. And the list of other think tanks citing these same benefits goes on and on.

Yet, the reality is the vast majority of the tech industry struggles with representation of minority groups, including women, which is why at the Zendesk Neighbor Foundation one of our core values is creating equity within our workplace, our communities, and society. One organization we partner with to help achieve this is Teen-Turn in our Dublin office.

Teen-Turn provides teen girls aged 15 to 16 years old the opportunity to gain hands-on technology experience through after-school workshops and two-week summer work placement in technology companies. Teen-Turn’s philosophy is rooted in the idea that when girls are users of technology, but are not involved in building that technology, their perspectives are not incorporated into the design. The end result is a myopic product that doesn’t reflect their needs. Given tech’s ubiquity throughout nearly everything we do, and increasing estimates that thousands of unfilled software engineering jobs will continue to go unfilled, balanced representation is not only necessary from a customer experience perspective, without it, economies risk becoming increasingly vulnerable.

So at Teen-Turn, young women are encouraged to experience, what it is to contribute to the very technology they use. In doing so, girls can better understand the importance of having a say in how a product that they use is developed, and why they might want to have a career in technology.

Nikita and Greta with Zendesk staff at our Dublin Office opening.

Nikita and Greta with Zendesk staff at our Dublin Office opening.

Zendesk recently hosted two Teen-Turn interns, Nikita and Greta, to join us for a two-week ‘Teen-Turnship’ working with our software engineering team in Dublin. While at Zendesk, they met with each department to better understand the business and then focused the majority of their time on learning how to code using Ruby on Rails. Throughout the two weeks, they spent time learning the basics of the language eventually starting to build websites of their own.

The result: “It’s not boring at all!” according to Nikita. Both were surprised with how fun coding was and said they would love to take more computer science courses after they finish their certs this year. Greta said she found that learning about localization in engineering was really interesting and wants to explore that in her future classes. Meanwhile, Nikita’s biggest takeaway was that there are so many different roles in a technology company that it was the first time she considered that there is a place for her in the tech industry.

While we know there isn’t one simple solution to increasing representation in our industry, for many Teen-Turn girls, this internship is first time they can see themselves working in technology. It is one small piece that adds up to building a more diverse workforce. If you are interested in working with Teen-Turn reach out to them here.

Internship Spotlight: Roy Abouhamad

Kelly Salance

At the Zendesk Neighbor Foundation, we strongly believe in creating equity within our communities, workplace, and society. One way we achieve this is through workforce development programs — programs and internships that provide opportunities for job seekers to expand their skill sets while gaining exposure to the workforce. In our London office, we partner with HeadStart London to do just that.

HeadStart London is an organization that brings together industry leaders, charities, and young people to bridge the gap between schools and work. Through HeadStart youth aged 16-18 participate in workshops and interviews and eventually have the opportunity for work with partner businesses. Zendesk has partnered with HeadStart since 2015, hiring cohorts of students for week-long internships. One such student was Roy who interned in April 2017. While here, Roy made lasting connections. That summer he applied and was selected for an internship with our Sales team.

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What made you choose HeadStart?

I started in the National Citizen Service program, an organization that offers 15 to 17 year olds the opportunity to try new things, learn new skills, and meet new people. While at NCS, I attended a HeadStart workshop and learned what a cool program it was. HeadStart is designed to allow young people to get ahead in their career if they volunteer at least 16 hours of their time in the local community. While I was a bit skeptical about the program at first, one of the potential employers — Zendesk — caught my eye.

Roy with the other HeadStart interns during his week long internship last year.

Roy with the other HeadStart interns during his week long internship last year.

How was your first week of work experience?

I joined the Customer Success team and really enjoyed it. It was a totally new experience for me as I have not worked in an office environment before but everyone was so nice and accommodating. I learned so much that week. My two big takeaways were learning how to be a part of a team and how to work towards a deadline. Both are important skills that I just hadn’t had a lot of exposure to before being in an office.

How has your time been in the Sales Department for your Summer internship?

I have really enjoyed it! I spent the summer researching people that we can contact within businesses and inputting that information into Salesforce. It is a whole new skill set I learned this summer. The highlight for me is definitely being a part of the team and the general working environment.

What advice would you give to other potential HeadStart Interns?

Work hard and try to do things that will make you memorable at Zendesk. I continually emailed to see if there were any potential summer internships which resulted in me being interviewed for this internship role.

What are you career goals and aspirations?

I am currently on my way to University and am waiting to find out which one I got into. From there, I eventually want to become a software engineer working for a technology company. My time at Zendesk strengthened my dream of working as a coder in the tech industry while providing me the work experience I need to get there.

Roy is one of the 55 week-long interns that Zendesk has hosted over the last three and a half years. Want to host interns in your office? Reach out to info@neighborfoundation to learn more about how we run our program or to HeadStart directly if you want to launch this program in your office.