This article was originally published in the Harker Quarterly Spring 2011 Edition
This spring the Harker Mentoring Program has been running a series of special career panels geared toward giving students expert career guidance and advice without adding too much to their already busy schedules. “The purpose of these panels is to give students a broader perspective and allow them to explore different avenues without actually having to commit to a full internship or mentor shadowing program,” said MaryEllis Deacon, assistant to the executive director of advancement, who coordinates the panels along with Joe Rosenthal, advancement director.
They also serve to give students a better idea of the types of internships they might want to apply for or mentors they may want to shadow.
Deacon and Rosenthal have been working with the Next Entrepreneurs of the World (NEW) student club to help bring in speakers and generate student interest in the panels by announcing the speakers at student assemblies. They also provide suggestions for speakers at upcoming panels and pass along student feedback to provide the organizers with more insight.
“We are so lucky to live here in Silicon Valley with such amazing innovators in science, technology, biotech, solar power, you name it,” said Sarina Vij, grade 10, who is co-president of NEW with her brother, Sameer, grade 9. “We as Harker students are very fortunate for having the opportunity to hear some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs and also receive internship opportunities.”
Speakers are culled from the Harker community, and most panelists so far have been Harker parents. “It does give the students an easier starting point, and that makes them feel a little more comfortable, given that they know that [the mentors] are Harker parents,” Deacon said, adding that it is easier for students to relate to members of the Harker community.
The three panels held thus far have featured inspirational success stories such as Gary Gauba (parent of Alexis, grade 6 and Ashley, grade 2), who founded a number of successful startups in the 1990s and early 2000s and is now the CEO and founder of Cognilytics, Inc., which offers predictive analysis and business intelligence to its clients.
During the first panel in January, which focused on entrepreneurship, Gauba told the students, “Entrepreneurship is in your DNA. You need an event or a catalyst to unleash that entrepreneur out of you.” One such event, he said, could be working at a company where one’s ideas are not being heard. “I’m a firm believer of Darwin’s theory. You have to adapt, evolve and thrive,” he said. “You need to continuously adapt, but you have to have an end goal in mind.”
Being innovative, having a solution to a specific problem and working with the right people, he said, are also highly important. The “core elements,” he said, “are all in you. You have to figure out how to pull them together.”
Charles Huang (Kaylan, grade 7) also spoke at an entrepreneurship panel. Huang founded a company called RedOctane in 1999 with his brother, Kai. Inspired by music-based games that were extremely popular in Asia, RedOctane went on to create “Guitar Hero,” one of the most popular video game franchises of the last decade.
“Guitar Hero” offered an interesting twist on the music game genre, which was not very popular outside of Asia. “What we were trying to do was to create a game that would sell you the aspiration that you were a rock star,” he said. This story demonstrated the wealth of great ideas waiting to be leveraged all over the world. “Go see the world. Look for opportunities,” he said. He also encouraged students to do what they love, but also to “do what other people love. What you love allows you to make great products and services and generate great ideas, but if you can do what a lot of other people love, then that gives you a tremendous opportunity to enter a big market.”
Each new panel offers speakers from different fields. The most recent panel on Feb. 16 featured tech executives Srini Madala of SoftSol (Ajay, grade 2; Samantha, grade 8) and Anita Manwani-Bhagat (Simrun, grade 11; Vikram, grade 9) of Carobar Business Solutions. The purpose of offering panels with different themes is to help students gather guidance on a wide variety of careers so that they are better able to know what paths are available to them. Panelists also engage in question and-answer sessions following their lectures, allowing students further insight into possible career choices.
Deacon said students have responded positively to the panels so far. “Some have come and given their resumes, and they are trying to figure out internships,” she said. “For some students it’s kind of opened different doors.”
Students also appreciate that the panels are scheduled during long lunches so that they do not interfere with studies or class time. “It doesn’t take away from academic time, and it gives them a little insight,” Deacon said. “It’s just to let them learn.”