LinkedIn’s High School Trainee Program: Creating a Lasting Impact
September 21, 2016
At the end of 2014, while defining initiatives and metrics for 2015, our Women in Tech executive team had a hypothesis: if girls are exposed to an embedded coding experience in technology prior to college, they will be more likely to complete studies in computer science and related fields when pursuing their degrees. But, like any good hypothesis, it needed to be tested. So in 2015, members of our Women in Tech initiative conducted a pilot high school trainee program for software development for girls.
2015 Trainees following their executive coaching session with Judith Sherven, PhD and Jim Sniechowski, PhD
The pilot program consisted of seven trainees who were embedded within two of our engineering organizations. The trainees came by recommendation of several organizations we partner with and were from a number of local schools. Each trainee applied to the program and went through technical and behavioral interviews with a set of volunteers from our Women in Tech program. The trainees in 2015 worked Monday through Friday, 40 hours a week on campus. In 2016, we modified the program to be Monday through Thursday, 32 hours a week on campus. Each group of trainees was assigned to a dedicated mentor. We combined two or three trainees together on each given project so that they could help each other learn and participate in pair programming (one of the best ways to teach problem solving and collaboration through coding).
2015 Trainees take a pizza-making class with their mentors
While it was a small pilot, the results were encouraging. At the end of the eight week program, 100% of the trainees declared an intent to study a STEM major, and 71% declared an intent to study computer science in particular. In addition, 100% indicated plans to continue coding in some way as they move forward, and 100% of the trainees said they would recommend the program to a friend.
2016 Trainees arrive for orientation
With those positive results, we decided to expand to a larger pilot for 2016. This year, 10 high school trainees were paired with 6 mentors. In addition to being embedded as engineers and having the opportunity to participate in several fun company events, we also planned weekly mentoring lunches with with two of our senior female leaders. This year we also added a summit, where trainees received executive coaching and advice from trainees from the 2015 program. The results for the 2016 class were even more impressive than the previous year. Again, 100% of trainees would recommend the program to a friend. Every participant declared an intent to study STEM in college, and 90% declared an intent to study computer science in particular.
2016 Trainees all dressed up for their weekly lunch with women leaders
Additionally, we found that now 100% of the class of 2015 are studying computer science at the university level, either as a major or minor. This is a program that is truly driving change for the future of our industry, and I look forward to working with these courageous and tenacious young women in future years.
Thanks to all the people at LinkedIn who contributed to this effort over the past two years. Robert Bennett, Casey Klimkowsky and Anna Keramaty, who served as the planning team for the 2016 edition, along with our campus recruiting team, and the WIT Volunteer Task Force who helped with interviews. 2015 Mentors: Marcos Mellado, Will Hastings, Varun Varada, Kiran Shivaram, Sriram Palacharla, and Bhavana Challa. 2016 Mentors: Ling Lin, Stephanie Lie, Allison Thater, Audrey Alpizar, Nicole Ng, and Xin Cai. And, of course, thanks to Erica Lockheimer, our WIT leader and my partner in crime.