2021 Goals: Find Ways You Can Mentor the Next Generation of IT

By Michelle Lange

Brad Nauman sits in with a lot of classes as both a college instructor and a volunteer for Creating IT Futures and has one clear takeaway from the CompTIA Tech Career Academy classrooms: “These are really sharp students.”

Toward graduation time, Nauman — or a team member from ServiceNow like program developer Neal Laufenberg — comes to class and presents a high-level talk on workflow, automation, industry standards and what ITSM means. After the talk, students ask questions and they go in

“People who are just starting out in the industry are stumping us in these classrooms,” Nauman said. “That feels good. A little humbling but pretty good. It tells us how fresh their minds are and unencumbered by preconceptions.”

That unfiltered feedback is one of the reasons ServiceNow keeps partnering with Creating IT Futures. And having a professional come in and talk to the class is a huge lesson benefit for the students in the CompTIA Tech classes, where the average age is 30 and most students have little or no experience in technology. Students want to know what’s in store for them and how to make the right first steps in their technology careers. 

“Oftentimes they’re expecting a master plan, a great story where ‘I did this and this and planned for this and put this in place,’ but for a lot of us it just happened,” said Nauman. “We find ourselves doing this and it hasn’t been a straight line.” 

By the time the class session is over, Nauman usually has 10 new LinkedIn connections who become people he follows through their early careers in technology. “The smart ones know how to start networking,” Nauman said. “Watching their career progression is great, the people in the Academy are there for a reason.”


Mentoring the Next Generation of IT Pros

The talk is one of the many mentoring and educational outreaches ServiceNow has offered in partnership over the years. Back when they first got to know each other, ServiceNow was part of one of the most strategic add-ons Kathy Brennan can recall in her time at Creating IT Futures and later CompTIA Tech. Back in 2013, the classroom work was all about the book — not much practical application or hands-on experience in a help desk environment.

“We talk about ticketing in the curriculum but needed to expose them to a real live workshop,” said Brennan, who helps develop new on-ramps to technology careers and helps people get their first jobs in technology as national director of career services at CompTIA Tech. She connected with Laufenberg, and ServiceNow offered up some education.

“We discussed having ServiceNow facilitate a workshop for the class,” she said. ServiceNow went above and beyond, offering solution architects who could talk to the class at a high level, plus access to their ticketing platform and experience walking through an incident. All those lessons add up to resume experience, specifics that can set a new hire apart from the pile of applicants.


Why ServiceNow Keeps Coming Back

In return for the short programs and presentations ServiceNow gets a lot of benefits, Nauman said.

“There’s a benefit for the people in the classrooms and ServiceNow benefits from doing this through name recognition, production recognition and understanding of what we do,” Nauman said. “Look at it as an investment.”

Weighty Minneapolis-area employers like United Health Group bring in graduates from CompTIA Tech, and Nauman gets feedback from people working in the field.

“We’ve had several students say “Hey I work at XYZ and we use ServiceNow,” Nauman said. “We’re talking to a class of 20 people. That means 20 people are entering the marketplace with knowledge of ServiceNow. The lifeblood of our business is to get more talented people in the industry who know what we do, and introducing students to us is a benefit for the company.”

Short workshops like that give CompTIA Tech graduates confidence in going out for jobs, and an edge over their competition. They’ve also got ServiceNow experience on their resumes, and experience doing an incident walk-through.


Ways You Can Get Involved

When you’re writing down your goals for 2021, consider partnering with Creating IT Futures and CompTIA Tech and developing an educational piece to help people understand the IT ecosystem. You can help raise up the next generation of IT professionals by offering your expertise in the classroom. According to Brennan, that could mean:

  • Hiring a graduate for an entry-level tech position,
  • Assisting with mock interviews,
  • Sharing your tech career story with the class,
  • Becoming a mentor and/or
  • Speed networking on the last day of class.

“When our employer partners engage with our students, it gives them knowledge of the marketplace and helps to instill confidence,” Brennan said.

The ServiceNow team also benefits from the personal experience of giving back. “It’s incredibly rewarding,” Nauman said. “Learn what Kathy and her team do. There’s a lot in the news about how we take care of people who are going through transitions or are disadvantaged, and this is a great example of an organization where people have taken it upon themselves and work incredibly hard to help benefit people and help improve their careers.”

To find ways your company can mentor the next generation of IT pros, visit our Hire page or check out the other industry volunteer opportunities at Creating IT Futures.


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