What Can Students do for you as a Community Partner?

August 22, 2018

This blog originally appeared on Technology is My Happy Place.

by Lisa Gottfried, teacher, New Technology High School

We often make the mistake, as educators, of going to community and industry partners with our hands out.  We ask, “What can industry do for my students? How can industry help”  It wasn’t until I was talking with a team member at an Adobe field trip that I realized that I tend to swap that request around.

My first question, whenever I meet anyone in industry is, “How can my students help you with your business?”

It was in the asking of that question, with a team of people from Adobe who happened to be touring my school, that I began what has been a powerful relationship with their company.  It turns out that Adobe often wants the feedback of students on product that is in development.  They want students who can speak up, are not afraid to offer clear opinions, that are interested in making  beautiful images with their products, that understand the basics of project management, and who are generally mature enough to work with a team of adults to communicate clearly what they want and don’t want.
To that end, a group of my students were invited to come visit Adobe Headquarters this week, to work with a team of researchers and developers on product.   Students got to show the team how they use the product, discuss what they like and don’t like, review marketing preferences, and answer a whole host of questions.  To some students, it would be intimidating to meet with 15 adults and to be put on the hot seat, but because we concentrate on building collaboration, and oral and written communication skills at New Tech High, these students were up to the task.

After having a great working session with the crew and speaking with their research folks, we has an incredibly powerful career panel, where a small team of people with varied job titles at Adobe, spoke to the students about their path from high school to Adobe.  They talked about their trials and tribulations, as well as where they chose to pivot to pursue their interests instead of staying on whatever path they thought they were supposed to pursue.  The general message was one of supporting students to think about following their bliss, considering design your own majors or double majoring in seemingly disparate subjects, or choosing minors that support their creative passions.

The entire trips was eye opening for all the students.  They were super grateful to have the time and the special connections they made with folks at Adobe.  Surprisingly, the Adobe folks were also super grateful to have the students there.  I think that in making industry partners, the relationship has to go both ways.  We can not just take, take, take, but also offer added value to our partners, such that we help companies in some way, by offering insight into a demographic they don’t normally hear from, or by creating great product that can help companies in their endeavors.

What an incredible day.  I know it has helped my students gain confidence, gain more clarity about what their next steps are in college and beyond, and it’s opened doors for them that would not normally be open.  I hope all teachers are on the lookout for ways to partner with industry.  Just remember, ask not what your industry partner can do for you, but what you can do for your industry partner!

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