Four young women sit on bean bags while looking intently at their laptops.
From left: Elma Baldesco, Michelle Kuzmicheva, Tina Lin and Mihaela Tanase, all Teen-Turn participants who interned at ACIA. Image: Connor McKenna

‘ACIA really wanted to be part of the Teen-Turn experience’

20 Sep 2018

For ACIA, partnering with Teen-Turn to bring four bright young women in to complete summer placements with the company was an absolute no-brainer.

Diversity is on the lips of every leader within the technology sector these days. There are a few reasons for this.

For one, the moral imperative of addressing the homogeneity of the tech industry has become apparent. This is only further underlined by tech employees who now, more than ever, want employers to take a moral stance on these issues.

There is also overwhelming evidence to suggest that diverse teams work better. They create better products and have better bottom lines. It goes without saying, however, that focusing solely on the monetary element of the benefits of diversity would be completely missing the point.

Whatever the case, there is a huge interest in increasing diversity in the tech sphere, and in turn a number of different ideas on how to go about it. But what if interventions being made are too late? What if the work could start earlier, before third-level education?

This is what Teen-Turn does. It attempts to help increase diversity in the tech sphere by providing teenage girls with summer internships in Ireland-based companies. This informs the girls of their career options, helps them better visualise themselves in STEM environments and provides access to female role models in the form of mentors. It’s a wonderful programme so, for the Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics (ACIA), getting on board was a no-brainer.

“The ACIA really wanted to be a part of the Teen-Turn experience, to give some young women the opportunity to step up and be part of a STEM environment,” explained Yvonne Jacobi, chief operating officer at ACIA and Teen-Turn mentor. Jacobi is quick to add that this isn’t a one-sided affair – the benefit is, unquestionably, mutual.

“We want to tap into [their] energy, enthusiasm, and see how we can contribute to their growth and their development … They’ve also been helping us with some projects here at the centre.”

Elma Baldesco, a fourth-year student at Larkin Community College, is one of four girls who completed a summer placement with ACIA. She had friends who completed the programme and gave it rave reviews. That, coupled with an enthusiastic school librarian who directed her attention to the programme, inspired her to apply.

Baldesco and the girls got to learn the basics of popular coding languages such as JavaScript.

“It’s a wonderful office, it’s really open,” added Michelle Kuzmicheva, a fourth-year student at the Presentation Secondary School, Warrenmount. Any time any of the girls needed help, Kuzmicheva explained, the team at ACIA was happy to be of assistance.

It was a bit of a surprise to Tina Lin, a fifth-year student at Mount Carmel Secondary School, who had anticipated that the work environment would be “really strict”. She said she found it to be quite the opposite. “Everybody was really nice and it was really carefree. It was a casual environment … I felt like I really developed as a person.”

For Mihaela Tanase, a fourth-year student at St Joseph’s Secondary School, entering an office environment for the first time was very much “out of [her] comfort zone”. She added: “But it was really helpful, I think, for me. It really built up my confidence and made me improve my social skills.”

To hear more from these young women about how their time at ACIA benefited them, check out the video above.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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