Through Spark, Gartner associates in our Chicago office hosted middle school students for a Spark Lab, a two-hour skill-building workshop. Spark is a career-exploration and self-discovery program that enables middle school students to understand, experience and pursue what’s possible for their futures. Since 2013, Gartner Chicago has partnered with Spark through its on-site workshops in the fall and weekly mentorship in the spring.
People look forward to the fall for a number of reasons — leaves changing, football season, trips to the apple orchard or pumpkin patch, etc. — but since coming here in 2016, I’ve always looked forward to fall because it means we’ll be kicking off our volunteering with the Spark Program.
A few weeks back, we hosted 40 seventh-grade students from Deneen School of Excellence in the office for our Spark Lab. During our time together, we started with a company introduction and tour of the office. My colleague Corey Jackson did a great job with the introduction, and allowed students to ask questions about overcoming obstacles, getting into and through college, and finding their own career paths. Once we wrapped up questions, we then split into small groups for tours of the office which allowed the students visibility into what an office is like and gain exposure to different types of career paths through interactions with different team members. As we wandered around for the tour, the students were so impressed by everything — it was a great reminder of all the “perks” we have at work that I take for granted, such as the multiple monitors, the different types of working spaces and fresh-brewed coffee.
After the tour, we transitioned into activities. The activities this year focused on self-management and decision making through interactive games such as “Family Feud.” While the games are designed to be fun, they led to some deeper conversations around coping mechanisms and stress management. Seeing the girls I was working with feed off of one another’s energy and quickly become comfortable sharing with us was a great reminder of why I choose to volunteer each semester.
Gartner invites its employees to participate in various volunteering opportunities throughout the year. I recently joined about 20 of my colleagues in the Spark Labs event hosted in our Chicago office. We were all anxiously awaiting all of the seventh-grade students to participate in various activities for a couple of hours. We broke up into eight groups with a couple of Gartner employees at each table and the kids got to pick a table of their choice. Once we all got settled, we did some quick introductions and got into the event.
First on the list was an office tour. Now, I think our new workspace is amazing, but who knows how it looks through the eyes of seventh-graders. We walked them around, showing the amazing views of the city, the break room, various work areas set up throughout the office, and even our individual workspaces. They were in awe to say the least. They wanted to know what we did, how we got here — and then told us that they wanted to work here, too! After the tour, we went back to our small groups and played a “Family Feud”-type game around stresses at school. Then we did another exercise around handling the various stresses caused at school. The kids were very interactive, and their participation was great. Then we changed it to what they believe causes stress for us in the workplace. It was great to see their faces light up when they saw that we as professionals deal with stress as well. Then we chatted about their future and making good connections to help them be successful.
The two hours went by too fast, and the kids didn’t want it to end — and neither did I. It was such a good feeling to see how impactful our conversations were, and helping show what it was possible for them to achieve in their future. It was exciting for me to see the passion our future generation has, and I can’t wait for the next one!
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