Last Friday, we hosted a Virtual Think IT and Genesys Works Panel Event to highlight the amazing impact Genesys Works has on the Minneapolis community. A huge thank you to Genesys Works Board Members, Anil Arcalgud, EVP and Chief Information Officer at Ecolab, Matt Neale, SVP, Chief Information Officer at Agiliti Health, Allison Barmann, Executive Director at Genesys Works – Twin Cities, and Dionne Gharamu, Housing Project Manager at City of St. Paul. Thank you to everyone who joined the event and participated in the discussion!
Below you will find an overview of the most popular questions from our members and a summary of what was discussed.
What is Genesys Works?
Genesys Works is a non-profit organization that provides pathways to career success for high school students in underserved communities through skills training, meaningful work experience/internships, college and career coaching, and impactful relationships. This program gives students an opportunity to get the experience they need for success but might not have ever had access to without the intervention of Genesys Works.
These students go through an 8-week long skills training course that teaches them professional and technical skills in information technology and business operations. This course prepares students with skills and confidence to then be placed in an internship with one of Genesys Works’ corporate partners. Many students are offered full-time positions that kick off their career journey on the right path. The students that make up this diverse pool of talent are extremely valued by those who have given them an opportunity to prove their skills and their worth in the corporate world.
Why are you involved in Genesys Works?
Anil Arcalgud: Genesys Works is one of his deep passions and serves two of the objectives that Ecolab is targeting: diversity and providing those an opportunity who need a step up in the world. It is important that he participates in ending the cycle of poverty for these students and helping them become first-generation college graduates. In the corporate world, these students don’t normally fall into the traditional talent pipeline that students from upper and middle-class communities do. Genesys Works brings this pipeline to their corporate partners and provides them with an untapped pool of young professionals, which benefits both the student and the company. At Ecolab, Anil has found great success with this program and would encourage other companies to get involved.
Allison Barmann: The reason Allison joined Genesys Works as the Executive Director was simply to create opportunity. “I see so much talent out there, and I think it is a tragedy that a talented young person is not getting the opportunities that they should only because of who their parents are, where they live, the school they go to, etc.” She has seen many success stories come from this program and she strives to keep the program growing.
Dionne Gharamu: Dionne’s involvement in Genesys works has stemmed from his own success within the program. He was a person of color, growing up in a low-income, inner-city household with a family that could not aid him in navigating the corporate world successfully when he was introduced to Genesys Works. At the time, he had no meaningful relationships with leaders and professionals that understood his situation and saw his desire to break the cycle. There are side-effects of growing up in a community that lacks resources, but Genesys Works gave him the opportunity to change that path for himself. In 2009-2010, he completed his Genesys Works internship and had more clarity than ever about what he wanted and his potential. His experience with Genesys Works was “life-changing” and it taught him how valuable relationships are when navigating career success.
Matt Neale: In years before Matt’s involvement with Genesys Works, he spent some time mentoring underserved, at-risk, high school students, which is where his passion began to develop. Matt originally became involved with Genesys Works when he worked at Target, which has been a huge partner with Genesys Works over the years. When he left Target, he stayed involved by becoming a board member and has worked hard at being able to provide the same opportunity at his new company, Agiliti Health. Genesys Works brought together his passion for wanting to help students who needed a mentor and opportunity with the work he does every day in technology. This organization is unique as a nonprofit in that it really is a self-fueling machine, the revenue source of Genesys Works comes from those internships, which then funnels most of the income generated back into the pockets of those students.
What are some of the most important initiatives being discussed right now to make GW even better?
One of the most important strategies the Board Members have been focusing on for the past few years is the “Go Forward” strategy for Genesys Works. They already have a very powerful model, that has proven to be successful, but they are continuing to redefine and sharpen it to become an even better model. The Board Members have raised the question of “are we active enough in the communities that need us most?” While it is clear, based on the data, that they are reaching the right people, they feel that they can double down in those underserved communities and do more. Another point of discussion is how to aid students in a path that either involves college or doesn’t. Getting these students into college isn’t the only goal, it’s setting them up with the correct tools that will give them the experience to have a career that will bring them success and move them and their families forward. Genesys Works has evolved from being a high school program to a program devoted to helping students and their career success.
Question for Dionne: What were the challenges you faced as you transitioned into a young professional? One of the biggest challenges he faced was willingly putting himself into unfamiliar territory and going into an environment that he hasn’t personally seen anyone succeed in. He couldn’t learn from others’ experiences around him and build confidence in himself. The lack of assurance can work against students in similar situations and prevent them from taking the next step in their career path. It was helpful for him to be able to go through this program with his peers, build camaraderie with them, and eventually see them succeed. Once he finally began this program, his lack of confidence in himself went away, and he realized that he was just as capable as anyone else. This realization laid the foundation of how highly he values professional development and how optimistic he is about the pay-off of investing his time and energy into it.
What makes a good corporate partner and why?
A good partner is someone who can provide students a good environment for learning and the dedication to taking the time to assure these students find success. Companies also need to make sure that these experiences and opportunities are repetitive and consistent with success for the student, not just the company.
Genesys Works is an incredible organization that has impacted so many young lives in our community. If you are interested in getting involved, please visit their website for more information.