UMSL, IBM workshop allows Normandy High School girls to get techy

UMSL student Kat Mierek (baseball cap) helps Normandy High School students during a workshop on IBM’s Bluemix software. (Photo by Jen Hatton)

UMSL student Kat Mierek (baseball cap) helps Normandy High School students during a workshop on IBM’s Bluemix software. (Photo by Jen Hatton)

Kat Mierek, a University of Missouri–St. Louis information systems major, enjoys teaching others about technology. So when the opportunity arose for her to teach high school students, she jumped at the chance.

“I want to work in the information systems industry, and as a part of it, I want to teach others at all different levels,” Mierek said.

UMSL partnered with IBM on Oct. 9 to host a workshop for 29 junior and senior girls from Normandy High School. The focus was to spark an interest in information technology careers. The high school students spent the day on UMSL’s campus learning IBM’s Bluemix, which is a single platform delivered across public, dedicated and on-premise clouds. Mierek was one of 11 UMSL students who helped the Normandy participants with the software.

In addition, students heard from several female IBM executives and had a chance to network and gain insight into IT jobs.

Normandy High School senior Calah Shields said she’s interested in going into communications, but she knows that technology is at the root of everything.

“No matter what career path I take, technology will play a part, and as long as I am aware and prepared, it will put me that much ahead of the next person,” Shields said. “I really enjoy participating in things like this and thank UMSL for making it possible. Having a chance to talk with UMSL students, as well as IBM professionals, is pretty amazing.”

Mary Book, technical sales manager from IBM, said the idea originated with UMSL alumna and IBM executive Lisa Yanker.

“Lisa serves on the UMSL Information Systems Advisory Board, and she wanted to create a way for high school students to have an opportunity to work with Bluemix, talk with other women in the field and learn about the many opportunities out there for them,” Book said. “It’s been a great success. I see the students eager to learn and excited about technology.”

Dinesh Mirchandani, professor of information systems at UMSL, said events like this are a win-win for all involved.

“This gives UMSL students a chance to teach, high school students an opportunity to learn about an exciting career field and IBM the chance to help grow the future local work force,” Mirchandani said. “Events like this are exciting. When everyone involved is passionate about it, it makes for an amazing collaboration.”

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