‘Experiencing’ Indy achieves 63-point positive opinion swing among young tech talent

This summer, 50 Xterns lived together in apartments on the downtown Indianapolis campus of IUPUI and worked at various area tech companies as part of “the ultimate tech summer internship experience.” It was the inaugural class of an initiative developed to introduce the spectacular career opportunities and quality of life of the Midwest to some of the best and brightest tech talent emerging from top universities all over the region.

Did it work? Did living and working in Indy for the summer convince future tech builders and visionaries that there are powerful options for a life of substantial impact that are equal to or greater than jetting off to the coasts?

Short answer: YES!

Here’s what the data tells us. Coming into the program, 75 percent of Xterns reported they would “never” consider Indy as a place for their careers. At the close of the summer Xtern experience, 88 percent of Xterns reported being committed to returning to Indianapolis for tech careers after graduation. According to Xtern Initiative Lead Sally Reasoner, this is preliminary data and it’s likely that final results will be greater than the current 63-point swing from a negative opinion (“never” consider Indy) to a positive one (committed to returning to Indianapolis). Most initiatives are happy with and lucky to get single-digit swings in opinion polls. It’s the same for political candidates. As it turns out, experiencing all that Indianapolis has to offer young tech talent is better than any marketing freebie or October election surprise could ever hope to achieve.

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Over the course of the summer the group of Xterns gathered to hear from local industry leaders with the goal of giving the students visibility into a broad section of the tech community. This summer’s group of tech talk speakers included:

  • Aman Brar, President, Apparatus
  • Brad Bostic, Founder & CEO, hc1.com
  • Dr. Chris Martin, Orangutan Research Scientist, Indianapolis Zoo
  • Don Brown, CEO, Interactive Intelligence
  • Ed Frederici, CTO, ExactTarget
  • Max Yoder, Founder, Lesson.ly
  • Shelly Towns, VP of Product, Angie’s List
  • Dr. Stephen Voida, Assistant Professor of Human Computer Interaction, IUPUI
  • Sue Ellspermann, Lt. Governor, State of Indiana

In addition to the tech talks, students participated in group activities throughout the summer to foster friendships and explore the city, highlighting Indianapolis’ vibrant and active culture. Group events this summer included:

  • Decakademics DJ School
  • First Friday
  • Happy Hour at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
  • Indiana Historical Society
  • Indians Baseball Game
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Indianapolis Zoo
  • “Miles & Ellie” at the Phoenix Theater
  • Ronald McDonald 5k
  • Swing Dancing in Fountain Square
  • VERGE, July Event

Youth Mentorship

Xtern also partnered with the Christamore House summer camp to teach underserved youth in the community about technology. Xterns mentored 4th and 5th graders with the goal of instilling an interest in and curiosity for technology. One of the highlights for Christamore House campers was figuring out that they could alter code on live websites through the use of the inspect element tool.

Chinmay Deshpande (Indiana University ‘15) said, “I loved it. Kids are so talented over there and I felt so good while teaching them, helping them and playing with them. It was awesome. I wish I could do that part more often.”

Mentoring allowed Xterns to “pay their civic rent” and further strengthened their tie to the Indianapolis community. This was an incredibly powerful part of the program that will be expanded with next year’s class.

Read about Ryan Green’s Xtern experience.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joshua Hall is editor of techpoint.org. He writes about Indiana tech companies, jobs, people & events. @joshua2349