At Genesys Works, our mission is to provide pathways to career success for high school students in underserved communities through skills training, meaningful work experiences, and impactful relationships.
Our proven model not only changes the future trajectory of students’ lives, but also has a ripple effect in their families, communities, companies, and society at large.
I am writing to you from my dining table office, where I have been for the past year. I expect many of you are reading this message from a similar spot. The last twelve months have changed the Bay Area in ways that I could never have predicted. Yet, the one thing I would have bet on, and I always will, is the tenacity of the young people we serve to overcome any challenge they face.
On March 13, the Bay Area led the nation in implementing shelter in place orders to stop the spread of COVID-19. Our 46 interns in Cohort 7 hung in the balance; with so much uncertainty facing our community, it was unclear if their work placements would continue. Incredibly, our corporate partners and our funding community stepped up to meet this monumental challenge, and within two weeks, all of our interns were again in stable, remote work environments. For many of these young professionals, Genesys Works was one of the only steady pillars in their world last year. At the height of the pandemic, 45% of our young professionals were the sole wage earner in their household. This entire class of students graduated from high school virtually. Their Genesys Works internships provided a critical lifeline during a tumultuous season.
Benicio first stepped foot into Salesforce Tower as a junior during a class trip in 2019, and he was hooked from the moment he arrived. While his high school experience to this point had been challenging, he felt that this day at Salesforce could provide him a new beginning. As he toured the building with fellow students, his tour guide introduced them to a high school intern, Lizette. Benicio remembers, “I immediately asked her ‘How did you get this job?’” Lizette’s response: “Genesys Works.”
Unwilling to let this opportunity pass him by, Benicio applied and successfully navigated the Genesys Works entrance process, a virtual summer skills training, and the Golden Gate University Data Analytics course. When Benicio found out that his Genesys Works internship would be at Salesforce, he was ecstatic. Benicio hopes to continue his education at UC Berkeley in robotics after graduating, and he credits his internship with putting him on the path to success.
“For some, it was just another field trip to get out of class. For me, it was one step closer to my dreams.”
Benicio’s mother, Raquel, has seen the positive impact that Genesys Works had on her son after his high school transfer. “I watched my son go through school with good grades but very uninspired. Time just kept going, and he was not excited about anything until he took the trip to Salesforce and learned about Genesys Works. I could see the excitement in his eyes and hear it in his voice. He worked to get in, and he was focused during the program. I was elated to hear him talk about what he was doing, and his dad and I were so proud when he got an internship at Salesforce.”
She continued, “Just today, he told me that he and his supervisor had a conversation about his schoolwork and stress; it’s a relief to hear that other people besides his parents are advising and supporting him. It truly takes a village to support a child and Genesys Works is a very important member of our village.”
In 2020, Genesys Works Bay Area launched the organization’s first collegiate partnership with Golden Gate University. Through this initiative, young professionals in our signature Summer Skills Training would undertake a college-level data analytics course, receiving college credit and a micro certification along the way. Golden Gate University proved to be a perfect partner for COVID times, pivoting the course to virtual without a hitch. The class itself was no small undertaking, but an incredible 61 students completed the curriculum – and one of them was Connie Wang.
Connie is now blazing a trail on the Client Engineering team at Snowflake, the Data Cloud company. Snowflake is a returning Genesys Works partner who provided three remote internships this year. Her technical lead, Tom Larkin, is no stranger to mentoring interns but told us that Connie is a stand-out young professional. “She’s just such a fast learner. When Connie initially started her internship, she was working exclusively on IT mediation tickets, and she completed over 200 tickets in about 45 days.” Connie continues to jump at any learning opportunity provided to her, which makes Snowflake a great environment for her to work in. Tom told us, “At Snowflake, we encourage a culture of training and education, so I’m now teaching her to write code in two languages. We put a piece of her code into production recently! She has set a really high bar for future interns.”
Companies like Snowflake are critical to making experiences like Connie’s possible. We are so proud to partner with this team and are grateful to all of our corporate partners – like Snowflake – who joined us to continue providing opportunities for Bay Area students during this unprecedented year.
While Genesys Works prides itself on preparing young professionals for technical roles, our corporate partners span a multitude of sectors across the Bay Area – including the public sector. One of our longest-running partnerships is with San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA), which has hosted 73 interns since our programmatic launch in 2013. While 2020 presented unprecedented challenges for SFMTA, it responded by unveiling new initiatives – such as Slow Streets – and maintaining traditions – including the Muni Art Project – that helped everyone navigate a new world.
Like SFMTA, Genesys Works Young Professional May Li is committed to overcoming any obstacle. She worked tenaciously to learn English while in elementary school, and she has supported her family financially since she was 14. In her current role as a Leave of Absence Management Intern in the HR Department, May is learning under the guidance of Bonnie Chung – Genesys Works’ 2020 Distinguished Supervisor of the Year. In this role, May is managing leaves from beginning to end, which, she reminds us, “includes but is not limited to the initial intake, the processing of a leave in HR systems, and an employee’s physical return back to work.”
Bonnie notes, “Genesys Works is one of the best student to work prep programs I’ve seen in the Bay Area. For a student to come into our fast-paced, complex environment and just flourish (due to the collaborative type of training) has been astounding. I wish I was so lucky to have had this program when I was in high school.” May has also taken on new roles during this unprecedented year – like applying to college, with the hopes of studying business – and continued old ones – financially supporting her family.
In the spring of 2020, Lorena Reynoso found herself at a crossroads. Lorena was passionate about STEM and had spent countless hours during and after school pursuing every opportunity she could to learn about app creation, coding, and computer engineering. However, as COVID-19 forced the Bay Area into lockdown, she wasn’t sure when her next option for technological learning would come. What would be available to her during her senior year of high school?
Luckily for Lorena, her cousin Manuel Preciado had the answer for her: Genesys Works. Manuel, then a high school senior, was thriving in his Genesys Works internship. Okta, a keystone partner of Genesys Works, had transitioned all of their interns to working remotely during the pandemic, and young professionals like Manuel were reaping the benefit by continuing to learn and earn a paycheck – even as the rest of the world ground to a halt. Manuel told Lorena that Genesys Works would give her the opportunity to put her passions to work, and he encouraged her to apply for the next cohort. Lorena applied, was accepted, and is now succeeding in Genesys Works’ eighth cohort. Partners like Okta – who tripled their number of Genesys Works interns in 2020 – make these opportunities possible for young professionals like Lorena and Manuel.
Manuel & Lorena’s parents didn’t have the chance to pursue higher education – but they knew they wanted their children to do so. Building on his successes on the Okta Marketing Team, Manuel is now studying Communication at Merritt College. Lorena hopes to become a computer engineer – but no matter where she lands, she is determined to inspire her younger siblings and other Latinx students to know that college and STEM careers are for them. We have no doubt that she will do that, and so much more!
We are honored to thank our 21 corporate partners who pivoted with us to provide virtual internships in 2020.
At a time of global uncertainty, these companies worked diligently to ensure that internships continued to be a source of stability and income for young professionals. With the support of our corporate partners, we celebrated a 100% persistence rate for virtual internships in 2020. We are so grateful for this commitment to equity, to opportunity, and to building a better Bay Area.