I was nervously anticipating this moment at the District C Pitch Night – our recommendations could either strike the right chord with the company or go horribly wrong. Critiquing an established company in front of their managing director was a challenging task, especially when providing honest feedback about how they could improve.
For the past three weeks, I had been working with my District C Squad (comprised of three other high school students from the Triangle) to solve a problem for the international tech company thoughtbot. Thoughtbot is a design and developing consultancy firm that sought our help with a business problem: hiring a more diverse team of designers and developers, especially women, for their Raleigh office. My squad and I spent hours on Zoom video chat working to dive deeper in the company to pull out the real reasons behind this issue. With coaches on hand to guide and mentor us, we learned how to develop a collective mindset, refine our questioning skills, and make meetings more effective. The time flew by as my squad and I interviewed employees from the company, toured the Raleigh thoughtbot office, and developed a questionnaire that was randomly sent to local computer science college students to collect valuable research for our pitch. Through this process, we uncovered some of the real reasons the company struggled to hire female candidates: limited recruiting channels and company promotion, a disorganized workplace environment, and a lack of urgency when hiring. We carefully crafted our pitch by pulling significant statistics, data from the questionnaire, and concrete solutions from our research to effectively build our slide deck.
Fast forward back to Pitch Night, I could feel the energy in the room and all eyes upon us. To my great relief, the thoughtbot representatives at the pitch were receptive to our ideas and genuinely excited about the information we shared. In fact, they are already making plans to implement some of the solutions we pitched such as hiring faster, establishing a better workplace environment, and buying LinkedIn Recruiter – all supported by our statistics and research. I am so grateful for this unique opportunity to work with both District C and thoughtbot. The District C experience allowed me to learn in an innovative way by collaborating with a diverse team to solve a real business problem. One of my biggest takeaways was the importance of tackling challenges by diving deeper instead of just looking at the surface. Additionally, I learned how to work with a new team of people by understanding each other's strengths and weaknesses to collaborate more effectively. I am thrilled that all Saint Mary's students will get to experience District C in the future through our new seminar program.