Make The Most of Conference Scholarships & Networking With These Tips
Ever wonder how someone made it to the successful position they have? Curious about how their career began? Interested to hear their suggestions for those who are just starting out? We recently were able to sit down with some industry leaders who were willing to share their tips on career growth and their own career journey in a series of conversations.
In this post, we’ll learn from a young developer and teenprenuer Destiny Adams. She recently entered her sophomore year at Georgia State University, so you might think Destiny’s career hasn’t even started yet. However, her community engagement and business efforts started in middle school and at a very young age. She’s already made a huge impact on the tech industry by equipping youth with coding and leadership skills.
What you need to know:
- Networking and community engagement is the best way to find new opportunities.
- There are a lot of great conference scholarships out there to explore! Use your network and have initiative when applying.
Thank you for chatting with us, Destiny! Let's get started: When did you first start coding? What has been one of your favorite projects that you’ve built so far?
Destiny: started playing around with computers at a very early age, and at 15, I had an opportunity to go to a Young Innovators Conference in Malawi, working with big names in tech like Google and Intel. The purpose of the trip was for girls in Africa and girls in the US to meet and share interest in STEAM-related careers.
There were 20 girls from the US and 60 girls from across several African countries, and it was really empowering. We stayed at the Malawi University of Science and Technology, and learned about blogging, robotics, music engineering and many other activities.
While I was there, we had a mini hackathon. I was on a team with four other girls; two girls were from Malawi, one girl was from Tanzania and I am from the US. The four of us made a great team! We came up with an idea to build something related to mental health, because that’s not only a problem in the US, it’s also a problem in their home countries as well. We were able to develop a website and made the product layout, identified the features we wanted, and started building the beginnings of an Android app.
It was an amazing experience to work with people from other cultures. I learned about things that you just don’t recognize when you are only working with people in the US, such as different communication styles and perspectives on global issues.
We haven’t kept in touch to continue the project, unfortunately. Hopefully, one day we will have a group reunion and we can pick up the project from there. There are so many issues around mental health that people don’t talk about enough, and it’s a topic that continues to be so important today.
It seems you tackle a lot of important topics through your community engagement. Can you share more about your business to help girls in tech and what you have been working on lately?
Destiny: Yes! Destiny Adams International is a business I started when I was a young teen. When there aren’t a lot of women in STEM, it can feel like you’re doing it by yourself sometimes, and I don’t want to see another girl walk alone.
Destiny Adams International has worked with nonprofits, churches and community organizations, and if there is a community event or initiative that needs help in the area of STEM or STEAM for girls, we will put something together for them.
I’ve taught small bootcamps and workshops in web development, Python and app development. We find groups and people who will sponsor laptops for us, because not all the girls we work with have computers. We are beginning to organize our material so students have career-focused pathways that allow the girls to get in-depth knowledge about their specific interests. If a girl in middle school is interested in a certain pathway, for example, she will have activities and curriculum to follow throughout her high school career. As girls complete their pathways, I would like to bring them on board to participate in internships, work study programs and other opportunities.
I know you started writing at a very young age as well, and are a contributing author of Embracing STEM Smarts: An encouraging Guide for Young Ladies Who Have a Passion. Have you been working on any new writing projects?
Destiny: Before settling on a tech career, I aspired to be a journalist! I’m currently working on my next book about entrepreneurship for girls called Finding your Destiny: A Guide to Becoming a Girl Boss. I’m not in the final stages of the book yet, but I hope to power through and finish it this year.
I might also release an audiobook. It’s hard to find time to focus sometimes on finishing projects, but bringing a project to the end is really rewarding and worth the effort.
Let’s see: teaching, coding, writing… You have so many amazing projects you’re working on! What have you been spending the most of your time on lately?
Destiny: I know—there is so much to do! I spent most of my time this summer on my internship with Southern Company. I started working there as a Business Analyst in May, and it’s been really great! I’ve been working on a project using SQL, Excel, PowerBI and other business technologies.
I usually spend a lot of time over the summer organizing camps and activities for girls through my program. Unfortunately, our plans changed for our summer programing this year, but I’m hoping in the fall we can pick it back up. I’ve entered my sophomore year at Georgia State this fall as a Computer Science major, so I’m looking forward to what the school year will bring.
It seems like you are great at finding new internships and conference opportunities, especially scholarships. What is the application process like for scholarships? Do you have to interview? If so, what are the interviews like?
Destiny: The application process can vary, but usually there is an essay portion and an interview. You submit other supporting documents like test scores, resumes and letters of recommendation.
Interviews can vary, too. Sometimes interviewers just mean business and get straight to the point, and others are light and conversational. It’s good to get experience in both. Some of the questions that I have had in scholarship interviews are things like:
- Why do you need the scholarship?
- Why do you deserve the scholarship?
- What are projects that you’ve done in community service?
They ask a lot of questions about your resume, so make sure your skill set is clear and that your resume is clean and not over the top in terms of design.
It’s better to have fewer things on your resume that you know really well than to have a bunch of things that you only know a little bit. Even if you only have one project to show on your resume, make sure you really know that project in and out. Include only the skills you actually have.
If it’s a virtual interview, make sure you are set up and ready when the time comes. Treat it like you would an in-person interview: Don’t take calls during the interview, mute your notifications and take it seriously.
Conference scholarships are also great opportunities if you know what career field you aspire to be in one day. These scholarships usually will pay for all expenses associated with the conference, and the experience you get is really rewarding. It’s worth the 500-word essay you have to write for the application!
Do you have any tips on how to find new opportunities in general?
Destiny: My best advice is to refine your LinkedIn. Spend some time with it. Let it grow. You can build connections that are valuable, so it helps to actually engage with people. I’ve also found a lot of resources for scholarships and sponsorships through LinkedIn.
Another good way to find opportunities is to get into clubs, meetups and activities that are related to your career interests. The organizers will funnel opportunities through the club, so be ready. If you see an opportunity to apply for a scholarship on Monday, don’t wait until Friday to apply. When opportunities come my direction, I try to apply immediately.
When it comes to the organization itself, my advice is to be engaged. Put yourself out there and talk to the organizers of the event. Ask questions of the speakers when you attend a talk. Networking is something that takes practice, but putting yourself out there creates opportunities and builds relationships with people.
Finally, I think it’s important to network with the right intentions. My intention with networking is not to get scholarships and opportunities—I’m genuinely interested in learning from others and getting to know them. If you are nice and good to people, they will be the same in return, and they’ll think of you when those opportunities do come up.
We thank Destiny for sharing her advice and her inspiring experiences, and we look forward to reading her new book when it is published. Keep an eye out for the next post in our series of interviews with tech leaders. You can catch up with Destiny on her Instagram or LinkedIn.