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Technology

at Our Firm

How Technologists are Making a Positive Impact

With a global technology landscape that’s constantly evolving, what inspires young people to build the tools of tomorrow? In this episode, Anish Bhimani speaks to JPMorgan Chase’s Head of Youth Programs for Tech for Social Good and Emerging Talent, Julia Backon, about the firm’s youth-directed programs, and how they’re helping to grow the next generation of Tech leadership. If there’s a specific topic you’d like us to cover, email us at: tech.trends@jpmchase.com.

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Anish Bhimani:

Welcome to TechTrends. TechTrends is a podcast series that provides perspective on the latest trends in technology, FinTech, and digital. On today's episode, we'll talk about the Tech for Social Good organization and how it's inspiring youth who might wanna pursue a career or a passion in technology and also give back to their community. I'm Anish Bhimani, Chief Information Officer for Commercial Banking. And joining me today is Julia Backon, Head of Youth Programs for Tech for Social Good and Emerging Talent at JPMorgan Chase. Julia, welcome to TechTrends.

Julia Backon:

Thanks Anish, excited to be here.

Anish Bhimani:

So Julia, why don't we start by giving our listeners a little bit of background on the Tech for Social Good program. What is it, why is it exists [sic], and what kind of programs are you involved in?

Julia Backon:

Tech for Social Good was started about 10 years ago and it really was a way for our JPMorgan Chase technologists to use their skills to give back to the community. So a lot of what we do is really centered around skills-based volunteerism and using our tech skills to do good. And we do that in a handful of ways. I'll talk a little bit more about youth programs. But we also run hackathons for nonprofits and we have skills-based volunteerism programs, where our tech staff use their skills to build technology solutions for organizations and communities. There's a large gamut of programs within the Tech for Social Good suite but it's all centered around skills-based volunteerism.

Anish Bhimani:

And as I said, you lead the youth programs for Tech for Social Good, can you explain what that means and what types of initiatives you and your team specifically work on?

Julia Backon:

I lead youth programs across global technology as well as emerging talent, which straddles the HR space. And this is really centered around inspiring individuals who are usually under the age of 18 to learn technology skills, professional skills and then also introduce them to different tech career pathways and opportunities at the firm. And we've been doing this for a few years now. And I would say historically, our youth programs were very philanthropic. But we've really started to think more thoughtfully about how do we connect these young people into careers and think about how do we introduce them to opportunities at our company and really build a future pipeline of talent. So we've kinda shifted our strategy a bit over the last few years. And currently, there are three sort of main focus areas of our youth programs. The first being education and skills development, which is really programs that we've created or partnerships with nonprofits where we teach young people coding and professional skills. The second is really around career exploration, so introducing youth to careers, introducing them to JPMorgan Chase and our employees and our culture before we hire them. And then the last is just careers, so this is youth employment programs like internships or apprenticeships where we're giving young people on the job real work experience or thinking about what's that next step for them from a recruiting perspective and pipelining them into either university recruiting channels or some of our emerging talent programs like our U.K. Tech Apprenticeship Program.

Anish Bhimani:

Let's talk about that U.K. Tech Apprenticeship Program for a minute. What was the initial inspiration behind that program? How has it evolved over the last six years? I know there's always been a focus on what people refer to as alternative pipelines, right? Was it that or what was behind that?

Julia Backon:

That's exactly right. So our U.K. Tech Apprenticeship Program started six years ago and we've welcomed 125 apprentices to date. And this was initially set up as a compliment to some of the graduate programs that existed in the region. And it's really become a great next step for a lot of the youth that we engage in our programming in the U.K. So to level set, apprenticeships are different than internships in the sense that they're usually a bit longer term, usually one to four years in length and they have this learn-while-you-earn model. So in the U.K., our apprentices are working four days a week and they're also getting a full honors degree from a prestigious U.K. university at the same time. So they're earning a salary while also obtaining a degree at no cost to themselves. And this is obviously an amazing experience for the apprentices, but J.P. Morgan has also seen so many benefits from these types of programs. Whether it be something like gender diversity or diversity of thought and educational background. We're bringing in talent into the company that are super disciplined, they're juggling and balancing school while also working. And our managers who hire these individuals say that they see no real difference between a university graduate and an apprentice in the workplace. So the success of this program has really inspired us to explore apprenticeships in other locations around the world. And just to give you a sense, in the U.S., we also partner with some nonprofits like CareerWise where we're doing youth apprenticeship. So we have high school students who are going to high school and working for us part-time as well.

Anish Bhimani:

So yeah, it's like a co-op, right? It's great how the apprenticeship program gives these students a lot of hands-on experience at work while they're getting their degree. Can you talk about other ways that the Tech for Social Good programs are inspiring the next generation of technologists?

Julia Backon:

We have a number of youth programs that obviously focus on inspiring the next generation of technologists. One that stands out, one of our marquee youth programs is called Generation Tech. And this is a design challenge where students ages 14 to 18 work in teams under mentorship of our JPMorgan Chase employees. And they design wireframes and mock-ups of different web apps or mobile apps that they would create to solve a social good challenge. And these social good challenges are usually based on UN global goals. So for example, eliminating world hunger or creating quality education for all. And we're starting to think about how we can re-engage the students that we're reaching through Generation Tech events in future workshops and webinars, so that we can continue teaching them skills. But I think what we've seen is this program has made such an impact on young people in our communities. We're really excited to actually expand this program globally this year and bring it to India and Asia, where we have not actually run these events before. And Generation Tech is just one example, we have many other youth programs in our program suite and lots of partnerships with nonprofits around the world. And to give you a sense of scale, last year, we reached nearly 27,000 youth through our programming. So we're really doing a lot to inspire that next generation and engage young people in our communities in technology.

Anish Bhimani:

That's great. There's always a lot of conversation these days about purpose driven careers or mission driven careers and why are people doing the kind of work that they do. And I think tying a tech career to those kinds of things that people are very strongly about, I think would be pretty fulfilling for a lot of people.

Julia Backon:

Absolutely, and I think a huge piece of this is these young people get to engage with our employees and they get to see what a technologist at J.P. Morgan is like. And I think there might be a little bit of an idea coming in of what that is and then they meet our people and they're just normal people who are really fun and really smart and really engaging. And I think that it helps sort of shift perceptions of what JPMorgan Chase is a little bit as well.

Anish Bhimani:

One of the other great things that I like about that is we've done a few episodes on design thinking. And one of the things I always remember from those discussions is that everybody is born creative, but somehow life beats it out of you, right? I think the more you can focus on design with people at younger age and tie design and technology, just makes for a stronger workforce going forward.

Julia Backon:

Absolutely.

Anish Bhimani:

So a lot of companies have focused almost exclusively on university recruiting and recruiting university graduates as their pipeline of talent. What's the argument or the reasoning behind focusing on youth programs or getting people engaged at a much earlier age?

Julia Backon:

The thinking behind our youth programs, obviously I think first and foremost is we do it because it's the right thing to do. And especially in the tech space, there is a skills gap. So we want to ensure that we are educating young people and giving them the technology skills they need to be successful in the future workforce. But I think secondly, reaching youth earlier means that we're reaching that foundation of that tech pipeline. So we're really thinking thoughtfully about how do we get young kids the skills that they need to be successful in the workforce. But also, if they happen to wanna come work for J.P. Morgan one day, fantastic, we'd love to have them back.

Anish Bhimani:

But even if they don't, we're building the pipeline for the industry at large, the society, other things like that as well, right?

Julia Backon:

Exactly.

Anish Bhimani:

So diversity is a big part of the discussion here as well, right? There's all kinds of studies that say, the number of women that pursue careers in technology is much lower than it is for men. How has the organization or the youth program sort of work to help change that?

Julia Backon:

JPMorgan Chase, all of our staff are so passionate about getting more young women into technology, which is fantastic. And we have a number of programs that focus on introducing young girls to tech. One that stands out in my mind is our partnership with Girls Who Code, which is a nonprofit that focuses on closing the gender gap in technology. So we've been collaborating with them in a few different ways over the last few years. So first, we host some high school girls through their Summer Immersion Program. And we do this in a few different tech center locations across the U.S. And during this summer program, the girls not only learn how to code but they also get exposure to JPMorgan Chase, our people, our culture, they learn about opportunities at our firm. And this has allowed us to reach over 800 young women directly. But also we get to tap into Girls Who Code's broader network of young girls and their alumni population. So that's been working really well.

Additionally, this year we piloted a new program with Girls Who Code called Work Prep. And this was designed to give college-age women pathways into the tech industry. And it's cool because this was a direct response to something that was real. So with the pandemic, many of their university alumni were struggling to get internships and find jobs. And on the JPMorgan Chase side, we always wanted to offer a next step to the young women that we are reaching in high school, but never really had anything to offer them until they were internship ready. So we sort of created this program as a bridge and offered a next step to these young women and introduce them to JPMorgan Chase, our tech business, and our amazing staff. So that's just one example. But we partner with other nonprofits all over the world who are really focused on getting young women into STEM. And on the career side, we also have a number of programs that welcome women and are very thoughtful about welcoming women. And I think just at the end of the day, we really believe you can't be what you can't see. So it's really important that we get our amazing female talent in front of these young women and really just help bring these young women or introduce these young women to tech and JPMorgan Chase.

Anish Bhimani:

That's another good point, which is, it's not just about the participants in the program, but also getting a number of our employees engaged who end up having passion around mentoring or sponsoring a lot of these students or other things like that. Talk a little bit about the level of engagement you see from employees and sort of what the benefit is to them.

Julia Backon:

Our employee engagement is at the center of every single program we run. None of the things that we do in the Tech for Social Good space would exist without volunteerism and engagement from our staff. So it’s-- not only is it rewarding, people come to work, they do their day job but as a part of that, they also get to get involved in helping our communities. I think the other piece of it is our employees are learning new skills while they're doing good. So they're learning how to mentor. They're learning how to present. They are learning how to engage with different people in our communities. And I think it's kind of a win-win.

Anish Bhimani:

Well, let's switch gears a little bit. Whenever I think about how different generations interact with technology, everybody's got a little bit of a different perspective on things like risk and privacy and security and other things like that. With an increase in technology activity comes an increase in inherent risk, right? Are there any programs, part of the youth programs that focus on teaching cybersecurity awareness or cyber safety to young technologists?

Julia Backon:

We have a massive program called Cyber Safety for Good, which totally focuses on cyber safety education in our communities. So just to give you a sense of what that is, it's a volunteer-based program where our JPMorgan Chase employees go out into our communities and they teach not only just youth, but also parents, adults and senior citizens about how to be safe and secure online. And we do this all over the world. We have different lessons for different audience segments. And we've reached over 27,000 people with this content. So we're really making a big splash in our communities with this. We cover topics like privacy, cyber bullying, password protection. We hit a lot of different themes here. And I think what's pretty amazing about our Cyber Safety for Good program is historically, we'd go in person, we'd go to schools and we'd do this directly on site. Obviously in the midst of the global pandemic, we had to pivot that and we pivoted to virtual. And the silver lining of that whole thing was that we were now able to reach communities that we had never reached before and reach more people. So we're really kind of excited to see this program maybe continue with a hybrid model where we do some things in person and then continue to offer the programing virtually as well.

Anish Bhimani:

And Julia, what would you tell young people that might be considering a career in technology but don't know where to start?

Julia Backon:

I do first and foremost, there are so many amazing nonprofits and youth based organizations in our communities doing amazing work around just this, getting young people into tech. And the great thing is, oftentimes, you do not need any prior coding experience or tech experience to get involved. So I would say, look for those either national organizations, global org, local orgs that are doing this kind of work in your communities. The second thing I would suggest is look for websites that teach coding and educate you on technology. There are so many amazing resources out there, Code.org, MIT Scratch, and then even just news sources, just to stay up to date on things happening in the tech industry, like TechCrunch. These are all great places to kind of learn and educate yourself. And then lastly I would say, obviously look for corporations like JPMorgan Chase who are offering programs for youth in technology. And there are so many great organizations out there, corporations out there doing work in this space. Just work with your parents and your guardians to register for these opportunities that come your way.

Anish Bhimani:

And to that point, you've had great success and the firm's had great success with the Tech for Social Good program and more specifically around the youth programs. It's all great advice. What advice would you have for other companies that might wanna create similar initiatives at their own firm?

Julia Backon:

It's a great question. So for companies who are looking to maybe start something similar at their firm, I would say first and foremost, having that top level senior support is super important. Obviously we are very lucky to have that at J.P. Morgan. The second thing I would say is just having a really large volunteer sort of base of employees who want to get involved and want to raise their hands and recognizing those people for what they do do outside of their day job. That goes a really long way. I would say we're very lucky to work for a company that believes in this so much that we have a whole team of dedicated resources that are supposed to work on this Tech for Social Good strategy day in and day out. For me and my team, it's really centered around youth and how we do that. So it wouldn't be possible without our volunteers and the senior support. But also having that dedicated team of people has really allowed us to make an even bigger impact.

Anish Bhimani:

Yeah, I think that's a good point, right? Which is, tap into your existing employee base, right? There's a lot of people that have a lot of passion around this and are willing to give back, right? Whether it be on a part-time basis with the mentoring, the sponsorships, other things like that or as part of a dedicated team. And I think the other thing that's probably worth talking about is, you can't go into this with an expectation that sending up a youth program is going to necessarily yield the same kind of employee pipeline than if you're university recruiting. You're doing it to build that pipeline for society, to build the pipeline for the greater good, right? And if it does turn into a great employee pipeline for you so much the better, right?

Julia Backon:

100%. The time between engaging a young person and them potentially coming into the workplace is really long. So your point, it really is about doing this for society as a whole. And if it happens you wanna come back to JPMorgan Chase one day then fantastic, we would love to have them.

Anish Bhimani:

So Julia, thanks very much for joining us today and thanks for providing your insights on this topic.

Julia Backon:

Thanks for having me Anish, it was really fun.

Anish Bhimani:

And to all the listeners, remember, if you enjoyed this episode, you can rate us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. See you next time.

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