Part of what I love about my work is simply learning about the many interesting and innovative things that people are doing in the education space. This is sometimes happening with new school startups, intrapreneurs within existing schools, and in classrooms around the world. However, there is so much happening in the education startup world as well, which is part of why I enjoy doing a modest amount of consulting in that space.
At least three or four times a week, I get an email, LinkedIn message, or direct message from one of those education startups, rarely to pitch a product. It is usually just to share ideas back and forth. Perhaps they came across an article that I wrote, one of my videos, or they were at a conference where I was giving a keynote or leading a workshop. Something that I shared connected with their vision or passion, so we follow-up. That is how networking works, right? Well, this is more true than ever in the digital age.
A couple of weeks ago, one such conversation happened with Michael Quigley, co-founder of Promazo, and I’m excited to tell you a bit more about it. I apologize in advance to Michael and his colleagues if I misrepresent anything here, but here is what I heard and what excited me about what they are doing.
When it comes to higher education, we know that hands-on and real world experience are both powerful. First, it is an incredible way to learn real world skills. Second, it adds something to student’s resumes so, upon graduation, they are not applying to a job with absolutely not tested experience in a given field. Third, if helps students discover whether a given type of work aligns with their gifts and abilities. Fourth, if helps students understand the relevance of what they are learning in classes that would otherwise come off as abstract and disconnected from the rest of life. Finally, by being tested with real world projects, students get a better sense of their strengths and limitations. They can learn to build on their strengths, reduce their limitations, and fill in gaps along the way. As such, they start to take more ownership in their learning and personal development.
With such a long list of benefits, it would seem that internships are a no-brainer for college students. They are great ways to gain that real world experience, get to know themselves, apply their learning, build their resumes and more. Yet, there are geographic limitations to internships during the regular school year. Transportation can be a challenge for some students. And, given all the other responsibilities in college, it can be a challenge to fit an internship into that schedule. When we can make them happen (especially during breaks from school), these immersive, in-person internships can be tremendous. However, in the absence of that, is there anything else that can be done?
This is where I was excited to learn about Promazo and see what they are doing. As I talked to co-founder Michael Quiqley, they aspire to revolutionize the way students find jobs and the way employers find (and keep) top talent. Since much work is moving to become more virtual, why can’t internships be virtual as well? Promazo will work with companies to find a project that could benefit from interns. This is not the “go get me coffee type of internship.” It is real work that addresses real needs and has real deadlines. Promazo then works to find a group of University students at a given campus, assembles them as a project team, manages the project, and guides this team of students from project start to completion, sometimes even concluding with an in-person pitch of their product at the company headquarter.
They launched this idea with 7 college students working on a project for IBM. Now they have over 300 students at schools like Georgetown, Harvard, Boston College, Carnegie Mellon, and Notre Dame involved in these virtual internships for an impressive collection of well-known and well-respected companies.
There are countless benefits to this beyond what I’ve already mentioned, but consider these three. First, these are paid internships during the academic year, so this is real work that replaces what might otherwise be traditional campus jobs. This is better pay and more real world experience. Second, this is a great recruiting tool for these companies. They get a peek into the skills of these interns which can easily turn into a new job for a recent graduate and new, promising talent for the company. Third, this is a model that doesn’t depend on extensive work or coordination from the University. Promazo does much of the work, while giving the University a great internship program about which they can boast.
This is a solid example of an education startup that has a creative solution for both companies and Universities. They do this while not ignoring the need for a sustainable financial model for themselves. This is a brilliant model for a win-win-win example of educational entrepreneurship. I look forward to seeing how it develops over the upcoming years.