Equipped with prototype mock-ups, business plans and infectious energy, teams of middle- and high-school girls took over the U.S. Bank boardroom last week.
As part of Technovation, an app development competition put on by nonprofit Code Savvy, the teams pitched U.S. Bank executives with their ideas for apps that can solve issues impacting their community or society at large – including water preservation, suicide prevention and cultural literacy. The competition, designed to encourage girls to explore STEM careers, takes the teams on an A-to-Z journey of launching an app.
“I joined Technovation when I was in sixth grade,” said Ellie Sprinthall (pictured below on left), who is now a sophomore student at Eagan High School in Minnesota. “During my first year, no one on the team knew how to code. Despite our lack of experience, with the help of our mentors we were able to create a working app and a business plan in just 12 weeks. We had managed to create a product by ourselves, which made me feel like we could accomplish anything we set our minds to.”
As the teams gave their pitches as a practice run for the upcoming statewide level of the competition, U.S. Bank executives Andy Cecere (President, Chairman and CEO), Kate Quinn (Chief Administration Officer), Ismat Aziz (Chief Human Resources Officer) and Dominic Venturo (Chief Innovation Officer) listened intently at the crowded boardroom table.
“At first, I felt intimidated,” said Ashley Chen, also a sophomore at Eagan. “However, when my team and I went, I was thankful for the encouragement that we received – all of the executives were really respectful. In addition, when each group was demoing their apps, they seemed genuinely interested. Having someone with so much experience and influence give valuable comments and support was really inspiring.”
The inspiration goes both ways, said U.S. Bank’s Aziz (pictured below).
“The generation that’s coming into our workforce is already changing the world with their creativity and courage of conviction,” said Aziz. “I’m inspired by their passion and look forward to seeing what the future will bring for them.”
To that point, Technovation is about much more than coding alone. The girls leave the program with business knowledge, presentation skills and, perhaps most importantly, confidence.
“Even though I’m not sure exactly what I want to do in the future, I know that the many skills I’ve developed will help me in any field I choose,” Sprinthall added. “I am grateful to have had this experience and opportunity and I encourage others to check out Technovation.”
If banking ends up being that field of choice, the door is open at U.S. Bank.
“You all did an amazing job – most of the people who present here are much more nervous,” said Cecere (pictured above), adding with a smile, “I know some of you are a little young to work yet, but come talk to me and we can accommodate.”
Written by Pat Swanson with photos by Justin Yunke of U.S. Bank. Learn more about how the company supports women in technology through national nonprofit partnerships, scholarship programs and more.