In 2012, the City of Santa Monica reached out to Vandana Mangal with an invitation to give a talk at their nascent six-week Youth Tech Program for high school students. Since then, she has returned every summer to teach a session on big data in this program that gives students from Santa Monica high schools a chance to learn about modern technology and gain real-life experience in a tech startup environment.
Mangal is executive director of the Easton Technology Management Center and the research director for Business and Information Technologies (BIT) at UCLA Anderson. She’s taught the subject of big data as an Emerging Technologies and Markets course at Anderson, published three books, guest edited a special issue of a journal and has authored articles on business and technology in academic and industry journals.
Q: Why do you think you were pinpointed to teach in this program? Do you have previous experience training and educating pre-college age students?
My role in starting and growing the Easton Center from 68 to 560 students with focus and offerings in business and technology could have been what attracted the City of Santa Monica to invite me to speak in their program. I have experience teaching undergraduates and MBAs at the University of Wisconsin and, last year, I taught “Hinglish,” a combination of Hindi and English, to middle and high school students. I like that “Ah, ha!” moment when a student “gets it.”
Q: What exactly do you cover in the Youth Tech workshops?
I aim to introduce high school students to emerging technologies and their associated markets, with the goal of bringing out the opportunities for STEM majors and careers. The first year, I spoke about Anderson’s Business and Information Technologies research project, which looks at how technology adoption is impacting business practices, over time and across the world. Since then, having taught a course on big data and cloud computing at UCLA Anderson, I have spoken to the Youth Tech Program students about big data each year. Last year I also introduced the topics of the Internet of Things and sharing economy.
Q: What kinds of students enroll in the program? Are any completely tech-illiterate when they start?
With technology being highly pervasive across most sectors and millennials being exposed to technology at a very early age, most are aware of technology as users, especially through mobile devices such as smart phones. These technology skills can be transferred into their careers as they join today’s digital business world, with big data being one STEM career path; others include cloud, IoT, machine learning, social and mobile.
Q: What about the Youth Tech Program keeps you going back each summer?
The opportunity to speak to students who may be interested in STEM careers, to mentor students — including girls interested in STEM careers — and to continue to build the academia-government connection between the information systems department at the City of Santa Monica and the Easton Center at UCLA Anderson.
The CIO for the City of Santa Monica participated on a panel organized by the Easton Center. He spoke about Santa Monica as a “smart” city that has been providing broadband to the Silicon Beach businesses that it houses for the past decade. In addition, a couple of years ago I participated in the city’s “concept to code” initiative in a talk and Q&A session with a Silicon Beach entrepreneur.
I hope to continue to be involved in developing future technology leaders through the Easton Center at UCLA Anderson, and to pursue opportunities such as the one with the Youth Tech Program, enabling me to coach students — including girls — who may be interested in STEM careers.