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Championing the STEM cause: Lisa Frey, State Farm

By Melinda Guravich
 
Corporate champions play a critical role in the success of Tech Titans’ STEM initiative by making the effort visible to others, creating connections to volunteers and getting executives to buy-in within their organizations.
 
The Tech Titans corporate champion at State Farm is Agile Coach Lisa Frey. The company has been an active partner since 2014, when Lisa led the relocation of the IT team to Richardson from corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois.
“The dark horse of recruiting for any company is talent,” said Lisa, who has spent 18 of her 21 years at State Farm in the IT group. “Companies can build a strong, positive connection with future employees by engaging them early in their educational path. Sponsoring STEM initiative events has definitely increased our brand reach to students and the community.”
 
Engaging employee volunteers
 
Corporate champions have the pulse of their company, know their volunteer base and understand how to build it.
 
“In this role, I’m very much connected to Tech Titans as well as to our volunteers at State Farm,” said Lisa. She developed a pool of volunteers by matching skills and interests with opportunities and nurturing a sense of pride in what they’re doing. “We want to them to enjoy and be proud of the experience, and ultimately, become recurring volunteers,” she said. 
 
Keleigh Harris, a scrum master at State Farm, is one of those volunteers. She spoke on a Tech Titans Diversity in Engineering panel at a STEM camp earlier this year. “I often get caught up in the noise of my day-to-day activities and need to be reminded of a true priority: building this next generation of Tech Titans. Events like these are good for everyone,” she said.
 
State Farm’s volunteer base continues to expand and evolve as Tech Titans evolves. “The activities are fun; employees enjoy it too,” said Lisa. “They love seeing kids learn or do something cool during a STEM event, whether it’s an engineering design project at UT Dallas, a plant tour or interacting with kids as part of a career panel.”
 
Creating successful, replicable STEM events
 
The committee has created templates for repeat events to ensure they are well-planned and that volunteers are confident and can concentrate on the kids. “When volunteering is frictionless and simple to participate in, it’s fun, it’s easy and rewarding. They keep coming back,” Lisa said.
 
State Farm also sponsors the annual STEM Video Contest for high school and middle school students. The awards event, held at their CityLine facility, is another popular employee volunteer opportunity. “The contest perfectly aligns with our interest in exposing students to STEM careers and getting them excited about the possibilities,” said Lisa.
 
In 2019, the committee launched its first event for school counselors. The one-day program, held at State Farm, included presentations about IT and cybersecurity career opportunities and one-on-one discussions with industry and higher education experts. This successful program will serve as the blueprint for future counselor events.
 
Corporate philanthropy, community success and professional development
 
The STEM workforce initiative is a great match for State Farm’s ongoing commitment to supporting safer, stronger, better-educated communities through its Neighborhood of Good movement. “We’ve always been about relationships and helping life go right in the communities where we live and serve,” Lisa commented.
 
“I want to do everything in my power to reach students who, for example, like to draw but don’t think they can work in technology,” said Lisa. “I see a connection to almost any skill that a student has to STEM and want them to see the possibilities. They may discover that STEM is indeed where they should be.”
 
Corporate champions also deepen their professional networks with other corporate champions through their work with on committees and at volunteer events. “We’ve developed professional and personal relationships over time, even mentoring relationships,” said Lisa.  
 
A member of the Tech Titans Executive Committee, Lisa will serve as vice chair of talent in 2020.
 
Become a corporate champion
 
As of the end of 2019, this initiative has delivered more than 13,000 inspirations to students in North Texas.
 
Tech Titans needs additional corporate champions to sustain and expand our work in building the STEM workforce pipeline. Are you the next Tech Titans corporate champion?
 
For more information, contact Dave Galley, Tech Titans STEM director at dave@techtitans.org or 469-951-8239.
 

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