A new vision for tech in Chicago
Break Through Tech Chicago Sprintern Jessica Alba.
This photo essay documents the Sprinternship experience of five UIC students in the spring of 2022 at Morningstar, Inc. Photos are by Jim Young at the UIC College of Engineering.
Break Through Tech Chicago at the University of Illinois Chicago is changing the landscape of technology in Chicago and fostering long-term connections between students and national and local companies committed to gender equity. Its signature program, the Sprinternship, embeds diverse tech talent in Chicago companies and invests in the early career experiences and career trajectories of women and nonbinary individuals.
“A Sprinternship is successful when both the employers and students have gained an outsized return on their three-week human capital investment,” said Amita Shetty, director of Break Through Tech Chicago. “In just two years of hosting this program, UIC’s Sprinterns have become a meaningful part of Morningstar’s technology talent. And prior years’ Morningstar Sprinterns are serving as mentors to their next batch of Sprinterns. That impact is lasting.”
“Sprinternship, for many of our students, represents their first professional tech experience,” said Amelia Jackson, associate director of career development for Break Through Tech Chicago. “The team-based experiential learning takes them into the hallways of a company, is a chance for them to explore the vast applications of technology and learn from their mentors. That inspiration and sense of accomplishment is a powerful motivator to pursue a career in technology, which otherwise might not happen on its own.”
Wiktoria Zielinska, Chenille Lawrence, Jessica Alba, Nadia Taiym and Trish Le.
“I hoped to be able to get a better understanding of what software engineering is like in the real world to start getting a feel for what areas I may be interested in.” —Chenille Lawrence (she/her), a UIC Engineering junior studying computer science.
“Last summer, I took an introductory programming course in Python offered by Break Through Tech Chicago. It completely changed my life because from thereon, I started studying computer science. I never experienced such passion for something since I was a kid. For the first time, I imagined myself as a computer scientist and an engineer. So I decided to go along with the flow and take on the Sprinternship.” —Trish Le (they/them/their), a UIC Engineering junior studying data science with a concentration in computer science.
“Although we learn so much in the classroom, I wanted a chance to apply that knowledge and gain hands-on industry skills that I would not typically get at school.” —Jessica Alba (she/her), a May 2022 UIC Liberal Arts and Sciences graduate in mathematics and computer science.
Jessica Alba, Nadia Taiym, Trish Le and Anna Mukhina.
“Morningstar was thrilled to participate in the Sprinternship for the second year in a row. As a woman and UIC alum, I experienced first-hand how much programs like Break Through Tech help build confidence and a sense of belonging for minorities in our field. Our goal for the Sprinterns was to provide them real experience working as professional software engineers. This included building skills in technical product development, planning and communication, as well as getting to know coworkers across teams and taking part in office life.” —Anna Mukhina (she/her), senior manager of software engineering at Morningstar.
“We got to participate in daily scrums, sprint reviews and retros, coffee chats, and more. It truly felt like we were a part of Morningstar.” —Trish Le (they/them/their), a UIC Engineering junior studying data science with a concentration in computer science.
“I hoped to learn as much as I could about Morningstar and be able to expand on my skill set and knowledge with hands-on experience. Leading up to the last day of the Sprinternship, I began thinking about the culture of Morningstar, how everyone is not only eager to learn but eager to teach and help each other.” —Nadia Taiym (they/them/their), a UIC Engineering senior studying computer science.
Wiktoria Zielinska, Jim Jordan and Jessica Alba.
“Engaging with the Sprinterns was a delightful experience. Their enthusiasm and their teamwork was infectious. Collecting information directly from advisor clients was the project. Enabling clients to enter this information themselves ensures that advisors can spend more time on meaningful interactions with their clients.” —Jim Jordan (he/him), distinguished software architect at Morningstar.
Trish Le and Jessica Alba.
“I learned that communication takes a group far. Making sure that we all were on the same page when working on the challenge project helped us to stay organized and come out of the three weeks with a fully functioning financial application.” —Jessica Alba (she/her), a May 2022 UIC Liberal Arts and Sciences graduate in mathematics and computer science.
Nadia Taiym, Chenille Lawrence and Anna Mukhina.
“Everyone on the team was cognizant of the different levels of experience we all had and we worked to each other’s strength, always leaving room for questions and helping each other along the way.” —Chenille Lawrence (she/her), a UIC Engineering junior studying computer science.
Trish Le and Wiktoria Zielinska.
“Our team proposal was to create a website for financial advisors and their clients to connect with each other online. At first, we felt like this task was too much for us to handle. Towards the end, however, we felt accomplished and proud of the work that we got done, to show everyone what we created in just three weeks.” —Wiktoria Zielinska (she/her), a UIC Engineering junior studying computer science.
“We created a dashboard that stored user data such as retirement and saving goals by an estimated year. Leading up to our final presentation I was confident in myself and my team and beyond proud with what we had created.” —Nadia Taiym (they/them/their), a UIC Engineering senior studying computer science.
Wiktoria Zielinska, Trish Le, Jessica Alba, Nadia Taiym and Chenille Lawrence.
“I walked out knowing that it’s OK to not know everything, I belong in the tech industry, and I am incredibly passionate about software engineering.” —Nadia Taiym (they/them/their), a UIC Engineering senior studying computer science.
“After the Sprinternship was over, I knew that I wanted to continue to study computer science because it helped me realize that the field is so big and has a spot for everyone in every way and that I felt like I fit in.” —Wiktoria Zielinska (she/her), a UIC Engineering junior studying computer science.
“The only challenge left was figuring out, ‘What’s next?’ Thankfully, Morningstar offered me a 10-week tech internship after the Sprinternship, so I was excited for that.” —Trish Le (they/them/their), a UIC Engineering junior studying data science with a concentration in computer science.