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Is Applying to Tech Flex Leaders Worth It?

If you’re a high school student interested in the tech side of STEM, participating in tech programs can help you strengthen your fundamentals and familiarize you with the latest technologies and research in the industry. 


Programs like Tech Flex Leaders, the subject of today’s blog, not only arm you with real-world skills and connections that are invaluable in their own right, but they also greatly bolster your college applications. Such an experience will also prepare you to confidently pursue degrees and careers in technology. It’s a great way to hone your tech skills and demonstrate your passion and initiative when it’s time for admissions or recruitment.


What is the Tech Flex Leaders program?

Tech Flex Leaders is a free, 9-month-long immersive program for high school juniors and seniors enrolled in New York City, Los Angeles, or Miami high schools. The program provides professional development, technical training, and mentorship opportunities to serve as a bridge to the tech world for students interested in making an impact through technology. Here, you can expect to engage deeply with both the operational and creative sides of tech, gaining skills that range from coding to product deployment. Completing the program also nets you a $1,000 stipend!


The program is run by America on Tech, an award-winning, early pipeline technology talent accelerator that works to provide American students with pathways into degrees and careers in technology. Founded in 2014, AOT has three programs for students at different stages in their tech career journey, of which Tech Flex Leaders is right in the middle - focusing on developing existing skills and access to internships.


How is Tech Flex Leaders structured?

The Tech Flex Leaders program meets once a week for the duration of the 9 months. Mostly these are technical training sessions taught by industry experts, though there are also professional development sessions and career days. While the majority of the sessions will take place virtually over Zoom, some technical sessions, demo days, and leadership connects will take place in person. The course is divided into two semesters, three if you’re in NY:

  • First Semester (Week of September 9th to the Week of December 16th): Since the program admits students regardless of prior programming experience, initially you will be taught the basics of coding, web development, HTML, CSS, and Bootstrap. The semester ends with a demo day where you’ll be presenting your web development project to a panel of judges.


  • Second Semester (Week of January 27th to the Week of May 7th): This is where the program divides into five distinct tracks, each tailored to different aspects of technology.


  • Advanced Web Development: This track is a more intense version of the first semester, where you’ll be picking up JavaScript to create the structure, layout, and interactivity of web pages, and work with frameworks and libraries like React and Angular.


  • Digital Marketing: Ideal if you want to learn about the digital space's influence on consumer behavior. You'll learn about social media management, content creation, and influencer marketing.


  • Data Science: Perfect if you have an interest in mathematics and are curious about data interpretation. You'll learn about statistical analysis, machine learning, and data visualization using languages like Python and R. You’ll also get to work on industry-standard tools like TensorFlow and scikit-learn, practically manipulating and analyzing large datasets.


  • UX Design: If you're interested in how technology interfaces with user experience, this track is for you. It covers user research, interface design, and prototype testing.


  • Product Management: This track teaches you how to oversee a product from conception to launch. It's a solid option if you want to develop your leadership skills and understand the business side of tech. You'll learn about market research, product planning, and agile project methodologies.


  • If you’re in NYC, then after successful completion of the first and second semesters, you will get to work with AOT’s Access Team to obtain a paid, summer tech internship! This may also be available in LA and Miami for select roles.


Is it prestigious?

While the program is restricted to NYC, LA, and Miami, participating in Tech Flex Leaders still places you among a select group of young technologists. While it is not specifically meant to be an avenue for demonstrating academic superiority, it still provides an excellent opportunity to engage with industry experts. AOT partners with organizations like Accenture, Codecademy, Girls Inc., InTech Camp, and more. Alumni of the program have secured internships and careers in such firms as Amazon, Cisco, Lyft, Microsoft, Nielsen, Visa, and more, underlining the program's effectiveness in fostering next-generation tech leaders. For the year 2022-2023, only 281 students participated and successfully completed the Tech Flex Leaders program.


Who is eligible and how do you apply?

Tech Flex Leaders is open to juniors and seniors in high schools located in:

  • NYC (all boroughs)

  • Los Angeles County

  • Miami-Dade / Broward County


Beyond this, there are no specific eligibility requirements. You do not need prior programming experience, and the program prioritizes candidates who self-identify as being from minority groups or attend high schools that meet the AOT Economic Needs Index.


For the 2024-2025 program, the application process begins in May, with a priority deadline of July 19 and a final deadline of August 15. Applications are assessed on a rolling basis, and decisions are communicated by late August.


Cost & Stipend

There is no cost to apply for the Tech Flex Leaders program, it is completely free. The students who successfully complete the program will earn a $1,000 stipend. Also, during the summer, students will get a chance to participate in paid internships and job opportunities through the AOT employer partner network.


Pros and Cons to Consider

Pros:


  1. The program exposes you to specialized tech tracks with industry-relevant projects: Each track in the Tech Flex Leaders program is designed to mirror real-world tech roles, allowing you to work with industry-relevant tools and techniques.

  2. You will receive direct mentorship from industry professionals: One of the standout features of this program is the opportunity to receive mentorship directly from professionals actively working in the tech industry. Beyond just learning, it’s also an opportunity to form connections that can lead to internships and job offers.


  1. You can earn a substantial stipend: Completing the Tech Flex Leaders program nets you a stipend of $1,000, which can be used to further your education or fund another summer intensive program opportunity.

Cons:


  1. It involves intensive time commitment: The program demands a significant amount of time outside of your regular school hours, including weekends and possibly some evenings. This could be challenging to manage alongside your regular academic responsibilities and extracurricular activities.

  2. The program comes with geographic limitations: Unfortunately, the program is only available in New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami. This geographic limitation means that you’re simply ineligible for the program unless you attend school in one of these areas.

Our review - Should you apply?

Applying to the Tech Flex Leaders program could be one of the most strategic decisions you make during your high school career. It offers a rare combination of education, hands-on experience, and professional exposure, setting you up for success in a career in tech. If you’re attending school in NYC, LA, or Miami, then this program should be at the top of your consideration list.



One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you would like to participate in a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you should also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.


Image Source: America on Tech logo

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