Control Group prides itself on being an active and positive member of our greater community. Welcoming the occasional field trip is just one of the many ways we try to contribute. This past winter, Control Group was thrilled to bring a group of middle school students from Brooklyn School of Law and Technology into our offices and discuss our experiences of life in the industry.
The field trip was a great success and I wanted to take a moment to share some of the ingredients of that success with the wider community.
Clearing the Visit
ScriptEd, a volunteer group that teaches coding fundamentals in under-resourced schools, had approached its volunteers to host a field trip and I felt that Control Group would be a great candidate for such a trip. I had an idea of the sort of people they should meet and what technologies we could share with them. Our facilities coordinator along with leadership welcomed the idea and approved the demos I had in mind. I sent out a tentative calendar invite to the fellow employees I felt our students should meet.
A week before the scheduled trip, we prepared our ScriptEd students for their trip by running through a quick slide show presentation at their school. This allowed the students to become more familiar with who we are as a company before we embarked on the trip together.
To kick off the presentation, we briefly reviewed what Control Group is and what we do.
We covered the logistics of their arrival, where our offices were, and what the best what the best travel routes were. While these details are often left to school staff and chaperones, in an urban community such as ours it can be particularly helpful to prepare students to navigate public transportation.
Be sure to let the students know what behaviour is expected of them as they tour your facilities. Field trips shouldn’t be disruptive to the work environment, but they shouldn’t be quiet marches through hallowed halls either.
Ask your students to take a moment to consider some questions that they may want to ask. Have them write those questions down and bring them to the trip. They may never use these questions, but it is a great chance to cover etiquette. In our preparation, one student wanted to ask “How much money do you make?”. While it’s great to let students know the earning potential of a particular career, it’s best to keep that kind of information as impersonal as possible.
Hosting the Trip
Leadership Buy In
Part of demonstrating that your organization is heavily invested in the community is seeing participation by leadership. Scott Anderson, one of our Founding Partners, was kind enough to kick off our field trip by welcoming the students and giving a brief overview of the history of the company and what we do at Control Group.
It’s not enough to tell visiting students what you do, it’s imperative to show them as well. If you have a product that you’re working on and can share, students will get much more out looking at living technology rather than a powerpoint covering your past successes. Due to non-disclosure agreements, this may not always be possible, but at least show your visitors something that’s in the field.
We lined up three technology demos. While our students really loved seeing the technology we developed for the UGG Australia Store, they were probably most impressed by getting to see inside the MTA Kiosks. This gave them a new perspective on an object that they already encounter daily.
We also gave the students a chance to interact with an exhibit we’d been building for The Edward Kennedy Senate Museum. This actually ended up acting as an impromptu user testing as some of our demos didn’t work perfectly. These hiccups can provide teachable moments. It drives home the point that things don’t always work, and it’s part of the job to find out why and fix them.
As a company is more than just its products, it’s very important to let your guests interact with the folks who design, code, and test your products. Q&A sessions showcase the human side of the industry. No one at Control Group just appeared here. Allowing students to hear about the various paths individuals take toward their place in their career reinforces the idea that they too can arrive at a great career.
Never underestimate the power of pizza. The promise of food definitely takes the edge off any hunger your guests may be feeling. We combined our Q&A session with pizza so that students (and speakers) could nosh while learning. Your colleagues are also more likely to show up if you reward them with food.
While totally optional (we didn’t have any on hand), it’s a nice token to send your visitors home with a souvenir. After the students have left the office, a lapel pin, t-shirt, or some other company momento can spark a conversation around your brand. It will also serve as a reminder of a great field trip.
Overall, with a little prep and the participation of your leadership and colleagues a great field trip isn’t hard to pull off.