Long before Harvard Business Review named data scientist as the hottest career of the century, I was attracted to the field. After college, I worked for a top technology company and became a Six Sigma Black Belt (think data-driven process engineering).

From there, I ran a software engineering organization focused on predictive analytics. I went on to lead product, strategy, marketing and services groups in ed tech and enterprise collaboration.

After 20 years of thriving in tech, yet frustrated by the lack of diversity, I dedicated myself to improving the perception and awareness of STEM careers – and founded Couragion.  

Today’s career exploration resources do not meet the needs of students. They often focus solely on college readiness. Instead, our educational systems need to help students prepare for careers.

Not every STEM career requires an advanced degree. And students, teachers and parents need to think differently about postsecondary readiness.  

Many students don’t have access to enough professional role models. This is particularly common for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We feature role models from diverse backgrounds and let students lead how they explore careers to create a plan that’s personal to them.

By exposing students to the vast array of STEM careers, Couragion shows students how the subjects they’re studying can help them pursue careers in the future. 90% of students said Couragion was better than other career exploration tools they had used. Our research results prove we’re encouraging students to pursue STEM careers.

We quickly realized our model was making a difference, so we looked for ways to expand.

Just 6 months after we launched, we learned about AT&T Aspire. We were impressed by our joint mission. Both groups promote ed tech and workforce development, diversity and equity, and student access and participation in STEM. 

From there, we approached AT&T about ways to work together. A few months later, the Aspire team invited us to apply for the AT&T Aspire Accelerator’s class of 2016.  It was a great experience and an honor to make last year’s list. 

One of the biggest factors of our success is our relentless focus on partner educators. We designed our products with counselors, teachers and administrators to improve the student experience. Beyond that, we’re giving them the necessary educator resources, data and professional development for success.

We’re here to help our educators. Whether it’s understanding the breadth of STEM careers for themselves, integrating technology into the classroom or leveraging real-time data to improve teaching and learning.

If you’re interested in learning more about Couragion or to share ideas, please email me at  melissa@couragion.com. Let’s be champions for diversity and inclusion in STEM.

To learn more about how AT&T supports education and entrepreneurs, visit att.com/aspireaccelerator

Melissa Risteff
Melissa Risteff CEO, Couragion