Unherd partnered with SalesForce, an American cloud computing company, to run its first pilot program.

Confused about career choices This startup helps students get real industry exposureSource: Unherd
Atom Startups Wednesday, June 07, 2017 - 13:12

By the second year of engineering in Vishwakarma Institute of Technology, Pune, Alister D’Monte realised that he had chosen the wrong field of education. Engineering didn’t interest him. When he told his parents he wanted to drop out, they didn’t let him do so. He had no choice but to continue pursuing a course out of compulsion. 

There are a lot of Alisters around us. Very often, we are either forced to take up what our parents want us to pursue, or we realise after taking up the course that this is not probably what we are cut out for. 

Once Alister graduated, he began wondering what if he could have gone back and reconsidered his decision. “There was nobody to guide me or mentor me. I always wished I could go try out some fields, see how it works. And that’s how the idea of my startup came to me,” he adds.

Before starting on an entrepreneurial journey, Alister wanted to first understand how a company or a startup works and gain some experience. After working with Milaap for close to four years, in 2016, he finally decided to give it a shot. 

So what was Alister’s idea? He wanted to be able to give students industry exposure, which would help them make informed career choices. To address this, he founded Unherd.

Alister partnered with Salesforce, an American cloud computing company, to run his first pilot program. "This is a concept that is common in US and Europe, where students explore to experience diverse careers before making up their final choose. But this experiential learning is yet to be explored by students here in India,” he adds. 

Salesforce and Unherd ran their first pilot in December 2016 in Bengaluru, for which they received over 200 applications from across the country. Of this, 10 students were picked, who got an opportunity to intern with Salesforce and gain industry experience. 

“This internship program is something that every high school student dreams of getting. As adolescents, we are always so unsure of what career path to choose and this was the perfect opportunity for me to test the waters before actually moving forward to pursue it, as well as to understand what skills are valued in employees in the 21st century. My favourite part about this entire experience was the discussions we had with each employee about their journey,” says Anjali Jayakumar, a student that attended the junior internship program with Salesforce.

The success of the first program gave Alister the confidence that this was a business model that could work. 

Unherd now has two business modules: A junior internship program and a mentorship program.

Junior Internship Program

Under the junior internship program, Unherd partners with corporates to run programs for students, where they get an internship opportunity with that company. 

For this module, either the company pays Unherd for the student interns, or the students are charged a fee for the internship program.

Unherd recently ran a second program with SalesForce called GirlsinTech where it gave 15 girls an experience with coding and technology in general. SalesForce paid Unherd for this program.

Alister D'Monte with the students of the GirlsInTech program

"We know there is a serious gender divide when it comes to technological access, literacy, and influence. Women and girls are missing, excluded and dropping out. We are proud to be partnering with Unherd.in to engage, empower and educate girls from marginalized communities to join a career in technology. We will provide them with access to Salesforce mentors, resources and knowledge helping them to become India's future innovators,” says Ajay Shresti, Program Manager, Salesforce.org India

It will also be running a program with an American architecture and design firm Gensler where five students have been picked to learn about a career in design. For this program, students will be charged a fee. 

Mentorship Program

The second module is where Unherd connects students with people working in certain fields who can counsel them and answer their queries and help them understand the field better. The counseling can happen over phone, email or Skype. A mentorship program generally runs for three weeks and the counselor has to only dedicate half an hour each week.

For the mentorship program, every student is charged around Rs 1000-1500.

Unherd ran its first pilot for the mentorship program from February to May where five students were counseled by a mentor each, across industries like Banking, Law and Medicine. 

Alister is also talking to big corporates to run programs with them.  

Unherd has so far catered to 55 students through its junior internship and mentorship programs.

And not just corporates, schools are also beginning to embrace this idea and are helping Alister spread the word so that students can apply. In fact, Unherd ran its first pilot mentorship program in partnership with a school called Parikrama, an institution for low income students in Bangalore..

And as schools reopen now, Alister is confident of getting a good response from students. 

“Schools are giving their students an opportunity as well. And it’s not like a full-time job. It is usually like twice a week for half a day,” Alister says.

Apart from bringing more corporates on board, Unherd wants to be able to offer students an experience across fields from banking to design to music and dance. 

Just like how it is very common for students to go for tuition classes, Unherd's aim is to make it a way of living for students to have an industry exposure while studying and therefore avoid making mistakes – like Alister’s -- in choosing their career paths.

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