by Carly Colvin, Manager of Development and Consulting Projects, NextFlex
Mehmood Rahmatullah has been interested in a STEM career since early childhood; he just didn’t know it. Mehmood, a college junior at San Jose State University studying Computational and Applied Mathematics, grew up with a passion for cars and in middle school became intrigued by computers. To Mehmood, cars and computers were always hobbies and never involved formal math or science. It wasn’t until high school, long after he learned to code and replace a dead battery in a car, that Mehmood recognized that his pastimes involved math and engineering. Upon that realization, Mehmood knew that he wanted to pursue a career in a STEM field.
In his Advanced Placement Language class during his junior year at Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, CA, Mehmood completed NextFlex’s FlexFactor, our experiential learning program designed to introduce high school students to education and career pathways that lead to the advanced manufacturing sector. His team conceptualized a small camera that could be swallowed like a pill to alleviate the discomfort associated with an endoscopy, a procedure that both he and a teammate had recently helped family members through. During the project, Mehmood watched other classmates experience what he already had: realizing that many of their passions are fueled by science, engineering, mathematics, and technology.
While Mehmood was already following a STEM pathway at his high school by the time he began FlexFactor, he explained that his experience in the program empowered him to think and make decisions for himself:
“FlexFactor was one of the few experiences that I had in school to think on my own instead of doing something for someone else.”
To this day, he says that FlexFactor’s business model workshop has been his only exposure to thinking about how businesses work. A combination of these elements during his FlexFactor experience inspired Mehmood’s long-term career dream of owning a coffee shop.
Fast forward 4 years to when Mehmood entered NextFlex’s Flex2Future program as an IT intern over the summer of 2021. Working across the Institute, Mehmood created a suite of support resources for NextFlex staff and played a central role in IT support of Innovation Days, our annual member meeting. As Mehmood reflected upon his time at NextFlex, he saw a bigger picture of professional development come together.
“Flex2Future built on top of what I learned in FlexFactor. In FlexFactor I learned critical thinking, and throughout my Flex2Future internship I learned how to apply my critical thinking skills on my feet.”
His experiences with NextFlex and our workforce development programming are an important chapter in Mehmood’s education and career story. Through FlexFactor and Flex2Future, Mehmood gained self-confidence, practiced applied technical skills, made connections, and most importantly he says, learned how to navigate the workplace.
In 18 months Mehmood will graduate from San Jose State University, and he looks forward to launching his career in IT. Before then, he will complete at least one more internship to continue gaining real-world experience as he transitions into the workforce with the skills to take on the complex challenges of the 21st century.
For more information about FlexFactor and Flex2Future, please visit nextflex.us/learning-programs.
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