Ladies Who Lead: Michelle Long

Michelle Long is the Director of Alumni Relations for FIRST.

With a background in professional theatre and higher education recruiting, Michelle Long found a way to combine the two things she loves as the FIRST Director of Alumni Relations. Now, having a platform that allows her to encourage women and other underrepresented groups in STEM fields, Michelle describes her current job as “a crazy dream come true.” As part of a blog series where we will be speaking with women making an impact, Tallo learns how Michelle is letting her mission drive her every day.

I was attracted to FIRST because it was an opportunity to combine my two passions in the arts and education. Before joining FIRST, I spent my time on the technical side of the arts, as a moving light programmer. When I left professional theater, I wanted to be able to make a difference and found my way to higher education. When I moved on from that, I knew that I wanted something to combine those two passions. For me, the empathy of the arts and the transformative impact of education are the two things that I feel can solve any problem in the world.

At FIRST, I am the Director of Alumni Relations. This means I get to work with our former students for the rest of their lives. I help folks find continued education opportunities, scholarships, internships, and job opportunities. I think most importantly, it’s connecting FIRST alumni with one another. We have this amazing group of students – about 500,000 students who participate in FIRST in any given year – and the opportunity to connect them for whatever comes next in their lives is something that can make a huge impact.

For me, the big goals are helping people to identify themselves as FIRST alumni. It’s helping them understand that even though FIRST is something they may do or have done in high school, middle school, or even elementary school, that those experiences can have very important residual effects for the rest of their life. 


The most challenging
aspect of my work is that it’s really never ending. There’s no end to what we could or should be doing to keep our alumni engaged. I think about it as this mountain we’re trying to climb. Sometimes it’s a terrifyingly huge mountain, so we have to take a step back and think about getting to the next plateau. It’s really all about thinking: “What can we do to have the longest residual benefit today, and then how can we build from there?”

The most rewarding aspect of working at our global headquarters is that every single person is behind the mission and striving to achieve it. Our mission at FIRST is to inspire young people to become leaders and innovators in their field – regardless of whether they pursue STEM or other career paths – and to help teach them to do so in a way we call Gracious Professionalism. Gracious Professionalism is learning and doing and competing like crazy, while always treating each other with respect and kindness. In FIRST everyone really is a winner!

The best advice I’ve received is to slow down and take a breath, whether that means enjoying success or taking a moment to step back and realize what may not have worked in a situation. This may seem like basic advice, but it’s very easy to continue running and miss the opportunity to do something better.

Tallo users are given a leg up. One thing that we hear from our corporate supporters who are also Tallo partners is that the Tallo platform is a great way to bridge the gap between this talent we’re fostering at FIRST and companies’ interest in hiring these folks. So, people using platforms like Tallo are able to impact their future by connecting things they’ve done with potential prospects. I’ve even got my nephew using Tallo for his college search!

I advise current Tallo users to tell their friends about the platform. Get them involved, and make sure they are taking advantage of all of the opportunities that start to become available to them even in high school. Tallo is a valuable tool for students now and in the future.

The New Tallo Profile

We listened to you guys. We did our research. We made the change. And now we’re ready to introduce the new Tallo profile that’s smarter, easier to edit, and way more enjoyable. Don’t believe us? Log in now to check things out for yourself. 

Smarter organization.

We wanted to build a space that helped show off the important stuff first. Tallo is about what you want to do next. Other profiles love to talk about where you’ve been and what you’ve done, but they don’t let you show people your plans, ambitions, goals, and dreams. Company recruiters and college admissions officers see immense value in knowing what direction a talent user wants to take, and we see immense value in helping our talent users achieve those goals. That’s why the new talent profile includes a “Future Goals and Plans” section that places career interests, location preferences, and next steps right in talent seekers’ faces.  

Alexis' Future Goals and Plans

Our users are comprised of more than just grades and classes. So, to show off how unique they are, we thought it was important to move sections like extracurricular activities, hobbies, and accomplishments to the top of the Tallo profile. Education has also been moved to the bottom allowing other accomplishments to be displayed first.  

Alexis' Memberships

And what better way to showcase your personality, experience, achievements, and passion than condensing it all into a personal statement? We’ve included a space dedicated specifically to help you tell the world about yourself. 

Alexis' Profile

Farewell to the days of guessing what your profile looks like to companies and colleges. The new profile provides a preview button , displaying only sections that you’ve filled out. 

 

Easier to edit.

Amongst the new features is a button that makes editing easier. That pencil icon? It’s everywhere. Click it and easily make edits to every section.

We know you’re busy. So, you’ll also be reminded to show off things like hobbies, groups, volunteering, and activities to your profile. 

It looks cool.

Not to mention the new profile just looks better. You’re welcome.

Want more details on what’s new in the platform? Dive into our super exciting Product Release Notes.

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Tallo Spotlight: Hayden Wood

Hayden Wood, a high school senior in Pleasant Plains, Arkansas, knows how to make Tallo work for him. Hayden initially created a Tallo profile to connect with FBLA opportunities, and now uses Tallo to apply for college, connect with career opportunities, get scholarship money, and keep himself organized.

College

Hayden used his Tallo profile to apply to his first choice school, the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). “UCA, when you apply there, they want you to create a leadership profile. So all I had to do was take my URL link from Tallo and paste it into the box [to apply], and they really enjoyed it.” Hayden plans on studying chemistry in college and wants to become a pharmacist.

Career Connections

A few weeks after Hayden created his Tallo profile, he was contacted by a neighboring city hospital complex asking if he’s interested in gaining hands-on experience. What was the result of that connection? “Today I am currently a full-time apprentice at the White River Medical Center in Batesville, Arkansas. I check stock and maintain inventory using the National Drug Code (NDC) and Morrison-Dickson numbers, while ensuring all hazardous drugs remain in a constant, stable condition.”

Scholarships

Hayden uses Tallo to consistently apply for scholarships. So far, he has been awarded a $2,000 future pharmacist scholarship that will help him pay for college. He’s keeping his fingers crossed that positive results keep rolling in! 

Stay Organized 

Hayden has been involved for over four years with both FBLA and EAST, an Arkansas-based nonprofit that gives students an opportunity to solve problems in their community using technology. He’s a student administrator for EAST, and is the National FBLA Legislative Director for the Southern Region Executive Council and Arkansas FBLA State Parliamentarian. So how does he handle the stress and pressure of keeping track of his accomplishments, activities, and goals? Well, Tallo helps. In fact, Hayden shared that when a classmate recently expressed how challenging it is to recall information and accomplishments to add to her resume, Hayden suggested, “Hey buddy, you should try out Tallo!” 

We’re glad that Tallo has been a part of this future pharmacist’s journey, and we’re looking forward to the connections that are still to come!

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Tallo User AMA: Nadia Cowan

 

With different backgrounds, interests, experiences, and professional aspirations, -our users are unique. And their stories are what truly make up the Tallo story. That’s why we want them to tell it. 

So we’re giving Tallo students free reign for a day-long AMA takeover of @apptallo on Instagram! For 24 hours, they’ll take whatever questions come their way. Whether it’s about applying to college or applying yourself, they’re sharing their experiences and wisdom with anyone following along. 

Nadia Cowan (@nadia_elise), a first-year student at NYU, is our first Tallo user in the spotlight. A long-time member of HOSA – Future Health Professionals, Nadia is learning to love life in the Big Apple as she works toward her dream to be an oral surgeon. Check out what she had to say below! 

Why did you join HOSA?

I joined HOSA because I love the healthcare field! And the community made while competing is so empowering. 

Any advice for someone thinking about joining HOSA?

Jump in and get involved! Make the most of your time in the organization and take advantage of any opportunities. 

What made you want to go to school at NYU? Congrats BTW! 

I chose NYU because of the joint dental degree program that they have here — I want to be an oral surgeon when I get older — and they have a lot of opportunities in the city.

Any tips for college applications? 

As far as applications go, I definitely say start as early as possible and make sure you’re taking time to do your essays, because they actually read them. Make sure you put your best foot forward and show your application to people before you submit it. 

(Nadia’s friend, Lola, chimed in as well)

Can I add something? Don’t be fake in your essay. #Beauthentic 

They can smell the bull when they read it, so be authentic to yourself because they are trying to get to know you through your essay.

What one thing are you looking forward to in college?

I am really looking forward to doing study abroad programs. This winter I am going to Italy with one of the programs that I joined, and I’m excited to experience different cultures and trying new things. 

What is HOSA?

HOSA stands for Health Occupation Students of America. It’s sort of like a health UIL (University Interscholastic League) competition. They have all these different events featuring job-seeking skills and extemporaneous writing. They have HOSA Bowl; skill competitions where you show off CPR or EMT skills. They have all sorts of different things, and you can compete at the area, state, national, or even international level. 

Did you tour NYU before committing? Is it worth doing? 

Yes, I did tour before committing, and I definitely recommend doing so. It’s really nice to just get a feel of the place and make sure that you like the place that you’re going. And you have a lot of fun when you tour!

Anything else?

I had an awesome time answering your questions. If you have any other questions or would like to know more about my experiences with HOSA or at NYU, feel free to DM me @nadia_elise. 

 

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Ladies Who Lead: Leilani Brown

Leilani Brown is K12 SVP of Strategic Partnerships and author, From Campus To Cubicle: 25 Tips For Your First Professional Year.

Many would say K12 SVP of Strategic Partnership and author Leilani Brown had a far from conventional path. Yet, Leilani believes life’s derailments led her exactly where she was meant to be. As part of a blog series where we will be speaking with women making an impact, Tallo sat down with Leilani to learn how she is using her passion to make a difference.

When I graduated from college, my plan was to go to law school. This was under the well intentioned guidance from my mother who said she had never met an unemployed lawyer! I applied to eight law schools my senior year, and I didn’t get into one. I did get into graduate school, and I went on to pursue a Masters in Public Administration, Management.

My current job is very different from what I imagined before, but I’m very happy with what I’m doing. I started my career as an insurance underwriting salesperson. So, I had a career start in sales and in insurance, and that was right after college. I did well. I rose through the ranks. But, outside of that work, I was always interested in increasing participation among underrepresented groups — first generation, people of color, women who might need a little extra help entering the workforce.

I’ve never looked back. I started my career, and I think it was the universe redirecting me outside of a law pursuit and directing me along this path which has been quite interesting and rewarding along the way.

At K12, I’m doing exactly what I’ve been interested in but at a much larger scale. I lead strategic partnerships and external engagements for our company. I’m primarily focused on career readiness, and I work with business partners and industry associations to try to create a workplace experience for our high school students so that when they graduate, their first day on the job won’t be their first day in the workplace.

The most rewarding aspect of my work is opening students’ eyes to different opportunities and allowing them to see beyond their immediate area. One of the most unfair questions we ask students is “what do you want to be?”, particularly when they haven’t seen all that they can be. I think in my partnership role we are providing a greater opportunity to do that.

I would say, don’t over-engineer your life. Sometimes things don’t work out, but those are the best things that NEVER happened to you.

One piece of advice I’ve received, and find myself giving, has been to run your own race. You have to be very careful to not compare yourself to anyone else — what they have, what they’ve achieved. Define success for yourself, and don’t try to do what others are doing.

Tallo gives its users the ability to define who they are and articulate what value they bring to the table. By creating a Tallo profile, you have a succinct way to describe your talents, abilities, skills, and what you want. The platform allows you to become more practiced with telling your story.

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Rise of the New Collar Worker

There is no “correct” way to prepare for the 21st century workforce.

That’s something we’ve known for years here at Tallo. In fact, it’s the entire reason we exist! But it’s a concept that many businesses have just begun to realize.

Ginni Rometty — IBM’s Chairwoman and CEO — made headlines in 2016 when she coined a new buzzword while describing her organization’s talent crisis: “new collar.”

In a digital age defined by AI and cloud computing, IBM — like many companies — found itself desperate for young talent who could fill critical roles such as software technicians, database managers, and user interface designers. These are jobs that do not require a four-year degree.

So IBM put their money where their mouth is; $1 billion to be exact, which they have invested in apprenticeship and training initiatives designed to build a workforce of “new collar” employees; workers who have technology skills, but have opted to bypass the traditional four-year university.

But it’s not just tech companies like IBM who need new collar workers. Organizations in the healthcare and manufacturing industries are also faced with critical shortages. These are jobs such as ultrasound technicians, pharmacy technicians, medical assistants, dental assistants, mechanics, and service delivery analysts. The U.S. Department of Labor is predicting millions of these jobs going unfilled over the next few years.

What does this mean for today’s students? It means that pursuing a four-year degree isn’t the no-brainer decision that many people think it is. Obtaining a four-year degree takes, well, four years; that’s a long time. And the costs can add up quickly, even with financial aid. After all of that, it isn’t even a guarantee that graduates will get the job they want!

What are these new collar workers choosing instead? They’re training through high school technical education, community colleges, vocational schools, software boot camps, technical certification programs, apprenticeships, and internships.

No matter the path, there’s a place for everyone on Tallo, including the aspiring new collar professionals! We match students engaged in CTE with in-demand jobs across the country. Organizations like ACE Mentor Program of America and HOSA – Future Health Professionals provide Tallo students with professional development and practical training. And Project Lead The Way empowers students to put their skills to work with hands-on experience and training.

So let’s hear it for the future radiologists and robotics engineers, the next generation of nurses and network administrators. Because new collar doesn’t mean less education. It means less uncertainty. It’s about grabbing education by the horns and forging a career as one sees fit. And Tallo will help out along the way.

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7 Ways to Kick-Start Your Tallo Profile

So you’ve just created a Tallo student account. Good move! But now — as you stare at your blank profile page — you’ve got a bit of writer’s block.

No worries. Here are 7 quick steps to help you kick-start your profile;

Upload a profile pic

This one is super simple. Swipe through your photos and pick your favorite. Your profile pic should reflect your personality, but it should also be professional (so, maybe skip the Snapchat filters here).

Fill out the basics

Now that you’re off and running, go ahead and plug in the basics. Adding your address will help organizations locate you, and including your demographic information may qualify you for certain opportunities and scholarships.

Add your Next Step

What’s on your horizon? Planning on learning a trade? Going to college? Serving in the military? Add whichever Next Step fits you best! We know plans change, so you can always change your Next Step at any time.

Include your standardized test scores

Tallo allows you to share your scores from a wide variety of widely-recognized tests, including the ACT, SAT, NOCTI, and even AP tests! These scores are important information, and will help colleges, universities, and organizations decide if you’d be a good fit for them.

Show off your Accomplishments, Extracurriculars, and Experiences

But of course, there’s way more to you than just test scores! Now is your time to shine. What experiences and accomplishments make you stand out? What are you most proud of? Don’t be modest! Even if you don’t think it’s relevant, include it anyway. You never know what organizations may be looking for.

Upload a video of you being you

People can learn a lot about you by reading your profile, but a video lets you showcase your skills, talents, or anything which can’t be conveyed by words alone. Whether it’s a championship game, your violin recital, or how handy you are with a monkey wrench, let the camera roll!

Add projects and other documents

Did you know that you can upload files to Tallo? This is a great way to let others see the great work you’ve accomplished. It could be a resume, a research paper, a class project, or even a certificate or license that you’ve earned. Sharing these are a great way of rounding out your profile.

Remember, this is just to get you started. Like most things, the more you put into your Tallo profile, the more you’ll get out of it. Do your best to fill out your profile as completely and accurately as you can. The best way to get noticed is to make your profile complete, comprehensive, and dynamic!

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Letter from the CEO: Tallo’s New Space

Talent should be found far before college graduation.

College athletic recruiters figured this out a long time ago, and here, at Tallo, we recognized this too. In just six years this realization has moved us in ways we could have only dreamed. 

For a long time, platforms that allowed for the discovery of young talents only existed within the world of sports, allowing colleges to connect with their prospects earlier and earlier. 

However, there was no system, app, or website out there that was able to find a future welder, technician, engineer, or nurse. We saw this as a big problem. So, we began to ask ourselves how we could use technology to level the playing field and really democratize the process of recruiting. Regardless of where a student lived, or what they were interested in, we wanted to connect them with the right opportunities. 

We envisioned a platform that allows students to showcase their skills and abilities that weren’t necessarily on the football field or the basketball court, but in the classroom as well.

We envisioned a platform that would do away with mailing brochures and career fairs that companies and colleges previously used to seek out students in well-connected high schools. What we envisioned was a platform that allowed companies and colleges to get to these students earlier, and help direct them into the pathways that they needed. That platform didn’t exist.   

Until, that is, we created what was then called STEM Premier, a digital platform showcasing the success and talents of traditional STEM students and connecting them to opportunities in their field of interest.

Our platform was great for STEM students, but we soon realized the concept was great for all students. 

As we grew, our population of students with diverse skills and interests grew as well. We realized that in order to better represent them, we needed to change our name to make it more inclusive and inviting. 

We weren’t just STEM students, we were all students, and we needed our name to be representative of that. 

So, we changed our name to Tallo — meaning “talent” + “locator.” 

I can say that expanding to the point of a name change was a major milestone, but since our inception in 2013 we have crossed many of these.

Getting those first students to come onto our brand new platform was a challenge. From what started in just two high schools on the outskirts of Charleston, SC has now expanded to over half a million users. There are students on Tallo in nearly two out of every three high schools in the country. We have Tallo students in all 50 states and in over 3,000 different colleges.

As our user population has grown, our Tallo Team has followed suit. It still amazes me that less than a year ago we were a lean 16. Our team now consists of over 30 employees, who came to Tallo with a wealth of experience, knowledge, and raw creative energy to push this company past the next big milestone: one million users.

It’s been exciting to see significant growth both internally and externally; our expansion into a new office space is proof of that. It’s been even more exciting to watch the transformation of a company that was once a start-up comprised of dynamic generalists become a company of specialists connecting talent with talent seekers anywhere in the country. 

This is more than just a move into a new space for the Tallo Team. I think this move signifies the next step. A new office with spaces to work collaboratively and continuously expand is what’s going to take us to the next level. 

Because we’re not a start-up company anymore. We’re a real company. We’re a fast-growing company. 

And it’s time to tell the world truly who Tallo is. 

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Tallo Spotlight: Marianna Moawad

Networking, a day off from school, and free BBQ. When applying for the 2018 STEM Signing Day, Marianna Moawad, an upcoming sophomore at Clemson University, was originally expecting the very least from what remains a very memorable experience. 

Through her Tallo profile, which allows her to showcase her unique skills and interests, Marianna was part of a select group of students chosen by Boeing, BMW, and the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance to attend the second annual South Carolina STEM Signing Day. Onstage at the event, Marianna signed a letter of intent to pursue a STEM degree at Clemson University.  She made connections with students who held similar interests, and received affirmations from elected officials and leaders in business and the community that solidified her success and future plans. Still, her love for computer science began well before her STEM Signing Day experience. 

From building her first website to learning about the world of coding, as the years have gone on Marianna has found herself becoming more passionate about the field of technology. 

Now, in a college setting, the Computer Information Systems major is experiencing firsthand the lack of women in her field ⁠— a discovery that she finds to be disheartening. In her own words, “We are the minority, and there’s not a lot of women in technology. And it’s very sad.”

Her advice to students in general was simple: “Life is hard, it’s not going to be easy,” Moawad says. “If you don’t get an A, that’s fine. Just make sure you’re learning from those experiences and trying to think in a different way.”

Good luck with all of your future endeavors, Marianna. We look forward to seeing all of your success on your Tallo profile!

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Tallo Spotlight: Jocelyn Holman

When one of our Tallo students finds that perfect fit — whether a particular school, opportunity, or organization — we get excited. It’s what we live for, and it happens every single day (so we pretty much stay excited 24/7)!

But in Jocelyn Holman’s case, she found more than a perfect internship; she may have just found her true calling.

Jocelyn H.

High School Student in Lakewood, CO

Jocelyn’s Tallo story began thirteen years ago during her preschool graduation. While her classmates excitedly shouted plans for their future selves, Jocelyn made a rather prophetic announcement to the audience.

Many years – and LEGO sets – later, her passion for robotics inspired her to get involved with her local FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team, The Highlanders. With lots of hard work, dedication, and of course, their robot “Blitzar,” The Highlanders powered their way to the FRC World Championships in Houston, Texas.

It was during the last day of the competition when Jocelyn’s Tallo profile made an impact on the global aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. Following an interview at our Tallo booth, the rising high school senior was awarded a Lockheed Martin Radio Frequency Engineering Internship, where she recently began working this summer alongside some of the industry’s best minds. We guess you could say that she made a great FIRST impression!

Although Jocelyn is still exploring her career options, she is already confident about her plans after high school.

Don’t be fooled by her modesty! The Colorado School of Mines is only one of the best applied sciences and engineering schools in the country! We know she’ll fit right in.

We asked Jocelyn what advice she would give to her younger peers who are still figuring out their own life path. Without missing a beat, she delivered.

Jocelyn Holman, ladies and gentlemen! It’s certainly safe to say that she has followed her own advice.

Good luck with your internship Jocelyn! And keep following your heart. We’ll help you figure out the rest.

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