People of color and women are underrepresented in the financial services industry although the field is extremely technology-dependent, per reported findings provided by the United States Government Accountability Office. Lack of diversity in high tech fields remains a longstanding issue. Ironically, high-demand Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) occupations remain on the rise. Since jobs in STEM are often regarded as having higher than average median salaries, overlooking employment in financial services or IT industries could lead to missed financial gains for minorities.

   “Black workers make up 9% of the STEM workforce, smaller than their share of all employed U.S. adults (11%). They comprise just 5% of those in engineering and architecture and 6% each in life and physical science jobs,” according to Pew Research’s U.S. government data analysis.

   To better address a goal of increasing workforce diversity, Lincoln Financial Group (Lincoln) formed a partnership with Morgan State University (MSU) in 2021. Lincoln’s headquarters are based in Radnor, Pennsylvania. “Retirement, insurance and wealth protection expertise” is provided to customers, per information provided by the company. To date, two events have been hosted with MSU. A Professional Development Competition was held along with Lincoln’s Financial Distributors. However, the codeLinc for IT event was the first one which was held at MSU from April 2-3, 2022 for students who attend the university.

Oluwadara Dina, left, and Marcus Cusaac, right, of team, “Evolution Hack,” present their team’s development to the judges, mentors and their fellow students. Photo credit: Scott Richardson, Lincoln Financial Group

   When 22-year-old Saad Nadeem found out about the codeLinc hackathon which was scheduled to occur at MSU, the ambitious junior from Dubai took advantage of an opportunity to learn during competition and simultaneously earned extra credit. Nadeem is a Computer Science major who benefited from the experiential learning opportunity.

   According to a press release, the codeLinc hackathon is one of “two unique professional development competition-oriented initiatives designed to cultivate talent and foster an increasingly diverse workforce within the financial services sector.” The program affords high school and college students a chance to utilize coding skills and “earn credit toward tuition and books.”

Ogooluwasubomi Popoola and Nanfwang Dawurang, work around the clock on their application, EZ Match.
Photo credit: Scott Richardson, Lincoln Financial Group

 The MSU event raised awareness about Lincoln as an employer. Students who are enrolled at the college were afforded an opportunity to work with Lincoln coaches who mentored them while they were challenged to build an improved job-seeking tool.

   “We created an app that was called NetMe. The whole point of the application was to match appropriate employees to organizations and vice versa,” Nadeem said. “To water it down, it was basically Tinder, but not where you find love, it’s where you find your dream job. It took us 22 hours to make NetMe and the PowerPoint presentation.”

   The junior mentioned that two “amazing mentors” named Vinothraj Thanikasalam and Dinesh Shet assisted “Team Godspeed” with the development process of the application. The group placed first in the competition. An added perk was that the honor came with $4000 in prize money. Two other teams were awarded $2,000 and $1,000. Cash prizes were reportedly divided in equal portions for team members.

   Beyond the financial incentives, the codeLinc hackathon was more than a one-time event. Scott Roth, Senior Vice President and Divisional Chief Information Officer, Workplace Solutions at Lincoln underscored this thought.

   “CodeLinc provides a unique opportunity for Lincoln to connect with the next generation of IT talent. We were especially excited to bring this event to Morgan State as part of a multifaceted partnership with the university. The enthusiasm and innovation displayed by each team made this event a truly engaging experience for students, coaches, and volunteers alike,” Roth said.

According to information provided by Lincoln, the company offered three internship opportunities to MSU students who participated in the recent hackathon. Verbal acceptances were provided for three while a fourth one is pending. A bonus is that a Leadership Preparation Program is already in place at Lincoln. MSU’s students may also benefit from it, depending on career goals, and how close they are in completing their degrees.

Although Nadeem already had secured a different internship opportunity before the event, he was able to leverage use of his technology skills, work with fellow students, and network.

 “I had a genuine conversation with Alisha Bell-Campbell who is a Senior Diversity Recruiter at Lincoln about the hackathon, studies and just life in general,” Nadeem said. “I was honored when she told me she wanted me to come and try working with Lincoln, but I had already accepted the offer at Exelon, and it was too late. We still stay in touch on LinkedIn, so at the end of the day, I built some great connections.”

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