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Impact 0549: Mentoring youth to build their confidence in tech

Michael Chen · 20 April 2022
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Youth Action Challenge (YAC) is a platform for youth to provide solutions that tackle the issues we are concerned about. Since October 2021, over 80 teams and more than 310 youths have undertaken the YAC Season 3 journey.

Michael Chen is an 18-year-old student from Raffles Institution. His passion lies in building education technology software. He is also one of the co-founders of RoadMaple, an online platform dedicated to help youth learn tech skills. 

Today, he shares more about his journey and the work that he does.

What was your role within your YAC project?

RoadMaple is an online platform to help youth learn tech skills through mentorship and roadmaps. My role at RoadMaple is mostly on the product side of things. I am responsible for building the online platform – from conducting user research with users who are learning tech skills, to coding the website itself. Due to the interactive nature of our roadmaps, they present some technical challenges. Besides this, I also help my teammates engage with partnering experts and organisations like Reactor School to onboard mentors and create roadmaps.

What motivated you to join YAC?

YAC has a huge array of mentors to support projects in the challenge. Our team knew that if we joined, we could gain new perspectives on how to improve our project and find solutions to the challenges we were facing. In fact, our experience proved this to be true, as our mentors have helped us greatly in our journey.

Can you share with us your experience with your YAC project?

As the saying goes, “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.”

Our team is a group of prolific learners, so we are extremely familiar with the problems of online learning today. However, this didn’t make our experience smooth sailing at all. It has been a challenge finding and implementing a solution that truly helps youth learners. Not to mention, onboarding partners into our project was a sizable challenge too.

This was what made our YAC project fulfilling to me. It takes a ton of work to solve, or at least alleviate, a difficult problem for many, but seeing the impact we have on youth learners made it worth it.

What are some challenges you faced while working on your YAC project?

Our project’s mentorship programme was the key selling point, but hitting a critical body of mentors was a challenge for us. We spent a lot of time brainstorming ways to encourage mentors to join our programme, be it partnering with other mentoring organisations or other kinds of personal incentive. Talking to potential mentors and learning what motivates them was time-consuming, but ultimately fruitful.

Everyone in our team had other things to work on during YAC, such as university and internships. We learnt how to work together despite our packed schedules and set aside time to contribute to our project.

Could you share more on how your project has a positive impact?

Within two months of launching our mentorship program, we’ve matched over 20 mentor-mentee pairs, with 90 per cent of them engaged in the programme. As for our roadmaps, in a span of five months, over 2,400 learners have used them to aid their learning.

Were there any key takeaways or learning points from your time with YAC?

The first key takeaway was design thinking. It was crucial that we identified a real pain point faced by youth learners and implemented a solution to solve it. We learnt this through YAC’s workshops and mentors and later adopted the design thinking framework to aid us in the process.

Secondly, working with stakeholders was a key learning point for us. With over eight organisations and 30 experts partnering with us, it was crucial to learn how to establish trust with our partners and make the most out of the partnership while respecting their time.

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