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On the heels of Mass Fintech Hub’s launch in June, the organization kicked off its program schedule with the inaugural Commonwealth Fintech Bootcamp in July. This two-day seminar allowed over 60 Black and Latinx graduates of Boston public high schools to learn from some of the leading fintech thinkers in Massachusetts. One of the first speakers, a Black CEO of a fintech startup, began her lecture by saying, “Voy a hablar de las tarjetas de credito” (I’m going to talk about credit cards). When she asked how many students understood her, the Latinx half of the class quickly raised their hands while the rest stared back at her in silence. “You see, when you don’t understand the language, it’s really not fun. That’s why we’re going to teach you the language of fintech!” She went on to explain several key concepts, such as the power of compound interest, in terms and with examples that the students could relate to.

To recruit students for the Bootcamp, Mass Fintech Hub partnered with UMass Amherst and Digital Ready, a non-profit that activates the creative potential of high school students, especially Black and Latinx youth, to build tangible pathways to economic opportunities in Boston’s innovation economy. "The Bootcamp gave our students a unique opportunity to explore the fintech industry and understand what careers await them in the future," said Digital Ready Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Sarah Cherry Rice. "As future innovators, this experience was invaluable for our students. They were able to hear from leaders at the forefront of their field, increase their networks, and understand the skills needed to enter a career in fintech."

In building out the two-day curriculum, Mass Fintech Hub’s Talent, Academics & Diversity Workstream, led by Jim Flynn, Assistant Dean at the UMass Amherst Robert and Donna Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences, had three key goals in mind for the students:

  1. Gain an understanding of and passion for fintech
  2. Become aware of fintech career opportunities in Massachusetts
  3. Increase their motivation to pursue fintech educational opportunities
Lamont Young of Citizens Bank and Tanya Van Court of Goalsetter sit in a lecture hall for a fireside chat.

"It was important that the students receive a comprehensive look into the industry from a group of highly accomplished fintech leaders," said Flynn. “The curriculum covered a wide range of topics and different sectors within fintech, such as banking, insurtech, regulation and crypto-currencies as well as a general overview of innovation in business, finance and artificial intelligence.”


Building a future career 


The curriculum also covered a range of career-focused topics from wealth-building to career paths in fintech to raising venture capital. Richard Napolitano, Chief Executive Officer at Advisor360°, told his personal story of becoming a successful technology and finance executive and offered some great advice around college and career paths: "It can be challenging as a student to see the path ahead, particularly in emerging industries such as fintech. I hope my own story as a software engineer who went on to found or lead several tech companies was inspirational for this very bright group of students."

  Tanya Van Court, Founder and CEO at Goalsetter, ran a very entertaining session on Building Wealth: A 3-Part Blueprint Inspired by Jay Z. Her focus is making young people feel empowered to act around their financial freedom, regardless of their backgrounds, and be hopeful about their ability to build wealth as well as have a better understanding of the basic concepts of finance. As she tells her students "My daughter came to me before her ninth birthday and asked for two things, enough money to start an investment account and a bike. I thought to myself, If I can get every child in America to say this, I can change the world.”

  "Our bootcamp opens doors to new ideas and opportunities for young people. It is an example of how inclusive our fintech community is across sectors, race, sexual orientation or income level," said Robert Sarnie, Professor at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, who ran the career paths session. "It was also a great honor and very inspiring to interact and talk with these great young future world leaders of fintech. They were very engaged and had outstanding questions. I personally learned so much by listening to all the students' thoughts and all the impressive speakers across the fintech ecosystem at the Bootcamp."

Lamont Young, Executive Vice President at Citizens Bank, covered how the banking industry is embracing fintech. He also talked about his journey starting in the footwear business working with endorsers like Snoop, OutKast, and 50 Cent, then founding a clothing line and running a startup for almost 6 years. He’s a great example of changing paths a few times and finding success. Says Lamont “I now have a pretty awesome career in banking and it’s so great to see so many Black and Brown kids fully engaged and thirsty to learn about the sector. We need to have more of these events to inspire, encourage and empower our youth to help them understand that the world is theirs.”

  Core to the mission of Mass Fintech Hub is working to improve access to opportunities for those in under-represented or economically challenged communities," said Damon Cox, Assistant Secretary for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. "Diversity is integral to the future of our state. It was so important for our inaugural Commonwealth Fintech Bootcamp to be reflective of that."

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