Genelle Betterson, IBM human resources partner, shares her IGN.I.T.E. experience.
Genelle Betterson,
IBM human resources
partner, shares
her IGN.I.T.E
experience.

Earlier in Genelle Betterson’s career at IBM she was a customer engineer that serviced hardware and equipment. In that role, and others, she experienced first-hand the impact that IBM products have had on people and their businesses over the years.

Today, Genelle is a human resource partner for IBM in Atlanta, Georgia, who supports clients in analytics and cognitive engagement. When she learned of the opportunity to volunteer at Price Middle School in south Atlanta, she couldn’t wait to share her passion with the young students.

For the past four years, Genelle has volunteered through IGN.I.T.E., or Igniting Interests in Technology and Engineering and Price Middle School is one of the local partner. IGN.I.T.E. uses creative, fun approaches to teach middle school-aged students about careers in STEM, exposing them to options that might not otherwise be clear. “I want the boys to get excited about engineering so they can see what they can do,” Genelle says.

Happy and they know it

The students get to learn things like how to program robots, how to repair computer programs, and how to build computers. Sometimes, participants get the chance to come to IBM and work with actual engineers. The intention is that kids who have the experience of working in science and technology might pursue those fields when they enter higher education, and continue in their careers.

While volunteering in the IGN.I.T.E. program, Genelle has relied on multiple IBM activity kits, including Explore Careers in Engineering, Get the Job: On Paper, In Person, Hands-on STEM, and Patent Project. The kits provide a good starting point to begin sessions with the students and they help keep the kids focused on the material. From Genelle’s perspective, the 10-year program has been a hit. She says IGN.I.T.E. alumni often have success stories to share.

“When I run into one of these kids, I learn that they’ve gone on to college and majored in math or engineering or science,” Genelle says. “It overwhelms me.”

The feeling is mutual. At a recent IGN.I.T.E. ceremony, Genelle says the students had an opportunity to share their final projects with parents and school staff. To say they were enthusiastic is putting it mildly. “Some of the boys didn't want the event to end,” Genelle says. “I hope that we were able to spark interest in the students. I believe that we accomplished that goal.”

Inspired and committed

This kind of volunteer work is a passion for Genelle, especially because as a child she didn't have opportunities be exposed to engineering. She wants to be sure that students get a chance to be introduced to STEM fields at an early age, so they’re aware of all that’s out there. And like most volunteers, Genelle has gained even more from the time she’s spent.

“My volunteer experience has allowed me to increase my technical skills and knowledge,” she says. “My personal development has increased. I’m more patient and my listening skills have improved, which means I can better serve my clients.”

Her advice to IBMers is to volunteer and take time to give back to others. “IBM has provided us with training and development,” Genelle says, “that can be shared with others to help them succeed.”


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