Celebrating 6 years of STEM Mentorship at CSULA

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Since 2013, Leidos QTC Health Services has partnered with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students from California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) for their Capstone Senior Design Projects. Each school year, we are matched with a student team and their own faculty advisor for a year-long technological project. Students collaborate with Leidos QTC Health Services professionals and apply what they learn in their textbooks to real world issues.

“We believe the most effective way to learn is through a hands-on, practical approach,” said Chief Information Officer Nader Nemati. Nemati sits on the advisory board of the CSULA College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology (ECST), so he began this partnership because he saw the value in connecting Leidos QTC Health Services professionals and local students together.

To get the student team started, our IT Department selects a technical project by considering what they can learn from and what Leidos QTC Health Services can benefit from. Different employees are chosen to be Project Leads to guide the student team and check-in on their progress. The student team even comes on-site to QTC’s San Dimas administrative office to observe our work flow and have a greater understanding of the issues their project is addressing.

“Leidos QTC Health Services helps the students experience what our real life industry is like and prepares them to gain experience prior to working at their first job,” said Software Development Manager Rita Qi.

These meaningful projects are more than homework assignments—they are partnerships where we implement aspects of their final projects into our own technical applications. For the 2018-2019 school year, students worked on a project to improve medical record tagging. We’ve since integrated their findings within our own applications. Our student teams are bright and determined, and our mentors see this firsthand.

CSULA is a perfect recruiting ground for talented STEM students. Last year, the U.S. News & World Report ranked the CSULA engineering program in the top ten for its category. With five years of dedicated students bringing sophisticated technical skills to Leidos QTC Health Services, this partnership continues to be successful and productive.

Over the years, we have hired five students from CSULA. Their communication skills and initiative to proactively get things done caught Leidos QTC Health Services’ attention. Yet what really set them apart was their willingness to keep learning and improve their technical skills.

Software Engineer Francisco Guzman was part of the first student team in 2013, and he was hired at the end of the school year.

“I think Leidos QTC Health Services noticed I had the passion to keep learning new things, working hard, and not being afraid of failure,” said Guzman.

When Guzman first started, there was another more senior Software Engineer assigned as a mentor to provide him with professional support. Guzman was fresh out of college, and the mentor’s guidance helped him acclimate to our corporate environment. He has worked at Leidos QTC Health Services for five years now, and during that time, he’s grown his technical and professional skillset.

As 61 million people from Generation Z enter the workforce right now, this partnership takes on a whole new strategic importance.

“Our employees work closely with the student teams and pass some of their skills to this next generation entering the workforce,” said Chief Information Officer Nader Nemati. “They get to interact with them and see what it’s like to work together.”

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