Meet Cynthia Mackey, one of the Ready, Set, Connect! Program’s (RSC) newest volunteer instructors. Cynthia runs Winning Strategies, an Oakland-based digital marketing firm that helps clients extend their brand and grow business online. I recently sat down with Cynthia to talk about her involvement with RSC.
Kerri: How did you become involved with the Ready, Set, Connect! Program?
Cynthia: I met Kami at an event hosted by the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF). As a part of their initiative to reduce the digital divide in California, CETF conducts annual reports on their progress, and Kami was there. I’m one of CETF’s expert advisors, so I try to attend their events to keep track of our progress in the state. Kami and I spoke a bit about CTN and the RSC program. She invited me to come and speak.
Running a full-time business limits the amount of time I have to give to nonprofit work, even though it interests me greatly. I try to focus my efforts on youth and adults who are looking for work. I look for opportunities to help people get employed virtually or become entrepreneurs using web-based tools and services. After talking to Kami, I thought that becoming involved with RSC would be a chance to help expose the youth to areas like social media that they could engage in as an area of employment or entrepreneurship – whether it’s a way to make short term money or as a future career.
Kerri: What do you do with RSC?
Cynthia: So far, I’ve taught a class on conducting a social media campaign. The class helped the youth identify business applications for social media so that they can see the difference between using social media personally, and how a business uses it. We focused on helping youth put on the “hat” of the company they’re working for and how to think like that company in terms of how they might want to interact with a potential customer via social media. At the end of the class, the youth created campaigns for their RSC branches that they’ll be able to use to promote the program. It was great to work with such a diverse group of young people. Their work and responses when they were creating the campaigns stressed to me how important it is to bring in more diversity in the digital marketing field. They brought a breadth of thought to their work that was really exciting.
I’ll be returning to give another workshop on the job and entrepreneurial opportunities in the “virtual economy” in January. I’m really excited to be able to share topics that are so near and dear to me with the RSC youth.
Kerri: How does working with RSC youth compare to working with your typical clients?
Cynthia: In my business, I help my clients develop and implement digital marketing campaigns. Since I work with small and medium businesses that may be new to having a social media presence, I’m sometimes called to instruct on the use of social media for business purposes. However our clients are very seasoned and business savvy. With the RSC youth, they’ve grown up using social media, but most of them are high school and college students who have not had much experience with the business world. So I had to give them insight into the business mindset with examples and analogies that made sense to them. I did this by mentioning products and services that they might be familiar with.
Kerri: What impact has volunteering with RSC had on your professional life?
Cynthia: Any time I get an opportunity to speak with youth, it’s always eye-opening and validating about trends that I’m seeing. It’s one thing to get a data report from a trusted source; it’s another thing to hear about it first hand from people in that demographic. I also appreciate the opportunity to improve my ability to construct curricula for the youth audience.
Kerri: What do you like best about volunteering with RSC?
Cynthia: I loved seeing the potential of this age group. They embraced the idea of working remotely. They seemed excited about digital marketing as careers. I’m not sure that all of them knew that they could get paid for doing this kind of work. They have a high potential for succeeding at this work. I liked educating the youth that these kinds of virtual jobs exist. People of color especially need to know that these kinds of jobs exist. I feel like there’s a gap between people who know about virtual work, and people who don’t – especially among people of color – so I’m always happy for a chance to spread the word.