WATSONVILLE—Since 2018, Watsonville-based nonprofit Digital NEST has hosted NEST Flight, a career development conference aiming to inspire young professionals and propel their careers.
The event features speakers, workshops, panel discussions, networking opportunities and more for people ages 17-24. During the conference, attendees have the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by industry professionals.
NEST Flight will return this year as a virtual conference on May 4 and 5.
“The thing I’m most excited for is seeing youth from my community be connected with young Latinos who are also from here, and who have made it in Silicon Valley,” said Montse de la Garma, communications manager at Digital NEST. “You can’t really become something that you don’t see.”
This year’s conference kicks off with a keynote address from Michael Tubbs, founder and executive director of End Poverty in California. Tubbs is the special advisor to Gov. Gavin Newsom for Economic Mobility, and the founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. In 2016, he was elected mayor of Stockton at 26 years old, becoming the youngest in the city’s history, and its first African-American mayor.
Other keynote speakers include the CEO of Code for America Amanda Renteria and Lange Luntao, director of external relations at Education Trust-West. Panelists include Google’s art director and visual designer, Rubén Darío-Villa; software engineer at Habu, Martín Vargas-Vega; global sales associate at Linkedin, Damon Wiley; Citibank owner and chief marketer, Jessica Moyer; three representatives from Amazon Web Services, and more.
“It’s so unique because we have industry professionals who really want to connect with these young people,” de la Garma said. “They want to hear from them, they want to give them advice, and share their lessons. It’s an incredible opportunity.”
De la Garma praised Digital NEST’s employer partnerships manager, Sandra Pineda, for her work on connecting the organization with Silicon Valley’s employer pipeline.
“I know for Sandra, it’s really meaningful,” she said, “because she started out as a mentor, and now she’s helping other mentors.”
De la Garma said that the opportunities given to local youth during the conference are “huge,” and uncommon for communities like the Pajaro Valley.
“We want more Latino youth to have more access to these resources,” she said. “It’s an incredible and needed experience because sometimes … We lack confidence. We don’t think these kinds of opportunities are for us. We come from very humble origins. You have to really encourage people that yes, you can achieve whatever you want no matter where you come from, no matter what your background is.”
Last-minute registration is still available for NEST Flight, and those who sign up by Friday will be guaranteed a mentorship connection. This year’s sponsors have also offered all registered users a gift: Access to one year’s worth of an online MasterClass.
“We want Nest Flight to be huge in the future,” de la Garma said. “We want year-round engagement. We’re still developing that part of it … But we have really big plans. It has been really great to see firsthand our youth participate … They’re there, they’re ready, and confident in where they are. It’s inspiring.”
For information, to register, and learn about sponsorship opportunities for NEST Flight visit nestflight.org. You can also stay in touch through Digital NEST’s various social media platforms.