High school boy meets world Communitech January 10, 2014 Communitech, Startups Photo: Suraj Srinivas, Vetica co-founder By Karen Klink Deciding what you want to be when you grow up is tough. Let’s face it – most adults don’t always figure it out the first time. The Business & Education Partnership created ZOOM Challenge Days to try to help with that major decision. The Challenge Days provides Waterloo Region high school students with an opportunity to work for the day with a local company on a current problem. Vetica Inc., a ZOOM Challenge Day company, was founded in 2012 by a group of University of Waterloo computer science students. Vetica solves real world problems for educational institutions. Their first product, Planboard, is a lesson planning platform that allows teachers and administrators to streamline the lesson planning process. “I never had the opportunity to experience entrepreneurship as a career path while in high school,” says Suraj Srinivas, cofounder. “Challenge Days provides students with the chance to experience entrepreneurship and move away from the traditional careers. These days provide students with the opportunity to think outside the box and apply skills to scenarios companies like us encounter every day.” Srinivas met Bluevale High School student Daniel Rampelt through a Challenge Day. Rampelt worked with the Vetica team in April. Rampelt was so enthusiastic about his experience with the team that he reached out to Srinivas to ask if he was a hiring a summer co-op student. Srinivas had witnessed Rampelt’s skill set thanks to the Challenge Day and was thrilled when he contacted him. Srinivas not only offered Rampelt a co-op position but also hired him part time in September. Rampelt highly recommends Challenge Day to other high school students. “It is a great experience to see how startups work,” he says. “Challenge Day allows you to explore different fields of interest to help determine if you want to pursue a career in that sector. For me, attending Challenge Day confirmed my interest in computer science. Being able to work directly with a company like Vetica provided me with the knowledge of the skill sets that startups are looking for”. Srinivas is a strong advocate for experiential learning and believes that other companies in the region should be supporting initiatives like Challenge Day. He believes it is a great way to give back to the community. It’s an opportunity that he wishes was available to him when he was in high school and struggling with career decisions. Both Srinivas and Rampelt believe that the government should be supporting programs like ZOOM Challenge Day. “Entrepreneurship is one of the big drivers of economic growth,” says Srinivas. “The more that can be done to support startups in creating a sustainable workforce the greater impact entrepreneurs can have on the local economy.” For more information on ZOOM Challenge Day please contact Karen Klink.