The Intern: Student helps connect peers to mentors and inspire careers

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The Intern: Student helps connect peers to mentors and inspire careers

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Worried about finding a job when you graduate? Worry no longer. Computer science major Márcio Porto ’17 is interning with a startup website designed to connect you with your future.

MANGO, as the website is called, is in its earliest stages of development. The website uses data from LinkedIn to help graduating students find someone who can connect them with a mentor or job. The hypothetical mentor would then give career advice about internships, graduate school or employment.

LinkedIn, which also helps individuals make connections in the professional world, does not go far enough, according to Porto. “LinkedIn is good for people to find you, but it’s not great for you to find people. We’re going to help you with interviews and connecting with these people.”

Porto found the internship on the University of St. Thomas database, which he claims is one of the best for Mac students. Porto mostly works from Macalester because the job is can be done remotely. The startup does not have its own offices yet because it is in its earliest stages. When the startup does meet, they meet at either their CEO’s home or the University of Minnesota, where most of the other interns go to school.

For Porto, who has only been working with MANGO for about a month, this is the ideal internship. He is keenly interested in startup companies and entrepreneurship. Developing a product from its roots is something that sets a solid groundwork for Porto’s future. The aims of the startup are to deal with the kind of employment troubles Porto himself has faced. “I’m at a point in my life where I need that kind of advice”, he said.

Although the website is in its earliest stages — the group is working on the beta product — Porto sees a lot of potential for growth. He doesn’t yet know if the website is going to work because it’s not finished. If and when it does work, Porto says he would love to keep working with MANGO because the experience has been eye-opening and exciting.

Porto is tasked with designing the website’s interface. In short: “It’s everything you’ll see on MANGO; in computer science, it’s what we call the front end. I’m mostly doing what you see on the website, like Google, Facebook, everything you see, that’s what I’m doing.”

There are two people working on the technology aspect of the product. His colleague has been working in the area for fifteen years and according to Porto, is quite a bit more experienced than he is. Porto’s learning curve has been very steep.

Although the young website is promising, the road to success has not been completely smooth for Porto. One of the most challenging parts of the programming, and also one of the more important parts of the interface, is the messaging system. The messaging piece is designed to help a user contact a mentor or employer. “That messaging piece, how you create a message, is going to be the thing that we need to get right in order for MANGO to succeed because it’s not enough for you to know who to contact; you have to know actually how to contact them.”

To say that MANGO is in its earliest stages is not indicative of the amount of work the developers have done so far. Porto has a “really rough draft” and plans to start testing it on users soon. Testing the product on potential users is one of the most important steps in the process. “If it doesn’t work for them, that’s not right, you need to change that.” Being the first of many tests, Porto has no idea what the final product will look like after it runs the course of tests.

The deadline for the beta product is on May 1st, and they will begin to test the product soon at Macalester, the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas. To test the product, the MANGO team will find students who are struggling to find employment. From there, they will begin to revise, asking themselves if various components they might have once considered make sense in the grand scheme of things.

The most important component of the platform is the part that will connect you with your mentor. The group is working on developing an algorithm that will compile the data from LinkedIn. MANGO will have four types of mentors, each aiming to provide a different type of advice. You’ll likely have to answer questions on a form so that MANGO can connect you with a suitable mentor.

Once you are matched with a mentor, MANGO will help write the message to this potential mentor, sentence by sentence. Most of the mentors are preselected and many are college alumni who have demonstrated interest in helping students from their schools in the search for employment, internships or just good advice.

During the product research, MANGO was told that students might not use professional, succinct language, thereby hurting their own job prospects, but also the reputation of the school. This issue, Porto says, has been challenging. “One of our biggest challenges is to come up with a way for students to generate a message that is well-worded, but also somewhat personalized.”

But May 1 is still far off in the distance, and at the rate Porto is moving on the front end, it seems realistic that the beta product will be ready by that time. If you’re interested in learning more about the product, the website is mangomentors.com.