Knowledge Center

Banking on KC – Neelima Parasker of SnapIT Solutions

 

Listen Now, or read the transcript below:

 

Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us. With us on this episode is Neelima Parasker, the president and CEO of SnapIT Solutions. Welcome, Neelima.

Neelima Parasker:

Thank you so much, Kelly. I'm super excited to be on this podcast with you.

Kelly Scanlon:

Someone told me, I think a news release told me you should be really excited about something else, in fact. Congratulations on your top 10 nomination. I know that's an elite group to be in as a small business here in Kansas City, competing for the Mr. K Award with nine other highly qualified small businesses. So congratulations on that.

Neelima Parasker:

Yeah. I take that best wishes and congratulations with the great stride and hoping that will go all the way through.

Kelly Scanlon:

One of your goals is to make a positive impact on underserved communities and individuals who are aspiring to promote STEM and foster digital inclusion. How is your company, SnapIT Solutions doing that?

Neelima Parasker:

We are doing that with regards with one mission in our mind and a platform to create not only education-wise, we have created solutions to educate our prospective employees, but hired from those training sessions and then giving them an opportunity to implement what they have learned onto real-life products, the projects, and then eventually they move into a space where they're independently working either within the SnapIT framework, or we place them with our clients. So to explain in detail, Kelly SnapIT is working on creating more tech talent from underserved and underrepresented communities, and we do that by creating an environment through our process. The students first interact with SnapIT at trainings. That's our first segment and phase of our company. They get trained in high-demand skills in technology, through SnapIT trainers.

Neelima Parasker:

From that training courses, we, along with other IT companies hire from that talent and we put them on our solve division that gives them exposure to smaller, less critical projects to work on. Once they are showing us that they can independently work on products by themselves, we now engage with big corporations and take a chunk of work from them and get that delivered through this journeyman or junior talent combined with senior engineers.

Kelly Scanlon:

So you're actually giving people who didn't necessarily think that technology was a career path for them, you're giving them that access and that opportunity and further, you're providing the training and the real-world projects for them to familiarize themselves and to use those new skills.

Neelima Parasker:

Absolutely.

Kelly Scanlon:

If I remember correctly, you actually have a patent pending for this process. Is that right?

Neelima Parasker:

Yes. Kelly, couple of years back, I would say 2019, I worked with Stanford and Kauffman Foundation, in fact, to create a white paper on what SnapIT is doing. They got super interested in what are we doing? How are we able to make this difference? They came to SnapIT's office and met with individuals and said, "Would you be willing to write a white paper with this where we are showcasing SnapIT as a use case?" So I took that opportunity to completely write as much detail as I can, right? For a white paper, but during that process, I was encouraged to think about patenting our business process. It was not on my radar, but that made sense because what we are doing is quite unique in the way we are operating and bringing the talent into the industry. We may be early funnel to the areas of talent that has not been traditionally accessed, right?

Neelima Parasker:

No four-year degree in computer sciences. Pretty much everybody has a basic requirement. "Do you have a four-year degree in computer sciences? If not, see you later." But seven out of 10 kids in America are not immediately seeking a four-year degree, even before the COVID situation. So we are losing a lot of potent talent into these financially restricted communities. It's not just about black, white, brown, yellow skins or gender and all that. It's purely based on economic disadvantage and that's where we are sitting at.

Kelly Scanlon:

So what inspired you to launch SnapIT with the mission that you just spoke of, empowering people through technology?

Neelima Parasker:

I would say a light bulb went off when I started giving my time... When I was with the corporate job, the STEM education activities started up about seven, or eight years back and I was asked to speak to college students and young adults and be a mentor and get into the community more. When I was doing the corporate job, I was connected worldwide. I was not really connected as much to my community, even though I lived here for 15 years by then. So when I started interacting with these kids, I came to know these kids don't have the same education and access as my kids. This is still America and this is still Kansas City, but there is so much glaring differences. Right?

Kelly Scanlon:

Right.

Neelima Parasker:

I fell in love with their passion. I fell in love with what they want to achieve, but I do know that they do not have the resources that our kids would have naturally without even thinking about it. That is where I thought, "Okay, I come from a tech industry where they are losing millions and maybe billions of dollars for not having the right tech talent at the right time because half-million jobs on an average are left unfilled, and on the other side I have brilliant, smart kids, very personable, very excited to learn, but have no access to how do they get there? They have no four years where somebody's paying for their education. They don't have that. So how do I make it easier?" But I did not solve it by myself. I solved it by putting pieces of puzzles together, such as I gave a very short training period, four months, three to five months, actually for trainings based on what kind of trainings.

Neelima Parasker:

But even that three to five months, if they give their time, I am getting paid for being training these students, but they are not paying that because they are coming from underrepresented communities, workforce dollars come in or a funding funnel comes in for them because SnapIT is actually a certified institute by eight states in the United States. In each and every state that we are certified in, our students are eligible to receive a 100% tuition reimbursement. The true commitment is that the three to five months of time that they need to get themselves involved into this training. And after that, I am paying them while they're learning as an apprentice.

Kelly Scanlon:

Right. Right. So it's a win-win all the way around for you, for them-

Neelima Parasker:

Yes.

Kelly Scanlon:

... for the larger community, for the corporations that they'll go on to work for [inaudible 00:07:45]. Tell us about how you got interested in tech. You said you worked for some corporations in the tech space there. What attracted you? As a woman in particular, I know that landscape is changing right now for women, but when you got started in it, that was still kind of novel. So what attracted you to tech?

Neelima Parasker:

First, I got attracted to be an engineer because my father is an engineer. I would always work over weekends with him doing mechanical engineering stuff. So as a bachelor's, I did mechanical engineering. I didn't choose computers first.

Kelly Scanlon:

You went the harder route actually.

Neelima Parasker:

Yeah, I know. Isn't it? I was among eight girls in a 50 engineer class. We were only eight (female) students in mechanical engineering, but I was told that even eight is a big number. They used to have two or three and then probably change into different engineering divisions. But anyway, I chose engineering and then I chose to go computer sciences because everything is moving toward computer sciences. I wanted to layer my engineering with technology. That is how I entered into engineering. And then when I started engineering in the software area, I started with big corporations. Of course, here in locally, Sprint was one and IBM was another big corporation that I worked for. Especially IBM, it was such a global company. I never felt like, "Oh, I'm a woman and I'm doing engineering."

Neelima Parasker:

There were a lot of women in engineering globally. May not be locally, but globally, my workforce colleagues were men and women together. It was not very odd for me to see that, but what encouraged me to start my own company, Kelly, is where people used to say, "When are you starting your company?" And I'm like, "Why would I start my company?" So they saw something that I didn't see and reflect on. When I heard that enough times, I casually mentioned to my family and they said, "If you do want to, we will support you."

Kelly Scanlon:

Let's talk a little bit about that local landscape. You said globally, that you did not feel any kind of pressures or any kind of strangeness with being a female in the tech industry, in the engineering field. In Kansas City now, what is the landscape like for women and for people of color who are seeking a career in STEM? It's a growing number of people, but where do we still need to go? What does it look like?

Neelima Parasker:

I think it is communication that we need to do. We need to have those collaborative meetings where people... I know both sides and I've seen both sides. We don't have the wrong people. We just have wrong opinions. Wrong opinions become right opinions when we actually have an opportunity to interact. And this is not just one way around. It's both sides. That is the clarity that we need to bring into accepting the mixture of people.

Kelly Scanlon:

Exactly. I sat and listened to a panel not long ago, a few years or so ago where they were talking about women in STEM. And one of the miscommunications was that women thought that it was for a bunch of nerdy guys who just sat around in cubicles and coded all day and they didn't want any part of that. They wanted something that was more creative, and on the other side, some of the corporations who were present at this event said, "But no, we want the creatives. We don't want people sitting there just coding all day. There's a bigger picture here. We need that creativity," but the two sides weren't talking. Can you speak to that?

Neelima Parasker:

Yeah, absolutely. I don't want to mention the name, but I had been to a very prestigious local innovative school hub kind of a thing and I was so excited to go into that computer science lab to speak to the kids, because I want to give a project to see. And then I found 100% voice and I was told that girls are more attracted towards innovation and creative side, maybe web-based analytics and marketing side of technology, but not pure coding. So I kept reflecting back on my initial conversations when I used to go to school. You are right. Girls automatically assume this is bunch of boys sitting at a computer, coding the nerd stuff. That's not interesting. That's not appealing to me.

Neelima Parasker:

We are heading towards no code, low code kind of an environment. So tech companies and CEOs are thinking, "Oh my God, there's no more of this. The client is not going to pay the exorbitant amount of dollars we used to pay before to only utilize 30% of our products anymore. They want maximized utilization. That means that we have to create products with more diversity so that we have that user-centric products that are created in tech." We can only get that when you reflect the mixture of people who are creating the product with the mixture of people who are using the product.

Kelly Scanlon:

Absolutely. Right.

Neelima Parasker:

So that's where the world should meet. Now, to the girls who are thinking it's boring work, I've been there. I've done that. Trust me, coding was not the most exciting thing I would do. I would actually go ahead and say that, "Okay, I'm coding this, but who am I coding for? Why am I coding this way? What makes this particular code more 100% utilized? Those questions are more holistic way of approaching a problem. I encourage females and women and other segments, minority, think about this and come to the table with it. If you don't like coding, you'll eventually phase out of it, but trust me, you are making six-figure salaries within two years in being in this industry. If you don't want that kind of money, be my guest, but there'll be other people who like that kind of money.

Kelly Scanlon:

You're right. Somebody will be standing in line behind you that will say, "Pick me, pick me." So obviously through SnapIT and the process that you have there at your firm, you are fostering digital inclusion. You are establishing new career paths for individuals who might not otherwise have had access to a future in tech, but you're not just doing that through SnapIT. You're also involved in so many community activities that are helping to further that as well. For example, you're on the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's Community Development Advisory Council. You're on a workforce board for the State of Kansas and you mentioned the Kauffman Foundation. You're an innovator in residence at the Kauffman Foundation. So tell us about what you're doing in those roles and the impact of that work in helping to open these new career paths and to foster the digital inclusion.

Neelima Parasker:

So on the workforce board for the State of Kansas, I advise... From a technology perspective, I'm the only technology advisor on the board that is looking at how do we make Kansas a lot more... Our rate of unemployment is super duper low, Kelly. In two point something percent, but if we see the quality of dollars our Kansans are gaining, it has so much potential. Technology is a space where we can have our kids stay in Kansas and still make good money and maybe take a shuttle and fly from the new airport or new destinations and still enjoy being in a phenomenal culture like Kansas and still be connected to the world in the United States by the travel time zone. So that is what I advise on the state level. How do we make better amendments to an inclusive environment? I also sit on KAC, Kansas Apprenticeship Council.

Neelima Parasker:

We are bringing an apprenticeship program into all Kansas City enterprises and we're encouraging people there. So I'm sitting on that and people with disability for Kansas State, I'm sitting on that council as well, trying to be more inclusive for disabled Kansans to get into the workforce with high jobs. Jus SnapIT has six people with disabilities. Actually, maybe more right now. We've hired a couple more into it. I love that we are able to afford talent and still they're able to afford higher pays by doing that. On the Federal Reserve Board, I am sitting as an advisor for an advocate for technology for low, medium income household. We meet with Esther George once in a quarter and advise her on the state of matters from our perspective and give federal as a bank, an idea as to not just as an economist, but what those numbers really mean from a boots on the ground perspective. Things like the Russia and Ukraine war immediately created a black hole in technology because most of the Ukraine talent went offline within hardly any weeks.

Neelima Parasker:

Imagine displaced workers for U.S.-based enterprises. That happened. And before the economists are analyzing it, I'm able to advise that this is happening, right? So that's how I bring that knowledge there. Being the innovator and residence for Kauffman Foundation, I created a project. It's a three-part project. First is I've created a customized map, like a Disney map for kids to see what resources are available in Kansas City. It's a fun map that we have created where by the dollar amount, almost all of them are free resources for kids below 18 years old and what are online resources that they can do based on what kind of a technology work that they want to go and explore, right? I've created that map. I've created black hole map where I'm showing policy makers and city advocates to see what resources are not available in which areas of the city. And then I made a 50-page lit review that advises policy makers if they want to go to different city and analyze that city, this is how I may. I analyzed in Kansas City. So that was the work I did in Innovator in Residence.

Kelly Scanlon:

So your service with all these different organizations, as well as your own experience that you've gained through being an entrepreneur and through your corporate work and so forth, it's really given you a very broad perspective. So when you look at Kansas City and the surrounding region right now, where do you see our opportunities?

Neelima Parasker:

In perspective of technology, I think the opportunities will come. I have more years listening to me right now, Kelly, from the bigger corporations who's hiring talent. I think we need to make some HR level changes to how we hire people, not just because of diversity and inclusion. Yes, it is important and really it not only makes business sense, but truly will make a better community for all of us. Right? But here's the thing. If we are stuck with age old HR processes of hiring, our companies, no matter how big you are at this point, you will be disrupted. How do we implement those at a smaller, probably a progressive, but a segment about your company, how do you scoop out and say that, "Okay, I'm going to invest in a new way of hiring or new way of getting my work done?"

Neelima Parasker:

If that process is not embedded into your hiring or your project work, that is something that we will lose an opportunity. Truly, either we get out of the workforce attracting the prime workforce, or we just scale up because we have found that solution as a community together. Just as an example, I'm coming out of taxi or retreat by Kansas City Tech Council. We had a phenomenal meeting, but most of us are suffering from workforce, finding workforce, right?

Kelly Scanlon:

Yes.

Neelima Parasker:

We want to strengthen Midwest workforce, but we are now poached by both because your talent.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yes. They've heard about our work ethic, haven't they?

Neelima Parasker:

Exactly. So they're coming after our people. We need to come together as a community and tackle this not only just to survive, but actually we have an opportunity to thrive.

Kelly Scanlon:

I talked about some of the resources that you developed and how those are such wonderful things to have, but you, yourself, you are such a resource. So thank you for all that you are doing in our community and all of the time that you spend outside of your company trying to broaden the perspective of everybody else too. So appreciate that. Thank you.

Neelima Parasker:

My honor. Thank you.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, president of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Neelima Parasker for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC. SnapIT is committed to investing in people and local communities to create cutting-edge IT solutions with global impact. Through her company and her community service, Neelima has worked tirelessly to screen, train and prepare talent for in-demand tech positions. She has made a particular effort to reach into disadvantaged communities for exceptionally talented young adults who simply need access and training.

 

As she points out, with the labor shortage and the rapid pace of change, companies must think differently, more innovatively about their hiring approaches. Those that do will benefit from their creativity and fresh perspectives that a more diverse group of employees brings to the table. Thanks for tuning in today. We're banking on you, Kansas City.

 

Country Club Bank, member FDIC.

Member FDIC / Equal Housing Lender

Trust, Investment and Insurance products and Services:

  • Are Not Insured by the FDIC or any other federal government agency.
  • Are Not deposits of, or guaranteed by, the Bank or any Bank affiliate.
  • May lose value.