Preparing the Workforce of Tomorrow

May 15, 2024 | Podcast: Future-Ready Business



In this two-part segment of FRB, panel co-hosts Art Cavazos, William Nilson, Courtney White, and Greg Lambert discuss the latest developments in business and technology.

The conversation continues with Cliff Zintgraff, Chief Learning Officer at the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT), who shares insights on preparing the next generation of the workforce for the future amidst rapidly changing times.

Featured This Episode

Our Hosts:
Art Cavazos

Art Cavazos
Partner, San Antonio
Twitter “X”: @FinanceLawyer
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William Nilson
Associate, Austin
Instagram: @AustinBespokeFits
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Courtney White

Courtney White
Research Attorney, Dallas & Houston
Instagram: @courthousecouture
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Greg Lambert
Chief Knowledge Services Officer, Houston
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Episode Guest:

Cliff Zintgraff
Chief Learning Officer, San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT)
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Episode Transcription

Art Cavazos: Hi, I’m Art Cavazos, a corporate and finance lawyer with Jackson Walker, and this is Future-Ready Business. I’m joined today by my panel of co-hosts, Greg Lambert, Courtney White, and William Nilson. And later on, we’ll be bringing on our special guest, Cliff Zintgraff, to talk about the future of the workforce. But as always, before we jump in, I’d like to remind our listeners that the opinions expressed today do not necessarily reflect the views of Jackson Walker, its clients, or any of their respective affiliates. This podcast is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. Today, I think we’re gonna get started with our new segment Future-Ready Beats where we go round and talk about what’s going on in the world of business and technology in our worlds. So today, let’s get started. Courtney, I think you had a topic you wanted to bring forward.

Courtney White: I did. I wanted to talk about the Hermes lawsuit. Hermes has been sued by two different individuals. And this is going to end up being a class action lawsuit if the class is accepted, because apparently, they feel as if there’s an unfair sales dynamic going on at Hermes because for those of you who aren’t familiar, you cannot just go in a Hermes and purchase a Birkin bag, you actually have to establish a purchase history with Hermes and according to the original complaint filed by the two attorneys, you actually have to purchase ancillary products. So other bags that are not quota handbags like the Birkin or jewelry or shoes, or perfumes, scarves, anything else even dinnerware, so that you can hopefully end up purchasing a Birkin bag someday. So that’s the case I want to talk about.

Art Cavazos: And so to be clear, even if you buy those ancillary items, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be allowed to buy a Birkin bag. That’s just, it’s a necessary, but not sufficient to get very lawyerly about it. Condition, right?

Courtney White: Right. And it’s just, you know, a starting point. Honestly, another thing that was brought up in the case that I think is really interesting, probably the most interesting point is that sales associates actually do not gain any commission off sales of Birkin bags, they only gain commission on sales of the ancillary products. That, to me is probably the most dicey area of the lawsuit, even that I don’t think rises to the level of being a full-fledged antitrust lawsuit, which is what’s being alleged by the plaintiff attorneys. But the case is still interesting, because there are other luxury brands that, like Louis Vuitton for instance, that actually, sales associates don’t really gain a lot of commission on the sale of the Louis Vuitton canvas bags, which to me are still expensive, still very nice. But they really don’t gain a lot of commission on those handbags. However, this is still a luxury item. So I’m not really sure if this is a necessity if there will be enough people that will even join the class. All of that remains to be seen.

William Nilson: What is leading them to believe that this is an antitrust issue?

Courtney White: No one really knows. I mean, they’re trying to allege that it does have some sort of monopoly. But the reality is, is that I think LVMH, which Louis Vuitton is a part of that entire group, I think has the highest sales in terms of luxury. So I’m not really sure why they think that Hermes has a monopoly on the luxury handbag market. But you know, maybe this is just the test lawsuit. One of the things that I discovered kind of looking at the plaintiffs’ attorneys is that they have a heavy background and personal injury. One of them does do a lot of class action work. But you know, some of this could be just for publicity as well, because it’s an interesting case.

Greg Lambert: I read a Forbes article in preparation for this. And one of the things he pointed out was, there was at least one place where they were, in the filing, where the plaintiff’s attorneys misspelled the Birkin bag calling it “Berking” bag.

William Nilson: Burger King. Okay, got it.

Greg Lambert: But also, I think one of the counter arguments because it sounds bad that the salespeople don’t get Commission’s on the Birkin bags themselves. But they get a good commission on all the ancillary products and the way that this is set up because this is such a premier item and such you know, such a status symbol to own one of these bags, is that, you know, that really encourages the customers to buy the ancillary. And so, you know, even though they’re not getting it on the high end premium one, they’re getting the commission from all the incentivizing to get to that point. So interesting. The whole high end fashion industry, I think, blows the minds of most Americans or most people in the world probably, I think this is, you’re almost speaking another language when you start talking about how things are set up and what the expectations are in this very, very high in market.

William Nilson: Greg, you said it sounds bad that they don’t get commission and I wanted to unpack that. So what sounds bad about it that they don’t get?

Greg Lambert: Well, I think standing alone if you just hear, because I think a lot of people think that that’s all the customers are buying is this is this high in bag. And so they’re not getting it commission on that, but they are getting the commission on all the other things. So imagine you can’t buy a Corvette unless you buy, you know, all of the you know, the, what they call it the undercoat? Yes, if you were to hear just that standing alone, as sounds like Hermes is mistreating their employees, but I think if you look at the whole picture, there’s probably another story to be told.

Courtney White: I also think they’re trying to establish brand loyalty. So Hermes is huge in heritage, so a lot of people are into the heritage of the brand. They were really made for people, and they made saddles for people who ride horses. So there’s this large history of the brand. The other thing is Birkins are pretty much handmade. That’s supposedly the reason that they cost so much is that individuals put their heart and soul into making these bags and one of the things that Hermes can kind of do that other luxury brands have gotten in trouble for is they don’t ever make too many bags, you know, Louis Vuitton even Coach got in trouble for making lots of bags and then having to destroy them, which is not environmentally friendly. And Europe has very tight regulation on that right now because they wanted to stop luxury brands from doing that. And so one of the ways that Hermes controls their stock, is by making people jump through all these hoops and, that’s kind of what the thought process has been that they make people jump through all of these hoops. And they only make so many bags, you know, so they’re only making what they know they will sell essential.

William Nilson: Low quantity is an environmental boon for any company, especially in high fashion. So if they have low quantity, it’s actually something socially speaking, you would assume people would want more things to be low quantity. I mean, this lawsuit speaks to me directly because I have a luxury fashion brand. I do not take every client, I interview clients, I pre interview, every client who’s interested, I often will not take on people as clients because I don’t think that they’re going to represent the brand that I am appropriately. Or they have said things that have told me right away that they don’t actually value the process of creating one of a kind garments and going through the design process and all of that. So I’m very, very selective with that, it probably means I get less money in the short term as a business concept. It probably also as a business concept means I get more money in the long term. So you know, I’m not, I’m satisfied with it from an economics perspective, but just from the idea of refusing a customer, a potential customer. I do that all the time. So I don’t think that, I would side with exclusivity when it comes to how are we doing something, you know, what are you trying to accomplish? Even if it’s a commercial enterprise?

Courtney White: Right.

Art Cavazos: On that point of refusing a customer, you know, we mentioned earlier that they were taking this, you know, antitrust tact in the lawsuit. It just seems interesting to me that they didn’t focus more on, you know, the refusal of the customer and the criteria by which they are picking and choosing who does, you know, is allowed to be a customer. To me, it kind of harkens back to the discrimination claims, you know, coming out of like the 70s and 80s, when we kind of had like the protected groups and things like that. And you know, when people were being refused business, but they didn’t take that approach, did they Courtney?

Courtney White: No, no, they didn’t take that approach at all. And I’m wondering if that’s a slippery slope, because of the sheer cost of the bags, they may not have a diverse number of people that can even afford to step up to the plate to buy a bag that starts at $10,000. I mean, I know I’m not their target customer.

William Nilson: Right. Yeah, me neither. Right.

Courtney White: At all.

William Nilson: Yeah. That’s a great example or I don’t know totally how protected class, you know, jurisprudence works. I’m not a constitutional attorney, but I remember we were talking before about you know, whether they had, they being the plaintiffs had pulled any information on the demographics of who was being refused and who was being accepted with a demonstrated purchase history. And if there was any sort of like de facto discrimination on a protected class, whatever that class would be, that would be an angle, I would assume they would want to pursue. If that were there, as a plaintiff.

Courtney White: I think that would be interesting once the class is, if the class is even accepted, because that’s kind of a big if at this point. No one knows.

Art Cavazos: Well, very interesting. Thank you for bringing it to the group, Courtney, we will have to follow up on Future-Ready Beats, and check in on it. I think there was one other item we wanted to get to today, before we get to the interview with Cliff. And that is checking in on the status of AI cases. We mentioned a few episodes ago, that a number of companies and authors and others are suing the AI companies. There’s long lists of out there of lawsuits that have been filed against AI companies, and the list keeps growing. But, you know, kind of an interesting kind of thought experiment is, you know, what if some of these lawsuits actually succeed, and, you know, courts find that AI companies cannot use copyrighted material without compensating the authors or the copyright holders for that? What position does that put the AI companies in, who were almost completely reliant on massive amounts of data in order to train their models? I’ve already kind of heard reports that they’re already running out of good data, it seems impossible to think of, but they’ve actually scraped pretty much the entire internet already, and are already getting close to not having enough data. So if they were to lose all of this copyrighted material that could really set them back, or would it wanted to get some thoughts from the panel.

Greg Lambert: Well, and if you listen closely to the wording that these companies, these AI companies say, they used to tell you exactly what data they had in there, because there really wasn’t that much fear about it. And now, all of a sudden, you’re hearing phrases like publicly available data, right, which doesn’t necessarily exclude copyrighted data, there may be things that are perfectly open on the internet, that are still copyrighted, and have that protection, even though you can access it, it doesn’t mean that you can take it and repurpose it for another product.

On the other side of the coin, though, you are getting this, this argument, and I think somewhat backed up by the Google Books decision a few years ago, which is that the end result is a transformative work, that what you’re getting out of the system is not a copy of the data that’s going into the system. But, and I think Will and I had this conversation a couple of episodes ago, where if you’re in college, and you’re reading, you know, you read 14 psychology books, and then you draft a paper at the end. That is a new work. Is that plagiarizing? Is that copyright? You know, is that taking word for word out of there? Now, it’s a little bit of an apples and oranges argument there. But I think that argument may hold water for a court that’s very business friendly. And because this is a new market, and they and I would say that other countries that may not value copyright isn’t as much as we do in the United States and the EU may jump ahead of us if we put these road roadblocks there. So it’s kind of a thorny issue.

Art Cavazos: I think that’s a good place to wrap up unless anyone else wants to have the last word. Okay, great. Then stick around everybody Will and I are going to be interviewing Cliff Zintgraff about the next generation of the workforce and how to prepare them for the future in these times of change.

William Nilson: Can’t wait.

Art Cavazos: All right, so welcome, everybody to our next segment of Future Ready Business. We’re talking today with Cliff Zintgraff, who is the Chief Learning Officer at the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology, or SAMSAT for short, Cliff why don’t you tell us just a little bit about yourself.

Cliff Zintgraff: Well, first of all, thank you for inviting me here today, my privilege to join you. And I am the Chief Learning Officer at SAMSAT which by the way is our legal name, DBA San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology. We are a nonprofit. We are located at Port San Antonio, which I’m sure will have a chance to talk about the port San Antonio campus as we go. My job here is to lead our education programs. And then the other part of my job is to do all the sorts of things that also need to be done to assist with them. To help run the business here at SAMSAT, and to make sure that we’re pursuing a strategy that is benefiting the organization and the community, the students, and families that we serve.

Art Cavazos: And, so if you had to sum up in a few words, what SAMSAT does or what you do at SAMSAT? How would you describe that?

Cliff Zintgraff: So what SAMSAT does, is unlocks potential for students, families, and communities, that’s our view, go to our website, that’s what you would find on our mission statement. And, and we’re also working to advance San Antonio’s global technology leader, which we, we believe there’s a lot of very cool things going on in San Antonio, that many are our world class, and that we want to be part of that and be leveraging that in our programs, you know. What do I do? Well, you know, day in the life of the Chief Learning Officer at SAMSAT, you know, really all over the map. I spend a lot of time making proposals, or raising funds for the work that we do here, especially in our education programs to serve students get involved a little bit in teaching and in the programming, you know, not nearly as much as in my past, and spending a lot of time out in the community. Because we don’t get we don’t do the things that we do well, unless we’re doing them with partners. And so I’m, I spend a lot of time working with the different partners working with schools, other nonprofits, with our sponsors and funders.

William Nilson: Do you spend any time working with kids directly?

Cliff Zintgraff: I do. Not as much as I might have maybe three or four years ago, we’ve grown in pretty significant way. And so I have an excellent team that is supporting the work that we do here. On the other hand, yesterday. Well, we had some big news yesterday, we had a grant that was awarded from FirstMark Credit Union. And in the process of having that grant, we had a nice, nice little celebration, we invited educators out and they had some students and I got to talk to two students who had an air pump driven rocket, and a couple of other students who seem to be budding scientists. The first two were boys, the second two were girls, and I got to ask them lots of questions about why they want to do the things they say they want to do. That’s a lot of fun.

William Nilson: What did they say?

Cliff Zintgraff: Oh my gosh, the girls were really quite outgoing and, and charismatic and just really seem to be having fun, honestly, which is wonderful to see that the conversation with the boys was a little bit more technical. They were, they were perhaps a little less outgoing, but very clearly interested. I mean, they were showing me the air pump that they brought with them. And you know, they had their, their rocket was made out of a noodle, like a swimming pool. Right is made out of a pool noodle. So back to your original question. Yes, I do get to work with students, you know, not, again, not as much as maybe I did once. And I think along the way, I’ll probably mention a couple of other programs where I have a little more opportunity to work with the students in person.

Art Cavazos: And am I right that you have some experience with broadcasting?

Cliff Zintgraff: I do. So SAMSAT. Today SAMSAT is a merger of two or actually three organizations that came together in the one that I came from merged with SAMSAT in 2019, in September of 2019. Before then, I was a co-founder of a STEM nonprofit named SAstemic. So if you think the word systemic, but add SA San Antonio, I want to give Scott Gray, the founder of SAstemic credit for starting that organization inviting me and some others to help him, help him start it. During our time running that organization. We started running a radio show on KLUP. And the show went under different names. But basically, we were talking about STEM education and connection to all the sectors of the community. And yes, I was a regular host of that show about every other week, looking for guests probably doing many of the things that you do in this current show. And it was a lot of fun. I really enjoy doing that. It’s a privilege really to be able to get the word out about cool things that are going on in the city and cool ways to approach hard problems.

Art Cavazos: It’s a great example of how the technologies may change but things in some ways stay the same.

Cliff Zintgraff: Yeah, indeed. And that was yeah, that was happening on the top floor of a high rise building with a, in a studio sitting around a table. You know, this is this is happening a little bit differently. But I was able to actually borrow a cool mic. I don’t know if people can see the mic in front of me but one of my staff members across the hall runs our eSports program. And so he’s got a lot of broadcast, AV, and so forth. And he kindly lent me his mic.

William Nilson: Well, we’re definitely going to talk about your eSports program, that’s for sure. But before,

Cliff Zintgraff: Before we get there, yes.

William Nilson: I have to know that. When you’re getting questions from potential donors that like, you know, in the midst of fundraising or different cycles of fundraising, what’s one of the questions you get the most, because I’ll bet that you see a lot of repeats among potential donors of what they’re asking you.

Cliff Zintgraff: We do. And our donor who has been with us the longest other than Port San Antonio, Port San Antonio is our major sponsor, I should acknowledge them and the amazing support they provide us. In terms of other donors who are, you know, we work with in a more traditional way, the Boeing Company has been a sponsor of ours, we’re in our sixth, if I’m remembering, right, we’re in our sixth year. So you know, from Boeing and other sponsors, who approached us, they want to know, what students were working with. They want to know what kinds of approaches to use the big word, what kind of pedagogies that we are using to attract students, I think they want to know that we are making the things that we do as students relevant to, to those students, things that their parents might look at and understand the importance of them. I carry around a philosophy that the more we can build experiences on the things that students see going on around them, the more we can build experiences on things that are important to policymakers in the city, to leaders of industry, to the frontline staff who is working these issues, the better experiences we’re going to be able to create for students.

William Nilson: It’s seeking relevance to the students culture, in some ways and thought pattern.

Cliff Zintgraff: Very much so. And if you look at the research related to what kinds of, what educational approaches work for students, and especially if you look at middle school, and especially if you look at middle school girls, what you discover is that the research indicates you really need to show them why the things that they’re learning are going to make a difference in the world. I mean, that’s not limited to that audience. I mean, which of us here, went through high school and didn’t say at least one time now? Why do I need to know that? But certainly at that age group, it’s true. And you know, I think if you, if you take each stakeholders relevant position, if you take each stakeholders position, and the partnerships that were part of any new ask the question, why would this be important to them? That’s a question that we really want to be able to answer in a strong way. The I think, for example, the Boeing partnership that has lasted so long for us, I would like to think it is because it is a win-win relationship. It is good for the company’s philanthropic mission, it is good for SAMSAT, is aligned with our mission. And it’s good for the students and the educators and for the community that we serve, we would hope that the students who are going through these programs would, that many of them would find themselves in STEM or STEM related careers, that can be transformational for them, for their, financially can be careers that they grow to love and find very rewarding.

Art Cavazos: So staying on that thread, you know, we talk a lot on this podcast about technology and business. And you know how, in recent years, there’s been a lot of change that’s occurring with technology. And, you know, they’ve also with the pandemic, there was an explosion in remote work that really hasn’t fully gone away. That’s, you know, one of the structural changes that has stuck around since the pandemic. That’s not to say that there aren’t some companies that still place an emphasis on being in the office and are trying to get, you know, workers to come back to the office, but it hasn’t fully happened yet. And there are still lots of people working from home. So there’s technological changes, there’s cultural changes that have been going on in the past few years. What do you talk about with your students or with your programming directors, when you’re crafting programming for students? What do you think about, you know, all of these changes and how do they prepare for the workforce of tomorrow?

Cliff Zintgraff: So if I’m understanding your question correctly, I think it relates in part to what topics we’re covering in our programs. So we talked about robotics, we talked about cyber, aerospace, advanced manufacturing. I mentioned that port San Antonio is our home. You know, if you were to come out to the campus and look around and see the different things that are happening on the campus, I don’t know if I said cyber or not, but my gosh, I certainly should have it’s a huge deal in San Antonio and certainly, certainly at the port. But taking that to a little bit higher level, we’re an informal learning organization, we have the advantage, I guess, if I could put it that way of not having standards that we absolutely have to check off. I mean, we want to be relevant, we absolutely want to be relevant to the standards that that teachers and schools are required the content that they’re required to deliver to their students. But you know, we can also approach it in a little more dynamic way, I guess might be a good a good way to put it.

So a concept out in the educational world is the four C’s – communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. We want to be teaching students these skills, we have an internal document called a SAMSAT education, how we do things and why. And one of the challenges that I put out to my team, is that I want students hands on within the first five minutes of walking into one of our programs. Now, we don’t always pull that off. But the more we can help a student put their hands on the kinds of technology we want them to experience, to feel what that is like to have to engage with it, and understand it in a way that is different than what you just get when you’re sitting in a classroom and learning about it, which has its place, by the way.

Art Cavazos: That’s very interesting,

Cliff Zintgraff: The more quickly a student is going to learn the lessons, we want them to learn to internalize those lessons. By the way, this is where I could go all academic on you, and start to talk about the philosophy of constructivism, which is that we all create our own knowledge. You know, knowledge is not something that is like water being poured into a glass. You know, we each learn, you know, when we sit in a class, we each come away with something different. And it’s because we’re creating our own knowledge in our brains. And what I want to do in all of our programs, is give that process, it happens in all of our brains, the best chance to work for students to learn the lessons, you know, both the direct lessons about the technology and also the four C’s, you know, also, you know how they feel about it, you know, we could get into a discussion of the social and emotional element of learning and persistence.

William Nilson: Has that education philosophy been guided in part by Montessori and kind of the other hands on approaches to early education?

Cliff Zintgraff: So I would say Montessori is an example of it. And if my memory serves, which I don’t know, in this case, it may or may not, but I think Montessori, the person probably contributed to the development of this philosophy. But it actually, you know, if you really want to go academic, we go back to Plato and Aristotle. And, you know, talk about empiricism. Is the world, you know, objective? Or is that the way our brains see it? Right? You know, and when you when you’re done with that, then go watch the Matrix Trilogy, which is now a Trilogy plus one. And, you know, you really kind of get the idea of where, where they were going, but I have a feeling I’m taking us off track with that.

William Nilson: It’s right on track as far as I’m concerned.

Cliff Zintgraff: All right.

William Nilson: I did education in college, and I taught just for a stint. But my School of Education was focused largely on behaviorism. I did music education. So behaviorism was a chief component, I would say, kind of finding, you want to encourage creativity, but at the same time, provide common thoughts. So that common enterprise can be achieved in the musical act, especially in group musical acts. So we started a lot of hands on hands on experiences.

Cliff Zintgraff: My son Matthew is a percussionist, and was Assistant Director in his first job in west, the band in west Texas, and is now in Denton, Texas, and a percussion director. And I see yes, I see exactly what you’re talking about, you know, your first job is to learn the music, and to deliver it. And then once you’re there, then you can, you know, be stylistic around it.

William Nilson: I am a firm believer that tactile learning creates, actually knocks down barriers to creativity. So you find that the hands on within five minutes is kind of a critical component. Can you give us an example of a time when you saw a child light up in a different way that they maybe wouldn’t have without that tactile component?

Cliff Zintgraff: Yeah. So are one of our robotics classes, for example, or actually, let me pick a different we do a rocket launch. I think I’ll use that example instead. One of our summer camps is called Space Camp. And as part of Space Camp, the students build a rocket, a model rocket. And then we launch that rocket, amazingly off our front yard here at our location at Port San Antonio, which is really cool because we’re literally on the phone with the Kelly Field tower, when we’re doing that coordinating, and, you know, listening, listening to the channel, on the radio, you know, to the pilots, listen to terms eluding me right now that it’s the channel.

Art Cavazos: I’m a bit of a visual learner, like, how big are we talking on these rockets?

Cliff Zintgraff: That, well, so I know not everybody’s gonna see this, but, you know, maybe 18 inches, two feet? Something like that.

Art Cavazos: So something enough to get onto Kelly’s Air Force bases radar?

Cliff Zintgraff: Correct. Well, it’s on that. I mean, it’s well, if you mean, literally their radar, I think no, you know, if you’re talking about their mental radar, then yes. But in any case, you know, your original question was, you know, a case where a student has, you know, that hands on element has caused them to light up. And, I’m seeing one of the pictures, we capture lots of pictures at our events. And I’m seeing a couple of young ladies that were working together to launch this rocket, and I’m seeing their picture right now, in my mind, you know, right before their rocket launch talk about the-

William Nilson: It was the anticipation.

Cliff Zintgraff: Yeah, and the gratification of having worked on something and then actually seeing it, you know, to talk about building a model rocket, and then to do it right and to like have to take the glue and attach the fins and make sure that you put the engine in properly. And those engines are they’re regulated, I mean, we don’t keep the engines in our storeroom, we keep the engines in a locked room, in one of our buildings, so to then have to handle the engine. I mean, it just gives it a feel that you couldn’t possibly achieve.

This might be a good point for me to highlight what I call our education strategy at SAMSAT, inspiration, engagement and pathways. So we do those three things, we try to bring a lot of students in, sometimes this may be a student, we only see one time and have a lot of them look at the space that we have built in the Boeing Center at Tech port that we call Area 21. That is all about the present and the future of technology. So you know, picture a 15 foot factory robot, picture a very large Lego city that we call cyber city, it’s worth talking about cyber and critical infrastructure. Picture, a cyber-security operation center with 12 very large screens that are up on the wall and 24 stations, that looks a lot like a cyber-operation center would for a serious organization. You know, imagine us bringing thousands of students through that space every year, believing, you know, in something that might be hard to prove that believing that some small percentage of them are having the light go off as they see this realizing what they could do with how education will make a difference what they could do with their life.

Then from inspiration, we go to engagement, and that’s the hands on stuff that we’ve been talking about, to help a student feel what it is like to engage with STEM. And then pathways is the element of our strategy for students who have shown some interest expressed an interest in being on a STEM pathway. That pathway can be very challenging. It’s not just the academics, it is support, understanding what kind of careers they might be pursuing. Sometimes it is persistence through issues they may be having outside of school, maybe the persistence issue they have might have to do with finances and knowing where to get resources in order to fund the education that they wish to have. So in our Pathways programs, we are really trying to support students down the path, we want them to know the path that they’re on, to be able to walk the stem path and then to celebrate that path as they hit milestones that carry them forward. And so that’s kind of the big picture of who we are and what we do.

William Nilson: You know, you’ve kind of you’re describing these three concepts, these kinds of pillars, you might say SAMSAT’s approach, and each feel a little bit different in terms of kind of the joy of the experience itself. I’m imagining I’m not in STEM myself, I’m an attorney, and I do music and I’m in FinTech. So it’s really none of them are STEM. How do you assure a kid becoming a young adult into the idea of something being a career and a day in day out concept that may have come with mundanities that weren’t part of the earlier inspiration. How does that conversation go over time?

Cliff Zintgraff: Right. You make me think of several things there. One. I remember hearing somebody say this one’s like even an astronaut 90% of their day is routine. Right. And so, you know, I just kind of helped them understand that that’s going to be the case with any job, by the way before launching my real answer I think you mentioned fintech right? And you’re a lawyer. I mean, as a lawyer, you are engaging with technology daily.

William Nilson: Absolutely.

Cliff Zintgraff: And Fintech is just, you know, full of IT. and technology challenges, you know, and knowledge that you need to have in order to be good at fintech. So while I’ll stay away from a precise definition of whether that’s in STEM or not, I certainly consider it to be related, to stem.

William Nilson: Absolutely related.

Cliff Zintgraff: How do we assure a student down this path? Well, you know, the first thing I would say is that needs to be their choice, number one. We’re not trying to convince the student to like something that they just fundamentally don’t like, what we’re hoping is by exposing them, that they will realize that there’s something there really cool that they’d like to learn more about. But then, if they are a student who fits that category, then we want to, number one, help them understand what this pathway that they’re on looks like, for example, we’re working with eighth graders on pathway programs. So what is a high school curriculum? What classes should they be taking, you know, Algebra Two, maybe that’s important for you to not just do algebra, you know, you need to do algebra two if your school doesn’t require it, a career and technical education classes, lots of opportunities for high school students along that line, extracurricular programs, SAMSATs, Boeing STEM Academy, or eSports program, to think of a partner CyberPatriot program that’s run by the Cyber Texas Foundation, lots of extracurricular opportunities that a student might have, depending on their pathway.

But then we also want to put, we want to put them in front of mentors, we bring in folks in industry, who can, unlike a teacher, who is an authority figure, we want to bring in mentors who are more like, they’re not peers, but they’re kind of like senior peers, if they’re working with them on a project that they can talk to and learn more about what the job is like on a day to day basis. And then I think, as I mentioned before, we want to connect them to resources. So if there’s someplace that they can go to get financial help, we want to show them where that place is, you know, maybe for, for example, a young college or an older college student, childcare can be an issue. So where can they go to get assistance with childcare, so many wraparound services that are available these days. You know, I think mentioning Alamo Promises is an appropriate thing at this moment, you know, the Alamo Promise program that is helping students get enrolled and get through college bold promise at UTSA. These are all resources that we can connect students to.

Art Cavazos: That’s excellent. So I want to talk a little bit more about the pathways piece of it. So how far down the path do you think about specific jobs and careers that these students could go into? Or is it more kind of a general preparation for STEM field work?

Cliff Zintgraff: Yeah, it is specific. And let me add some detail to that. You can go to the state of Texas website, and you can learn about the STEM pathway. And I understand why the state does it this way. They’re thinking about literally every corner of the state from urban San Antonio or you know DFW, Houston to an urban setting. But that pathway may or may not be relevant to a particular student in a particular school. So when we are working on pathway programs, before we go into the school, we’re usually talking to those students about a particular field might be aviation, or aerospace or space, maybe it’s cyber. We document the available pathways to that student at that school in that field. And we walk in and show that pathway to the students. Earlier when I was talking about high school curriculum. You know, what classes a student might take in high school. We’re trying to show that to eighth graders. We’re trying to show them the particular extracurricular programs that may be available to them. We want them to know that you know, I keep using cyber as an example, one I’m familiar with UTSA, a world leader in cyber education, but by the way, there are multiple local colleges and universities that are certified centers of excellence in cyber education. We want them to know that to see those possibilities, and then connect them to the resources that might be helpful to them. So those are the sorts of things that we’re doing with the students when we’re working with them.

Art Cavazos: Yeah, we’re Texas wide podcast. But yeah, definitely, you know, I’m based in San Antonio. And I know that there’s a lot of fantastic local opportunities. But there really is statewide. I mean, Texas is becoming such a hub for technology, Will, you’re in Austin, and that obviously has been a hub for technology. But Dallas, I think is where Texas Instruments began and was called the Silicon Prairie back in, you know, the 70s, and 80s. And so there is kind of a long history and a current burgeoning technology, boom, here in Texas.

Cliff Zintgraff: So statewide, what I would talk about is P Tech’s, pathways to technology is kind of a national model that has really spread around and it has been adopted by the Texas Education Agency, as a model that they are working to implement in schools. About a year ago, I did a count and at the time, in San Antonio, there were 33 P Techs either launched as a small subset were fully launched but then a total of 33, were planned. These are programs typically run out of the current technical education department, that are around these fields that have been identified by the state, and these are being started all over the state of Texas. So you know, no matter where you might be listening to this, if you’re interested in how you can get your students into or interested in specific fields, I’d encourage you to look up P Techs in your particular area, you know, see what’s being implemented. Part of the beauty of what’s going on at Port San Antonio, was SAMSAT, is the way that we have been able to focus on the fields that are important to this community immediately around us and feels like IT and cyber and space and aerospace go beyond the immediate port footprint as well.

But we have an opportunity to bring students in and talk to them about cyber, to bring in a 16th Air Force airmen to talk about that job. You know, now that’s what’s going on here, or what the question I always ask people from other regions is what’s going on in your region? Where are your priorities? What’s important to you? In San Antonio, I have a hypothesis that in any given school, there’s about a 50% chance that there’s either a spouse or partner who works in cyber, or a retired cyber professional who has decided to become a teacher. And that’s because it’s so huge here, the quote, we’d like to use, second highest number of Certified Information Security professionals in the United States, in our local area. So that’s here, what does it look like in another region? You know, what are the important priority fields? What’s in the city’s plan, you know, look at the city or the county that you live in what is in their development plan that you might be able to tie into for great educational experience?

William Nilson: What’s the lowest hanging fruit, in your opinion, in terms of removing an obstruction from a child’s path to stem? If it will?

Cliff Zintgraff: Yeah, yeah. So the way I was going to answer the low hanging fruit for SAMSAT, you know, maybe, maybe not, you know, in a complete abstract versus the lowest hanging fruit, but for us, it’s just is exposing, its exposure for students. And this is what we hear from our school partners all the time as well. They want their students to see these things, so that they can open their own eyes. Hopefully, right? That’s something that seems interesting to them, that they can see something and learn about a possibility in their lives. In my case, I had a chemistry teacher. And when I was a sophomore in high school, I’m not going to tell you what year brought computers into the classroom. They were there for a week, and then they were gone. And two and a half years later, I was computer science major in college. Mr. Whettig, by the way, was his name. I feel like I should give him credit for that. Shout out to Mr. Whettig. Yeah, who did that, and, you know, I guess that’s the lowest hanging fruit for us is to get as many students through our space as we can to see those things. And, you know, that’s not something like a Pathways program, for example, which I think is really important, requires a lot of preparation on our part to go into a particular school and really do that in a specific way. Our museum is Area 21 is there it’s ready just to bring students through.

William Nilson: Is any part of SAMSAT incorporating, programming or even using AI assisted programming to create modules from a computer software perspective?

Cliff Zintgraff: So we actually have some AI proposals out. We have not secured any of those proposals yet. So we’ve done some background research and things that we might do. On the coding front absolutely and one example right now, and it comes back to your question of working directly with students. I have four interns right now who are software developers, who are working on a game, that if we’re successful in building that game, it will be in SAMSAT Area 21 at our what we call cyber city, that big Lego City, it’s going to be like a hacker vs Defender game where bad things will happen on the table if the hacker wins. So that’s maybe the example I should have used earlier in working directly with students. I’m not a, I’m dated. I mean, I’ve not been a software developer now for a long time. I did it for long enough to learn the lessons of how you do it in a way that it works and sustains in a in an environment.

Art Cavazos: I’m glad you brought up games because I did want to like we’ll circle back to the eSports topic. I feel like we’ve talked a lot about education, we’ve earned it. Tell us more about the eSports arena.

Cliff Zintgraff: Well, Art I hate to break it to you but I’m going to talk about education.

Art Cavazos: I’m just kidding. I love education.

Cliff Zintgraff: So, so the first words out of my mouth will be Network of Academic and Scholastic eSports Federation’s our NASEF. So it is true that we at SAMSAT, in partnership with port San Antonio, are very much into eSports competitive video gaming. We run a league, it’s called the R20, Premier eSports League. The story of how that league started is pretty interesting. A superintendent Verstuyft, from the former superintendent at Southwest ISD came to, well actually one of his staff came to an early kind of a prototype event that we did in in eSports at SAMSAT. And invited me and one person from the port to a meeting. I didn’t realize he issued the invite got there the meeting was in his office, he looked down the table and he said I want my students who are playing eSports to be able to compete against students from other school districts. So, who’s going to start that? And it was great fit for SAMSAT to do that. So, we took on that mission. And we started this league called R20 premiere. We eventually, you know, in the process of networking and talking to people met a gentleman named Josh Martinez. Josh is now our director of eSports at SAMSAT grew up playing eSports and more than that, though, understood the social emotional element of eSports the cultural element and how much learning can happen through eSports.

So clearly, you know, there’s the kids are having a lot of fun when they’re playing right and anybody out there who’s listening who’s a parent is probably picturing their child now locked in their room, playing games. That was my son, by the way that same son that same son. It’s okay. It’ll be okay. They’ll grow up fine. My son is now a percussion director. He was one of those and I remember kind of being ambivalent about it at the time, like, “Oh, it’s okay. But you know, I don’t know.” What I’ve come to learn is that students who are playing team games, modern, online, competitive video, gaming, and teams are learning those four C’s skills that I talked about earlier, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity. I mean, you’re in a team game and you’re having to communicate with your teammates are having to think critically about how you approach the game, you’re having to strategize, you’re literally thinking critically all the way through the gameplay. But more than that, we want these schools to run their own tournaments. So now we’re talking about putting on an event. Well what does that take? Branding, marketing, fundraising, operations, logistics.

So there are so many opportunities for learning in eSports. And that’s what NASEF has worked on. They are a national and now international organization, who have documented a model for how learning can happen in eSports competitions. A week ago Sunday, we ran the R 20 Grand Finals. We had three games Rocket League, Super Smash Brothers, and Valorant, but that Grand Finals was accompanied by the festival, the eSports where we had teachers coming in who did not have any finalists, but were learning about what it takes to run an eSports tournament at their school. We had parents who were sitting in these panels hearing about the opportunities. We brought in VIPs. We had a former University of Texas football player who played in the NFL for nine years. Kenny Vaccaro was there, you know, talking to these students and parents learning about what we were doing. Credit to Play vs. a national organization who came and ran those panels for us. By the way, Boeing was also one of the sponsors, along with port San Antonio, and the Spurs and Extranet were sponsors of this event for us. And the big deal for us it was our first finals in the arena. We’re in a 3000 seat arena, the production was being run by Texas A&M San Antonio, interns. Josh Martinez, our director was running around pointing go do this, go do that telling them what to do. But those interns from A&M San Antonio, and from Alamo Colleges also, were running the event, they were deciding what was going to appear on the massive screen and the 3000-seat arena and the Boeing center.

One last comment on this. I know I’ve been talking a while, but one last comment on this front. We have four interns who have come through our eSports program, who now one, Ana works at the Boeing center at Tech port, she now has a career in AV/media, broadcast, eSports. And there were three other interns who are working in the ecosystem that supports the Boeing Center at Tech port in broadcast and media, ITAV.

So the opportunities here are amazing. I think that high tech companies look at the skills that students are learning when they’re playing these competitions, and seeing a reflection of their best employees, their most dynamic, most creative, fastest thinking employees in their organizations, they look at these students and say, those are the kinds of people that we want working for us.

Art Cavazos: Cliff, you’re the kind of person that I wish was running my school when I was growing up. And not just because of the fun eSports stuff, but also the holistic, thoughtful approach to education, and preparing the next generation of the workforce. And I think you’re doing amazing work at SAMSAT. And thank you for joining us today.

Cliff Zintgraff: That’s very kind of you Art, I want to say we’re an informal learning organization the people really carrying on the torch are the teachers, the educators who are with those students every day, carrying them through, but I’d like to thank SAMSAT as making a difference for these students. And I appreciate your comment. Thank you.

William Nilson: How can someone support SAMSAT? If they’re hearing this and they want to get on board and help? Is their volunteering is their fundraising? How would they do that?

Cliff Zintgraff: So like so many nonprofits, raising money in order to support the programs that we run, to support our staff, pay for the things that are required to run these events. As always, you know, our number one challenge. Go to samsat.org., there’s a donate button on the homepage. Obviously, we’d welcome your donation or your organization’s support for what we do. I like to talk about follow up volunteers, mentors and funding. You know, we do have some volunteer hours, just kind of random volunteer opportunities, actually, right now. This Saturday is Fiesta de los Niños, the port San Antonio’s annual fiesta. Yeah, we could use some more volunteers it’s like our biggest attendance event of the year. But mentorship too. And then, you know, we’re near the end here. So, I’ll avoid going into the long speech. But mentors just makes such a big difference. And that’s another way that that people can support the work that we do here.

William Nilson: And it sounds like they can learn more about that at SAMSAT.org. Is that right?

Cliff Zintgraff: Yep. Yes, they can.

William Nilson: That’s great.

Art Cavazos: And on the mentor point, are you looking primarily for STEM focused? Or like, for example, you know, Will and I are attorneys, and like I said, we interact a lot with technology. But what type of mentors are you looking for?

Cliff Zintgraff: Well, it’s really some of both in our Boeing program, the Boeing STEM Academy, the students are working on projects. And so we look for mentors and typically looking for somebody with a little bit of an engineering background. You know, another one of the programs that we run with the mayor’s office, the SA Smart Mayor’s Challenge, that takes the challenge from the city’s 2040 plan. I say tomorrow plan, and the students work on it. There we’re looking both for technical mentors, but also for entrepreneurs and you know, folks who know how to put a pitch together in a good way that know how to do technical and market research.

So, it’s really some of both and you know, anybody who’s interested in mentorship, I’d say email us, use our contact form or email us at info@samsat.org and tell us what kind of mentorship you feel you’d be qualified for willing to do. Remember, you’re going to know the why, you know, the students might run by you technology standpoint, but that you will understand why these things are important and can really help the students navigate their pathway.

Art Cavazos: Well, thank you, everyone for joining us on this episode of Future-Ready Business. We talked a lot about technology and preparing the next generation in the workforce and eSports, and a lot of fun things. So, thank you, Cliff. I hope you’ll join us again in the future. My pleasure to join you. And you kind of already talked about where folks can find SAMSAT Do you have LinkedIn or social media that you’d like to share?

Cliff Zintgraff: Sure. So, our website samsat.org S A M S A T dot ORG, and we are active on Facebook active on LinkedIn. Do a search for San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology on those pages, you’ll learn a whole lot more about what we do.

Art Cavazos: And Will, where can folks find you on the internet?

William Nilson: Let’s see which one today LinkedIn is probably a good one for today. I’m William Nilson LinkedIn working at Jackson Walker. There’s only one of me actually there’s two. I’m the one with one S. The guy with two S’s is a litigator in Dallas. Don’t get us confused.

Art Cavazos: Yeah, there are two William Nilson that it’s confusing.

William Nilson: Or just add both of us and we’ll go from there. But yeah, I’m happy to connect.

Art Cavazos: All right. If you’d like to show please rate and review us wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. And please share FRB with your friends and colleagues. You can find me also on LinkedIn and I ostensibly have a Twitter and Tiktok at @FinanceLawyer. As mentioned at the top of the show. The opinions expressed today do not necessarily reflect the views of Jackson Walker, its clients or any of their respective affiliates. This podcast is for informational and entertainment purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for listening.

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