Our Blog

Our Blog

i.c.stars Opens First Expansion City in Columbus at Rev1Ventures

July 26, 2016

Rev1Ventures captures the excitement surrounding the opening of i.c.stars Columbus, the first i.c.stars expansion city.

i.c.stars |* Columbus Launches First Expansion City

July 26, 2016

Rev1Ventures captures the excitement surrounding the opening of i.c.stars Colubmus, the first i.c.stars expansion city.

i.c.stars |* Columbus Launches First Expansion City

July 26, 2016

Rev1Ventures captures the excitement surrounding the opening of i.c.stars Colubmus, the first i.c.stars expansion city.

i.c.stars |* Columbus Launches First Expansion City

July 26, 2016

Rev1Ventures captures the excitement surrounding the opening of i.c.stars Colubmus, the first i.c.stars expansion city.

Competing on Innovation report from U.S. Chamber of Commerce Fdn Spotlights i.c.stars

July 14, 2016

As part of its Youth Employment series, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation features i.c.stars as a model program for building innovative talent.

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Leaders: What Comes First, Fear, Finance, or Faith?

I just attend a lunch hosted by Good City An amazing organization committed to strengthening our communities by developing strong non-profits. I had the pleasure of listening to Bob Doll, senior portfolio manager and chief equity strategist of Nuveen. Good City assembled some local leaders together to have lunch and it was truly food for thought. Doll talked about the United Kingdom’s recent exit from the EU and the impact it may have on the global financial markets.

Alumni and Their Mentors: Kevin and Adam

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Saying Goodbye

I want to congratulate our most recent cycle, Cycle 35. They commenced last week. It was a beautiful commencement. The ceremony was held at the Metropolitan Club in the Willis Tower, or the Sears Towers as Chicagoans will always call it, and it was beautiful. Even though it was a foggy evening, as we were high in the sky and seeing not just the horizon but a 360-degree view of our fantabulous metropolis — Chicagoland.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Features i.c.stars in Employment Guide for Business

June 2, 2016

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To: The Next President of the U.S.A, Love: Sandee

We are ending the final term of an historical presidency in the United States of America. As we stand in yet another historical moment where our candidates are outside of politics as usual I was inspired to address a letter to the #nextpresident.

i.c.stars Welcomes Gillian Downey as Chief Operating Officer

Silicon Valley and Bank of America executive lends considerable experience and talent to i.c.stars leadership team

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Who Sets Your Table?

At i.c.stars we to find, train and put talented folks to work. We try to keep the male to female ratio pretty even. Some dynamics about the female interns have been in play since we started i.c.stars. As women we are socialized to set the table for everyone else to come and eat; we eat last without a thought; it’s how we are raised. It would be weird for us to get to the table first and ‘help ourselves’ or to just show up at dinner and ask who is cooking? We would never demand the “largest piece of chicken”. It would be very strange, we just would never do that.

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Sandee's Take: Product Innovation Musings

I was fortunate to moderate a lively panel discussion on product innovation on April 26 at 1871, sponsored by one of our wonderful partners, Paylocity. My “aha” moment from the evening’s talk was to realize that we’re doing here at i.c. stars - creating community leaders by teaching people the ins and outs of technology and project management - is a path to innovation. We may not always realize the innovation opportunity staring us down.

My first question to the panel - “what is innovation?” - prompted thoughts. Here are a few that inspired me most and caused me to put an innovation lens on what we do at i.c. stars because we do these things every day:

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I Am Proud of You

Recently, I took a trip to Sarasota, Florida to visit my great, great, great aunt, who isn’t really my aunt. But she is my aunt because she’s special and she most certainly is great. It was her 99th birthday. She is exactly what comes to mind when you think of a 99-year old. She is the aunt who has always shown up. She gave me space to dream. She was at my 8th grade graduation. She took me to see my first play, and that changed my life. And of course, this aunt comes with cousins.

Alumni and their Mentors: Mohammed and Don


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The Maker Factory: Leadership is Transformational


At i.c.stars, we are constantly reworking and tweaking our process, curriculum and delivery. But the core of what we do, which is transformation, never changes (ironically). The hardest part of being an intern is meeting your transformed self face to face. You hardly recognize yourself. Your loved ones say, “You have changed,” sometimes accompanied by a frown. Sometimes with a smile of pure pride. Sometimes we are taken with the reaction and we must remind ourselves If they confronted their own fears, they could fully transform themselves and the communities in which we all work, live and serve. It is fear that makes us frown.

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Leadership means making space for _______________.


A while back I was heading to the west side with one of our alumni to go talk to a group of young people. As we rode in the car, he said to me, “You know, Sandee, you’ve really created a culture of weirdos.” I was taken aback. “What do you mean? What’s weird?” He replied, “Just weirdos - I can’t I can’t put my finger on it. People from i.c.stars are weird. Even if I’ve never met them before, I know they are weird. We are all weird.”

I was confused. “What do you mean? I’m from the school of cool. I’m no weirdo. I may like Hello, Kitty and some other interesting things, but trust me - I’m cool like a cucumber.” He then reassured me that I was weird, and in fact, the QUEEN of the Weirdos!

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Diversity - One Word With Many Layers


When I was 14 years old I attended high school outside of my neighborhood. It was a big deal. I had to take three buses to attend school downtown. The school was a diverse performing arts school where we were trained to apply our thinking in one area to another. Our entire learning model was based in critical thinking and application. You had to show up with questions that were based on a theory or an idea that would join others ideas. We were trained to ask what if? We were being trained as artists.

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Time Demands Your Respect


Everyone has heard the saying, “Time is the only thing we can not get back.” It’s true. Many books have been written and many books have been read about how to manage and maximize time. Our latest cycle of interns just completed the first sprint of their client engagement with TTX. They are now about to start the infamous “Geek Week,” while the client decides which solution best fits their needs. Reflecting on the time I spent observing them during the past week, three things stood out to me related to time.

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IT Sisters of Support


A few weeks ago, the SWIT group – Senior Women in IT – descended upon i.c.stars. This happened because Cycle 34 was the largest women’s cycle i.c.stars has ever seen and the women of cycle 35 worked diligently to build relationships with Women in IT who had forged a path to leadership. Ten out of our fourteen interns were women, and you could really feel the difference. The gender balance shaped how our entire network experienced i.c.stars for four months, and needless to say, it was pretty terrific.

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Cranes of Peace: The Magic Behind the Fold


The i.c.stars curriculum can be divided into three buckets. One is the project-based learning environment, built on the foundation of our brilliant and resilient interns. They already have whole toolkit - we’re providing a context for them to unpack it. We do very little pre-teaching. It’s really all about experiencing and learning through meetings and deliverables set by their clients, and then post-teaching at the whiteboard and debrief sessions.

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Are You a Leader or A Troll?


I recently published a blog on LinkedIn about women in STEM. While I rolled through the comments I noticed a comment from someone I wasn’t connected to with an opinion that wasn’t very thoughtful or constructive. Upon reading it I was immediately brought back to the time our interns had a troll spouting out hurtful and non-constructive anonymous feedback via performance reviews of their fellow interns. The feeling in the studio was heavy that day. Performance reviews usually cause a lot of self reflection and feelings, but something was different this time.

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Developing the Future Through Transition

We just celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., at the i.c.stars annual Stakeholders event. As we think about what his work has enabled change agents of today to accomplish I am happy to report that the health of i.c.stars is in great shape. We just celebrated our 34th cycle commencement (congratulations to everyone!) and we launched cycle 35 last week on schedule. We are entering 2016 with a very strong cash position, a development team exceeding goals month after month, and a program team consistently meeting our growth goals for finding, training, and putting talent to work.

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Wishing you a wonderful 2016

On behalf of i.c.stars we want to wish you the best for 2016. May you keep on seeing stars this new year.

ABC7Chicago NewsViews Features i.c.stars

December 27, 2015
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Seeing STARS for the Holidays


There’s a tradition here at ic.stars where we exchange gifts for the holidays. But, this isn’t your ordinary Secret Santa, it’s Secret Santa with a twist.

It comes with a few rules:

  1. There is a 10 dollar limit on the gifts.
  2. It starts from the end of Thanksgiving till when we break for the holidays.
  3. You have to get your Secret Santa a gift every day during that period.
  4. Don’t get caught in the process of giving. You’re supposed to be a Secret Santa, remember
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Leaders Value Both Hope and Facts - You Can’t Have One Without The Other


One of our alumni Vera Shabazz came by last week. I’m so happy Vera came home because she reminds me of what I love about futurists. In a recent blog post I talked about how the interns were working through Geek Week. Vera came in just in time to offer a testimony about her experience with the internship and Geek Week and how facing the fear of the unknown was well worth overcoming fear. She always has an open heart about what can be and a willingness to take it all in.

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Fight or Flight - Leadership Means Never Getting Too Comfortable


By now you may have heard about the strict guidelines that our interns at i.c.stars have to adhere to, 12 hour days, no lates or absences, performance appraisals after every 3 week sprint and constant reflection about who we are and what we are becoming. One of the less talked about and surprising things that can occur at the end of the internship is that an intern can be denied a spot in the residency. After the 4 month internship graduates are invited into the 2 year residency program. Residents have career services, college counseling, screen share mentoring and full use of i.c.stars resources. We expect that our interns give their best the entire internship and there are consequences for falling short of these expectations.

When an intern is denied a spot in the residency they can take one of two routes. They can feel sorry for themselves and throw away the investment they’ve made over the last four months and go back to doing what they were doing before i.c.stars or they could exercise resiliency and make something of their experience by proving us wrong. Just because you don’t receive an invitation to the residency doesn’t mean that you didn’t do the work in the internship, no one can take those experiences from you, so what will you do with them?

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Leadership and Mastery - The Path Is Hard


It’s hard for us to celebrate our successes. However, If something goes wrong it’s easier for us to talk about what went wrong in detail. We will tell it over and over again and we have willing audiences. They want to be with you when you’ve got bad news. But when you are celebrating your success, people will say “don’t get a big head now.” It’s weird. We aren’t socialized to celebrate one another. Because doing this takes practice I encourage you to exercise the ability to celebrate yourself and others. If not you? Then Who? If we can’t tell each other that the moment that you stepped outside of your comfort zone was fantastic and amazing and if we can’t tell each other, “I see you,” then who?

A Measurable Impact

Initial placement rate:
Industry retention rate:
College attendance rate:
Alumni actively engaged in their communities:
Average 12-month earnings before program:
Average 12-month earnings after program: