Five Summers Along: CATLab Balances Developing, Data, Sales, and Marketing
CATLab, Westmont’s Center for Applied Technology, is a student-driven response to the technological challenges of higher education. We are a group of developers, designers, relationship builders, artists, and thinkers from Westmont College who design creative solutions to real problems. Want to know what problems we’ll be solving this Summer? Read on to find out.
What is CATLab?
Each summer at Westmont College, a new cohort of students and staff gather to address the technical hurdles facing higher education. Together, they form CATLab, a 15-week summer program which provides students with professional experience, Westmont with low cost data solution, and local businesses with a talent pool of eager employees.
Past CATLab teams have successfully renovated digital interfaces for Westmont’s Advancement department, created a new online application for admission, developed MyTrailhead and Salesforce training programs, and, most recently, created the myWestmont portal and mobile app, a unified digital hub combining Westmont’s scattered apps and websites into a single one-stop-shop.
Zak Landrum, CATLab’s director, refers to the program as a “pop-up tech startup,” because, like a pop up circus tent, CATLab sets up a fully operational tech company in just a week, runs it for the summer, and then takes it back down as students carry their newfound skills to the Westmont community or new careers. While the program is short and features fresh faces each year (about 65% of our team is in their first summer), CATLab succeeds because each new team brings their own creativity to build upon the solid foundation made by past cohorts.
What makes this team different?
As CATLab builds upon the foundations of the past, we have steadily grown into a well balanced start up. CATLab began as a pilot program for developers in 2018, but still had a need to tell its story to the world. So, in 2019, CATLab expanded to include a marketing team of creatives. While this investment in creativity paid dividends, we were still missing one key aspect of the modern tech company: sales.
This year, for the first time in our history, CATLab has partnered with Westmont’s Office of Admissions to form an Admissions Development Representative team (ADR). Based upon the Business Development Representatives model of tech startups, the ADR team will leverage CATLab’s innovations to connect Westmont and prospective students more effectively.
With the addition of the ADR team, this is CATLab’s biggest cohort yet (27 students and 14 staff). Now, more than ever, CATLab resembles a functional tech startup—complete with marketing, sales, developer, and data analyst teams, plus a fully stocked snack bar. So, what will this well-rounded team be doing?
What are CATLab’s summer projects?
Put simply, this year’s team will build upon the groundwork laid last summer, expanding the myWestmont portal to include many of Westmont’s older forms and apps in one new, Salesforce based place. Since this is our biggest cohort yet, how will CATLab balance the workload between teams? Here are some of the many projects each team will complete this Summer:
The Admissions Reps—Connecting with the Students of Today and Tomorrow.
Led by Westmont’s communications strategist Korbin Breeden, the ADR team will act as a CATLab’s sales department (similar to the BDRs at most tech startups). Working alongside Westmont’s Office of Admissions, the ADRs will utilize the Salesforce database to recruit new students to Westmont.
The team aims to increase the amount of people Westmont communicates with by sorting through 180,000 high schoolers–before they even reach their senior year of high school– and developing systems to communicate with them. Korbin said that the ADRs will try to answer the question: “how many touchpoints does it take to get someone interested in Westmont? Do students prefer email, phone, video?” The team will send texts, calls, emails, videos, and host in-person events to determine the best way that both Westmont and CATLab can serve future students.
Additionally, the ADRs will walk students through the Westmont Roadmap, a program developed by Westmont admissions and IT to streamline new students’ transition to campus life. Instead of a confusing barrage of emails, incoming students will be able to refer to the Roadmap program for well-structured information on everything from orientation to housing.
The Developers—Enhancing the myWestmont Portal and Mobile App.
The developers will build upon the work of last year’s team, transferring over outdated Westmont apps and websites onto the myWestmont portal and mobile app. The new portal and app have become a central hub where students and staff can manage anything from class registration to chapel attendance, replacing the old system of scattered websites.
The team will also create online admission applications for Westmont’s teaching and nursing programs. Additionally, they will bring AWS file integration fully online, creating an inhouse database for the college to store profile pictures, program applications, letters of recommendations, and more. Finally, the team will create a cohesive development philosophy that aligns CATLab with industry best practices.
The Data Analysts—Organizing Departmental Data.
The data analysts will continue the task of last year’s team: cataloging and digitizing more than 3,000 pieces that belong to the private collection of Westmont’s Ridley-Tree Museum of Art. They will also be working on data improvement with several departments, including mapping facilities, acquiring alumni emails, and cataloging membership in Westmont College programs for everything from Westmont in San Francisco to relationships with local churches.
The Creatives—Marketing CATLab through authentic content and events.
The creative team will follow the developing stories of CATLab’s fifth summer through blog posts, photography, graphic design, and a published print magazine at the summer’s end. The team will also redesign and overhaul CATLab’s website, making information about the program and events easily accessible. Looking ahead, the team will support Art | Tech nights, network with Salesforce representatives in San Francisco, and assist in organizing Impact, CATLab’s annual tech conference in August. How can you get involved?
CATLab in the Community—Hosting events and conversations about technology in our lives.
As part of our commitment to serve and engage our community, CATLab will be hosting several events throughout the summer. Our Art | Tech nights will return, creating a space for local tech firms and artists to connect and explore together how to balance both the business and artistry of technology. Additionally, CATLab will participate in Westmont’s annual LEAD Where You Stand conference in June, a chance for students and community members to reflect on leadership and character formation together. Finally, in August we will host our own annual Impact Conference—our answer to sharing tech based solutions with our community.
Our projects are driven by CATLab’s core values—curiosity, commitment, and authenticity. Look for our next article on how you can incorporate your values into your marketing and projects!
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