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Cognizant is committed to providing reskilling programs and creating a strong talent pipeline in the Hartford Region. The organization has also partnered with Connecticut Insurance and Financial Services (CT IFS), an initiative of the MetroHartford Alliance (MHA), to help provide experiential learning opportunities.

MHA Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Cognizant Senior Business Analyst Aliveni Akella and Strategic Business Unit and Insurance Leader Sarat Varanasi to learn more.

NAN PRICE: It seems like Cognizant takes several approaches to creating a local talent pipeline.

SARAT VARANASI: Talent is at risk right now, especially because the current technology is ever-changing. Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is also at the forefront of many people’s minds. To address these concerns, Cognizant launched a Returnship Program that ties in with our D&I program, part of which is empowering women by bringing them back to work.

Our Returnship Program is specifically targeted at bringing technology professionals back to work who have had five years of experience and at least two years of a career break. It’s a 12-week paid experience to provide training on new technologies and then potentially align participants with a position at Cognizant.

Cognizant has also done several acquisitions, including Advanced Technology Group (ATG), which has done some work offering retraining skills and retaining people with information technology (IT) skills. Through that program, trainees complete a 12-week specialized paid training program focusing on areas including business essentials, consulting, systems analysis and design, data analytics, project management, and information infrastructures. The program also focuses on cloud and IT basics with an emphasis on the Salesforce platform. Once they complete the program, trainees are guaranteed a job interview where they could be placed within various roles and projects within Cognizant.

ALIVENI AKELLA: Cognizant also offers university and college recruitment programs, which are very active in universities colleges across the country. We also have internship programs to engage high school and college students. We’re creating a talent pipeline with potential opportunities for those internships to become permanent positions at Cognizant.

NAN: It sounds like the overarching goal is to keep the talent close to home and create effective partnerships, like with CT IFS. Tell us about that collaboration.

SARAT: For the Hartford Region, this is our first year creating internship opportunities in the insurance and financial services (IFS) vertical. Cognizant is sponsoring five interns from local high schools who can work for a 12- to 16-week period. We provide the students with a broad IFS subject they can research. They find out how it ties into technology and bring their experiences back.

CT IFS helps identify candidates from the high schools here in the Hartford area and help us with the program so we can provide these opportunities on a sustainable basis. We’re trying to enrich the community through these types of opportunities. Although the number may be small, we think it’s a great way to get engagement from the community here.

NAN: How else is Cognizant involved with local schools?

VENI: We’ve been partnering with Pathways Academy of Technology and Design in East Hartford, which is part of the National Academy Foundation (NAF), for about eight years. Cognizant sponsors one of their students every summer.

Cognizant team members build and showcase technology projects to local-area high school students at the Connecticut Science Center. They also participate in panel discussions aimed to encourage and get students into technology.

NAN: Veni, you’ve been reskilled into Cognizant. Tell us about that experience.

VENI: I was a high school English teacher for 20 years in India. I came to the United States and went back to graduate school at the University of Hartford where I earned my master’s in Educational Technology and Instructional Design.

I joined Cognizant as a Business Analyst. Since then, I’ve worked as a Senior Business Analyst and now, after further reskilling in Agile methodologies, I work as a Senior Scrum Master.

SARAT: We’re proud of how much Veni contributes to Cognizant and our community. She’s very involved all of our charitable activities from our relationship with the Connecticut Science Center to running the programs like the Walk for Hunger.

NAN: Sarat, tell us about how you contribute to Cognizant and the community.

SARAT: I’ve been with Cognizant for 13 years. The thing I always wanted to contribute was on the social side. I enjoy giving back to the community with the help of the MHA, and specifically with CT IFS, where I’m a board member this year. That’s what helps drive some of the activities Cognizant provides. I always wanted to contribute back to the technology industry and I’m thankful for an opportunity.

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Photo: Early Bird Intern Applicants receive resume and cover letter writing assistance from Cognizant at a professional preparation event. (Photo courtesy Pathways Academy of Technology and Design)