by Ron Huber
Achieve Internet CEO Visits High Tech High in San Diego
Achieve Internet CEO Ron Huber visited High Tech High Chula Vista last week to discuss leadership with a group of Tim McNamara’s 12th grade English students. During the hour discussion, Huber spoke about motivation, communication, and related topics, drawing on his years of industry experience. Students asked questions about dealing with “difficult” group members, getting high quality work out of peers, and managing a project that requires both creativity and attention to detail.
High Tech High is a project-based learning environment, where students learn by doing. By senior year, students at HTH are able to lead projects themselves, and teachers provide support for developing crucial leadership skills.
In the case of this project, all students submitted a pitch, consisting of a synopsis of a tragic narrative that highlights a contemporary social or economic issue. From the anonymous submissions, fifteen were selected and those pitch writers became team leads. Then team leads drafted other students based on skill sets and project needs. Huber visited at the perfect time, just after teams were formed and while students were planning how to achieve the vision described in their pitches.
“It was great to have Ron talk with students,” McNamara said, “because he’s been dealing for years with issues that these students are facing. I’ve seen Ron in a professional environment and he’s able to get the best out of his people, and he provided my students with a lot of great ideas for following through on their ideas and completing excellent projects.”
After hearing about the students’ creative visions, Huber explained how a modified agile methodology approach, with measurable goals due at intervals, could serve students well. Agile methodology is common in software projects and it emphasizes iteration and teamwork.
Huber also mentioned some project management “gotchas,” such as not completing tasks. He recalled experiences where a preliminary project task that was only 98% complete cost his team dearly as the project progressed.
Motivating team members, Huber said, often requires more than money or grades--it requires that the leader invite each member into the project so they feel valued and listened to. Mr. Huber discussed several strategies for doing this, and each student came away with definitive steps to take to make their teams work more effectively.
Mr. Huber plans to continue his relationship with these student leaders by responding to questions and checking in again later in the project. He and others at Achieve Internet look forward to a continued relationship with High Tech High. “We want to be involved,” Huber said, “with a school like this, that has students, from a technical and a managerial perspective, tackling tough problems.”