Local entrepreneurs expand program to help Miami students find gigs today, prep for jobs of the future

By Riley Kaminer

For Miami-based entrepreneur Matthew Mottola, the path to landing a job at Microsoft was far from as linear as you might expect.

Matthew Mottola

“I could not have gotten into Microsoft right out of school,” Mottola told Refresh Miami. Having gone to a public university in Massachusetts, Mottola said that his school did not appear on the drop-down list on Microsoft’s HR program.

So how did Mottola get his foot in the door at one of the world’s largest tech companies? “I showed up and said ‘hey, I have five years of management experience,’” he explained. This experience spoke volumes.

Since then Mottola has been thinking about ways to pay it forward through his company, Human Cloud, which evangelizes the advantages of freelance work. Last year, Mottola teamed up with Florida International University’s Honors College to bring a series of micro-internships to their students.

The ideas that companies – mostly local initially, now national – would come with projects needed to be solved. For an average of around $20 an hour for 15 hours, these companies would get access to top FIU talent. Beyond the financial remuneration, students would gain priceless work experience, as well as an insight into the power of the freelance economy.

“Money is the initial attraction, but eventually these projects open students’ minds to the side hustles they might not have thought about,” asserted Paul Polo, a Navy veteran and FIU graduate who directs Human Cloud’s university programming.

Paul Polo

Mottola underscores that it’s not all about freelancing though. “This is also a pathway to a job or internship,” he explained, citing his Microsoft story as a perfect example of the independent contractor to full-time employee pipeline.

So far, Human Cloud reports that 618 students have signed up to the program. There have been 35 micro-internship programs created across 23 companies. The team notes that this is likely an underestimate of the overall number of projects, since they only count the first engagement between a student and a firm – whereas they have heard of students completing up to 15 individual projects with companies.

Now, Human Cloud is expanding its program to include the entire 55,000-strong student body, not just the 2,000 Honors College students. The team is excited to amplify their growth.

“Connecting one student to one company is great,” said Polo. “But the real change is going to happen when we get big companies hiring 10 or 20 micro-interns at a time. To be ready for that, we need over 1,000 students ready to go.”

There’s especially good news for any Miami companies. Human Cloud and FIU recently secured a grant that enables any Miami company to get their first project completed for free – while the students are still paid $20 an hour. Interested companies can apply through their partner Parker Dewey’s website at this link.

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Riley Kaminer