Jacob Martinez: How Digital NEST Helps Youth Take Flight

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When Jacob Martinez was a kid in school, his family moved from Los Angeles, California to Dallas, Texas. Real estate was a lot cheaper in Dallas, so they were able to move into a well-off neighborhood, where young people had support and opportunities like Jacob had never imagined.

That deeply disorienting experience stuck with Jacob as he grew up and made his way back to California. There he studied biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, before finding his calling in helping other minority youth get into STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The work was satisfying, but also frustrating — he wondered if he was having enough impact to make a difference. That frustration eventually led Jacob to create Digital NEST, an incubator for young tech talent in the farming towns of Watsonville and Salinas, south of Santa Cruz.

As we hear in this episode, Digital NEST is making a difference. Its graduates make an average starting salary of more than $46,000. The average Watsonville resident makes about $17,000. NEST graduates have been hired not just by local companies but by multi-nationals like software maker Adobe, and the NEST has attracted donations from major venture capitalists.

Jacob now thinks the success of Digital NEST can be replicated in small towns up and down California, and maybe even across the country.

Jacob Martinez

Jacob Martinez is the Executive Director of the Digital NEST, a non-profit in Watsonville and Salinas, that CONNECTS youth to a skill-building community that TRANSFORMS them into professionals who can CREATE successful careers, innovative solutions and prosperous communities.

Prior to establishing the Digital NEST in 2014, Jacob Martinez spent ten years leading innovative computer-based programs in California, with a particular focus on encouraging Latina girls to enter high tech fields.

He is a frequent speaker at technology and educational conferences, and has been honored by business, community, and educational institutions for his innovation and leadership. He spoke in 2015 at the first White House Tech Meetup and was named by Tech Crunch as one of 2014’s Top 10 Men in the Country Supporting Women in Technology.” In 2015 he was named Santa Cruz County Entrepreneur of the Year by the Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce and in 2018 the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation named him as one of the Entrepreneur Fellows. (From Digital NEST.)

Episode Links

Digital NEST


Social entrepreneur Bud Colligan (Dastardly Cleverness interview)

Photos (by Bryan Patrick for Digital NEST)


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