By Ashley R. Fazio
It’s five o’clock on a Wednesday evening with five minutes on the clock to get to know that person sitting across from you before the bell rings and you move to the next seat. “Hi, my name is Chris. I’m an electrical engineer. What types of jobs do you have open in your organization?”
Speed networking, a spin off of speed dating, allows students to have one-on-one contact with industry professionals and develop their conversational ability and interviewing skills in a low-risk environment. The February event hosted 40 students and 40 industry professionals from 12 different companies including Raymond, Lockheed Martin, NYSEG and BAE.
This networking event along with numerous other outreach efforts by the Watson School’s Office of Career and Alumni Connections create a strong community network for the Watson School’s 2,700 students, 10,000-plus alumni and numerous industry partners.
“As a student I attended almost every event that featured an alumni presence, because I was eager to learn as much as I could,” says Assad Tabatabaie ’10, MS ’12, plumbing and fire protection engineer for Syska Hennessy Group. “I had so many questions but so little time to find answers.”
With the shoe squarely on the other foot, he has taken part as an alumnus in events such as the New York City Metro Career Fair to give current students the same opportunities he had — or better. “Having been there myself, I know how eager students are to learn from people who have walked the same path. I would like to go one step further, though, and also provide them what I may not have had available to me that I would have found helpful.”
An international engineering consulting firm, Syska’s New York city office alone includes six Binghamton alumni — five Watson and one School of Management — and a summer intern. “Alumni networking brought all of us here,” says Tabatabaie.
The Watson office also provides services in extension of the Career Development Center, including tailored guidance for résumé and cover letter writing and interview preparation.
As a junior, mechanical engineering student Sharon Aluma saw Director Denise (Liburdi) Lorenzetti ’94, MBA ’97, speak at a workshop about networking and résumé writing. But it was an individual consultation that she found a refreshing reality check. “Everyone I consulted before said my résumé looked great. This was the first time someone was straight with me. Denise and the student assistants had me move things around, expand bullets and quantify my results,” says Aluma. Lorenzetti also reassured Aluma about her GPA, which Aluma worried was unimpressive. “Including it, [Lorenzetti] said, shows that there’s room for improvement. Leaving it off will let a potential employer think the worst.”
“Academically, our engineering and computer science students are maxed out,” says Lorenzetti. “Therefore, the professional skills — networking, résumé writing, interviewing, organizing a job search — come in on the back burner when they’re seniors, and then that’s too late. Their curricula are difficult, their coursework demands are high, but it’s critical for the students to start their career planning early and obtain the professional skills needed to land a job once they obtain their degree.”
Watch for these events and more in 2013-14
The Insight Onsite program allows students to network with an alumnus or industry representative, and take advantage of their career knowledge. Some of the sessions are 20-minute one-on-ones, while others are small round-table sessions. Students are encouraged to ask questions — nothing is off the table: What skills transferred to your first job? What difficult questions do you ask in an interview? What is your least favorite thing about your job?
Events are taking place from the East to West coasts, with a focus on speakers and topics related to technologies that have a broad impact on society. “Smart energy, small-scale electronics and healthcare are not only important to Watson alumni but alumni from a range of disciplines,” says Susan Ryan ’90, assistant director of career and alumni connections. The goal is to develop the alumni-student network and increase engagement in order to create a stronger Watson community, and, in turn, career pathways for students. Events range from the café-style gathering held in Albany this past April, to a full-scale reception with President Harvey G. Stenger this June in San Jose.
Engineering Professional Development
A variety of seminars are offered to ensure engineering students are ready to enter the workforce, including networking, business etiquette, strategic career development, interviewing, résumé writing and self-promotion. These workshops teach the professional skills critical to successfully land a first job.
Students get a firsthand look at firms and determine if their personality type would fit that particular culture. This is a great opportunity to network for both the student and employers. Recurring tours include BAE and Lockheed Martin, with more planned for the upcoming semesters.
Speakers and Panel Discussions
Alumni and leaders in industry share insights gained from years of experience in the varied fields of engineering. As soon as the formal sessions are completed, students gather around the guest speakers to network and to obtain valuable career guidance.
Events bring together students, alumni, faculty and staff to celebrate the annual Engineers Week in February. This past year, a kickoff event hosted an alumnus from Chobani who shared his insights regarding the company and the skill set needed to be a success on the job. Thomas J. Watson’s birthday was also celebrated during the kickoff event. During the week, a special guest of President Stenger, Dr. Lester Gerhardt of RPI, delivered a powerful speech, “All the Right Stuff,” highlighting what Watson students must understanding to launch their professional technical careers. A speed networking event also took place during E-week.
30th Anniversary of the Watson School
June 14 began a year of celebration as the Watson School kicked off its 30th anniversary with a local event with faculty, staff, alumni, students and friends. A variety of events will be held throughout the year in various locations to celebrate this major milestone, so stay tuned!
If you would like to learn more or take part in our events, email Suzy Ryan or call her at 607-777-2871.