“It was a blast.”
That’s junior mechanical engineer Anna Norris, vice president of Rice’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter talking about this year’s Evening with Industry.
When the event was launched last year, the turnout was much greater than SWE organizers expected. They ran out of food. It was a bit more chaotic than they envisioned. The event was a success but SWE organizers knew it could be improved upon.
“The idea is for this event to be more casual than the [Center for Career Development’s] Career and Internship Expo,” said Norris. “That way, students can connect with employers on a bigger level.”
For the September 12th event, SWE organizers created a two-tier entrance process. The first half-hour was reserved for student leaders and select members of Rice’s engineering clubs.
“Many companies reach out to us, and the other campus clubs, to find out what we do, who our members are, how they can sponsor us or connect with our members in some way,” said Norris. “So, allowing the clubs and industry representatives to have some time before the other attendees showed up was beneficial.”
Following that meet-and-greet, more than 300 engineering students entered the Grand Hall in the Rice Memorial Center to mingle and network with recruiters from more than 21 companies.
“I’d registered for the event the day before it took place,” said junior mechanical engineer Justin Bernard. “So, I didn’t have a name tag—and that became a talking point with the companies. I talked with representatives from Shell and GE. The rep from Shell was a mechanical engineering alum, so we talked about one of my professors.”
“We learned a lot from last year’s event,” said Norris. “And, we listened to student feedback. For example, some of our bioengineering members asked that we have more BIOE companies represented, so we made sure we had representatives from that industry. The other thing we did was use the name tag holder from the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. That helped keep us organized.”
For Bernard, the casual atmosphere helped in getting to know more about careers available and what companies expect from job candidates. He said that one of the best interactions of the night happened as he was leaving. He saw some company representatives sitting at a table and went over to them. They were from a startup called Austin Sigma, which designs apps.
“I told them I knew Python and I taught myself some C, but I knew I wasn’t qualified and didn’t have what they needed,” he said. “But they recommended this book called Cracking the Code Interview, which Google also recommended to me later in the week. It was such a cool conversation; they were talking about the atmosphere in their office, how it’s chill and everyone has an actual office, not just a cubicle. What I really liked was they remembered my name as I left, and when I saw them at the Career Expo the next day, they remembered it again.”
That level of interaction is exactly what organizers had hoped students would find.
Norris said that she expects the event to grow and improve each year. This year’s event was co-sponsored by the Center for Career Development.