ASU's deep engineering talent pool attracts top employers

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Judging by the optimism expressed by students and recruiters at the recent Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering 2018 spring semester Career Fair, the event fulfilled its mission as a springboard into a promising future for the next generation of engineers.

Two Career Fair days at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus and another at its Polytechnic campus altogether provided more than 3,500 students and alumni opportunities to meet representatives of large, mid-size and small companies, along with government agencies, United States military operations and nonprofit organizations.

More than 420 employers, in total, participated in the two Tempe events. More than 80 were at the Polytechnic campus.

A good number of those employers are longstanding industry partners of the Fulton Schools who look to ASU for some of the best and brightest new talent.

From among about 50 universities where General Motors searches for new employees, ASU has been at the top of the list of information technology recruits for the past three years, said senior information technology manager Dan Deschamps.

The Fulton Schools students filling those positions — mostly computer science and software engineering majors — come well prepared and “are hitting the ground running” in their new jobs, Deschamps said.

“It’s a great talent pipeline. They come into the workplace ready to contribute,” said Jenny Taylor, a recruiter for aerospace and defense company General Dynamics.

An array of companies looking for hires

In recent years, the company brought on ASU graduates in electrical, mechanical and manufacturing engineering, as well as in computer science and related information technology studies, to bolster the range of expertise within its workforce, Taylor said.

During one of the recent Career Fair days, she was confident that General Dynamics’ recruiters “will definitely find the right people today for some of our job openings.”

Benchmark, a growing electronics company, has found ASU engineering students “super smart,” recruiter Jake Miller said.

The company is looking to fill positions in computer programming and electrical and mechanical engineering. But more so, Miller said, it wants people “who can demonstrate that they can learn new skills on the fly,” and Benchmark has been finding those promising candidates in the Fulton Schools.

Choice Hotels, one of the world’s largest lodging companies, came to the Fulton Schools Career Fair, attracted by the enthusiasm and aspirations of the students, said business systems analyst and recruiter Rohit Taneja.

The company finds that when it brings in new employees who are motivated and eager to innovate, Taneja said, “it motivates all of us to do more and to do better.”

Electrical engineering graduate students Vanishri Hegde, Akanksha Warrier and Subramanya Praveen were hoping to find employers willing to allow them to utilize the new technological advances that they’re learning about in school.

Telling recruiters about novel techniques and methodologies they are using in their research projects “might help us make a good impression,” Warrier said.

Raytheon recruiter Maurice Ortiz said the company is striving to build diversity into its workforce and is looking for new hires with varied skill sets and backgrounds.

“We want those who have a yearning for learning and want to take on something new and outside the box, who can take what they’ve learned and expand on it,” Ortiz said.

Honeywell recruiter Melissa Purkhiser said her company’s recruiters focus on what students are involved in beyond their classroom studies.

“We want to see leadership on student teams and in group projects, people who are the go-getters,” Purkhiser said.

The Raytheon and Honeywell recruiters said ASU is at or near the top of the list for finding those well-rounded, industrious new workers.

ASU students have proved a good fit as well for Starbucks’ innovation-driven work culture, said company program manager Jessica Gabry. It’s likely that a high percentage of the first cohort of student interns hired as part of a growing ASU-Starbucks educational partnership will become full-time employees, she said.

USAA, a group of insurance and financial services companies, looks for students who exude confidence, are well-spoken and have applied what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world experiences.

“We’ve had a lot of success finding students like that at ASU,” USAA recruiter Cody Phillips said.

The same goes for Texas Instruments. Students are “so excited and passionate” about their studies and research projects that it makes them particularly attractive job candidates, said recruiter Lindsay Weimar.

Important experience for students

Even though recruiters are eager to meet the potential interns and employees, some students still find the Career Fair experience challenging.

Alexandra Self, a senior in mechanical engineering, and Marlee Rogers, who has completed studies for a degree in aerospace engineering, said the crowds at some Career Fair sessions can make students feel they are getting lost in the shuffle of all the hectic activity. But they said that meeting recruiters face-to-face provides students the optimal opportunity for landing a job or internship.

Sophomore computer science major Ariana Kiaei and fellow sophomore James Torla, an aerospace engineering major, both students in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, said they are attending Career Fairs now so that they will be seasoned veterans in navigating the job-search process by their junior and senior years.

After the recent Career Fair days, 23 companies stayed on campus to conduct interviews with almost 300 students interviewed during On-Campus Interviewing Day.

Many more students will be interviewed on campus, at employer sites or virtually in the coming weeks. Several companies and organizations reported making on-the-spot job offers to students at Career Fairs and during the On-Campus Interviewing Day.

From a single engineering Career Fair 10 years ago, in the spring of 2008 — with 38 companies and 850 students in attendance — the Fulton Schools now has eight engineering-focused Career Fair days in the spring semester and 14 or more annually.

Preparing students to find a job

The Fulton Schools Career Center prepares students year-round for Career Fairs and other job and internship search opportunities.

The center offers students the services of career development specialists and peer career coaches. There are also Rapid Résumé Reviews with industry representatives.

In addition, the center offers in-person sessions and webinars for students and organizations to learn effective résumé writing, internship and job search techniques, LinkedIn profile tips and successful technical, coding and behavioral interviewing.

Career Center director Robin Hammond advises students to check in regularly on the Career Center’s Handshake website (“Connecting talent to opportunity”). The site enables them to complete their profiles and upload a résumé and to check daily for opportunities to apply for internships and jobs.

Hammond also emphasizes that students should practice interviewing, presentation and soft skills, join student organizations, and LinkedIn professional groups, and follow up job-search-related interactions with appropriate personal messages appropriate to the situation, along with a LinkedIn request.

And while career fairs are important, Hammond encourages students to also attend tech talks, information sessions, invent-a-thons, maker events, professional meet-ups, pitch competitions, and other events where they might meet hiring managers, networking contacts or ASU alumni.

“A job search can feel like a part-time or even full-time job, and in some ways it is,” Hammond said, “but with the right attitude and a focused strategy, you can position yourself to be a sought-after job candidate and a successful hire.”