Computer science career fair gives students and companies a distinctive edge
September 19, 2019
“I am interested in students who are passionate about technology and learning,” said Allison Mabry, a recruiter at CoStar Group, while speaking to a group of students at a networking event for computer science students held on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus on Sept. 15.
The networking activity took place the evening prior to the Department of Computer Science Resources Consortium fall career fair. Premier-level companies, including Amazon, Eastman Chemical, Mitre Corporation, and Solers, a Peraton Company, were provided with an opportunity to hold information sessions for students the day before the career fair in order to interact with them, provide best practices for professional interviewing, and ways to make a lasting impression.
“These scholarships have provided me a means to not worry about my finances,” said Ankita Khera, a senior majoring in computer science. “And that’s a huge relief.”
In addition to corporate-funded scholarships, Khera, along with Cynthia Zhang, also a senior majoring in computer science, are the recipients of scholarships supported by individual donors. The two seniors had a chance to meet computer science alumni Dean Kirsten ’78, M.S. ’85 and Nora Kirstein ’79, M.S. ’86 at the scholarship luncheon. The Kirsteins, along with other friends of the department, established the Anne and George Gorsline Endowed Scholarship in Computer Science in 2012.
The scholarship is named in honor of Anne and in memory of her husband, George Gorsline, who served as the first computer science department head and was affectionately known as “Dr. G” to his students. During Gorsline’s tenure at Virginia Tech, female students majoring in computer science reached 30 to 40 percent of the department’s student population. This scholarship was established to recognize and promote the continuation of that accomplishment.
With more than 1,100 attendees and 85 companies participating in the career fair on Monday, students planned strategically who they wanted to see during the pivotal five-hour window. For computer science junior Amber Amos, she had a list of six companies to visit so representatives could put a face to a name.
Amos posted her resume on Handshake, a forum for students and employers to connect through Career and Professional Development, giving employers an opportunity to view her resume in advance of the career fair.
“A lot of times you apply online and you don’t know if your application has entered a black hole,” said Amos. “By attending the career fair, I know they are looking at my physical resume and are not only seeing my face but my potential.”
In addition, Handshake allows companies to post jobs, hold information sessions, and interview students on campus.
Amos, like other students, have found the career fair to be a great way to get comfortable talking to employers about their strength areas, and also to determine courses and skillsets they need to add to their portfolio to make them stand out.
For Case Consulting, a Leesburg, Virginia, software services company serving the needs of the federal government and private industry, the career fair serves as an ideal way to scout for their summer internship program. Owner Paul Farmer, a Virginia Tech accounting and information systems graduate in the Pamplin College of Business, explained this is the only career fair where he recruits in person.
Farmer, who said he wished he could hire all the talented students he met, and his team will likely bring on four interns for its summer 2020 program, which he described as an intensive and rewarding experience. In this environment, interns are paired with engineers and work on a real-world problem from concept to delivery. Throughout the program, interns will use many software engineering best practices, such as agile/scrum, pair programming, automated testing, and test-driven development.
Like Farmer, Jon Bolt, a software engineer with the National Security Agency (NSA), said Virginia Tech always rises to the top of his list to recruit for its cooperative education program due to its academics and focus on project learning. Eligible students for its co-op program include undergraduate second semester freshmen and sophomores with majors in electrical and computer engineering, computer science, and cybersecurity.
“We have been working with Virginia Tech for a decade,” said Bolt. He further explained that the university is viewed as a “straight technical talent chain.”
The NSA also offers paid summer internships in a variety of career fields for undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. candidates.
Knowing that many of the employers at the career fair are Virginia Tech graduates helped to make computer science senior Kyle Long feel more confident as he waited in line to speak with Microsoft representatives.
“I am going to share my strengths and experiences. Many of the recruiters here today were where I am now, so they have an emotional connection.”
-- Written by Jenise Jacques