EOC returns Wednesday; networking event debuts next week

Students and recruiters mix at the Technical Opportunities Conference in September 2010. (credit: File photo by Nicole Ifill) Students and recruiters mix at the Technical Opportunities Conference in September 2010. (credit: File photo by Nicole Ifill)

Employers and students seeking full-time jobs or internship opportunities will take over the University Center this week for the annual Employment Opportunities Conference (EOC). A new networking event focusing on startup companies will also be held in the University Center next week.

This year’s EOC, which will run from noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, will include 190 companies with booths set up in Wiegand Gymnasium, Rangos Hall, and the McKenna/Peter/Wright rooms. The event is limited to Carnegie Mellon students and alumni of all majors.

Name tags are required for admittance. Students who register in advance on TartanTrak will have pre-printed tags ready for them at the door.

Expansion into McKenna/Peter/Wright makes the 2012 EOC noticeably larger than last year’s, which drew over 150 employers to campus. In a campuswide email last Tuesday, the Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) said that reduced booth fees for small businesses had contributed to the fair’s size and diversity.

“Significant discounts have been offered to organizations with 100 employees or less,” the email stated. “This has attracted an unprecedented number of startups and mid-sized organizations from various sectors, including government and nonprofit.”

In addition to this year’s EOC, the CPDC will be hosting a new event called TechSpark, an initiative to create recruiting opportunities for small startup companies. TechSpark will take place next Monday from 6 to 9 p.m. in Rangos Hall. Students must register on TartanTrak by Sunday in order to participate.

TechSpark is an interactive event that will include three main portions: a keynote address from Carnegie Mellon alumnus and entrepreneur Tony Berkman, presentations from select companies, and a general reception for networking purposes.

Unlike the EOC, there will be no booths for companies at the reception. Each company will instead have a small table, and students and alumni will be encouraged to mingle with the employers in attendance.
“We’re hoping that students won’t queue up in front of a table, but that there will be conversations amongst students, employers, and alumni,” said Wahab Owolabi, assistant director for employer development for the CPDC.

As of Saturday, 23 companies were registered to participate in TechSpark, including software development, web development, social media, and other entrepreneurship-focused companies.

Owolabi said that the companies coming in are “definitely well aware” that students attending TechSpark will not be only computer science or electrical and computer engineering majors. “It’s students who are interested in entrepreneurship, innovation, and working for a startup or an emerging company,” he said.

The new event was created largely in reaction to requests from such smaller companies, which can’t compete with larger companies at events like the EOC and the Technical Opportunities Conference, as well as requests from students. “It’s an interesting dynamic because we’ve heard from these types of companies that this was something that was needed, and we’ve heard from students that this was needed,” Owolabi said.

A résumé book will be handed out to the employers in attendance. Résumés of students who register on TartanTrak in advance will be included in the book, so students will not have to bring copies to the event.

Owolabi thinks the setup will allow for more relaxed and meaningful discussions between students, alumni, and employers. “You’re not going to be in the event like, ‘Here’s my résumé; what do you think?’ And I think that’s going to encourage some deeper conversations,” he said.

Noting that TechSpark was organized “pretty quickly,” Owolabi said that one focus of his office has been publicizing the event. TechSpark’s date was included as a line item in a CPDC email last December, with further details announced in two more emails last week. “We’re doing a big push in terms of letting students know what’s happening and who’s going to be here, and what kind of opportunity this is,” Owolabi said.

Despite the CPDC’s efforts, many students remain unaware of the event or, if they have heard of it, are unsure whether it will be useful. “I’ve heard of it and I’m going ... but I don’t think a lot of students are interested in working for startups,” said Siddhant Sethi, a first-year electrical and computer engineering major.

“I don’t know anything about [TechSpark], but I’ve heard of it,” sophomore electrical and computer engineering major Matthew Baron said. After hearing a description of the event, Baron questioned its usefulness: “I think it serves a certain purpose for certain students; however, I think a lot of CMU students are motivated enough to start their own startups, so why would they want to work for other people’s startups?”

Owolabi feels that students are interested in this type of event. He said, “You have the opportunity for companies to come in here and talk to you in a very meaningful and engaging way about what they’re doing, what they’re trying to accomplish, and how you can be a part of that — I think students are interested in that.”

Around 60 students were registered for TechSpark as of early last week, but Owolabi had high hopes for the event: “From start to finish, I would imagine anywhere between 300 to 400 students will come in and out of Rangos.”