Yesterday I represented my company, VML, at the Missouri Iowa Nebraska Kansas Women in Computing Conference Career Fair. MINK WIC is a conference held every two years in Kansas City that is modeled after the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing; featuring panels, lightning talks, networking, resume review, and a career fair. This conference is targeted towards students and faculty, but is open to anyone wanting to make an impact in promoting women in computing.
The career fair featured a lot of talented young ladies checking out local companies KCP&L, Cerner, Garmin, NetApp, and more. As they approached the VML table and engaged me in conversation some ladies stood out of the crowd, which led me to create this [women in tech] Career Fair Tips & Tricks list.
**These tips feature my views working for an employer in marketing and web development, we look for different things than software developing companies, though we share the same skill sets and programming knowledge requirements.
1. Ask about the employer. At this career fair, VML was a very different employer than the rest – we are a digital marketing agency with an incredibly unique culture, and build websites and applications vs. software like most of the other companies. Majority of the attendees had never heard of us, and the ones that asked questions about what we do, who our clients are, and what our process is like captured my attention and made me look at their resume closer.
1a. Ask about the tech. Another question that got their resume moved to the top of the pile was “Do your projects change a lot? Do you get bored?” This question is an important one to ask as a potential VMLer – we pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve with new technology, and we’re able to do that because we have employees who are thought leaders and always looking to push boundaries. However, not every company is like this, many have an established solid workflow that doesn’t feature much change. It’s good to know if you prefer innovation with a side of chaos, or a solid, organized, steady flow.
1b. Ask about the culture. There are a plethora of tech jobs available, but different companies come with their own culture. At VML we like to say ‘work hard, play hard’. You may pull 50 hour weeks every so often, but long hours are broken up by spending time on the rooftop of our crossroads office enjoying a ‘beverage’, helping plan for a boardwalk themed summer party (with bumper cars and a fire juggler), or building a prototype for a pitch with a rockstar creative team. Other companies come in at 8am and leave promptly at 5pm, sometimes even encouraging 35 hours weeks. People respond better to different environments, so ask questions to find out what appeals to you.
1c. Ask the right questions. You may just want ANY job, but employers don’t want just ANY employee. With a career in technology the world is your oyster, so be sure to look at all the opportunities to get a better idea of what’s right for you. Attendees who asked questions like “What do you like most about your job?” showed they were interested in finding a good fit instead of just any job.
1d. Ask relevant questions. One attendee asked me about the gender ratios at VML, a great question for being at a women in computing conference. Another had just come from a session on agile, and asked me if VML still did waterfall. (My team doesn’t, if you’re wondering, though sometimes QA feels like we do!) Asking those kind of questions showed me how much they learned just at this 2 day conference and their understanding of how it applies to the workplace they will soon be entering.
2. Resumes – gimme a CTA! Call to Action – I want to be able to see quickly if you’re looking for full time employment or just an internship. Put what you’re looking for at the head of your resume so at a glance I know what information to give you, and can remember when I sort through them with my company.
3. Your handshake says a lot. I unfortunately received more than one floppy handshake. A high school friend once referred to it as “the dead fish”. You’re about to enter a male dominated industry, you need to work on being assertive or you may struggle to have your voice heard, and we really need your voice. A handshake is often the first impression, use it to show you know you deserve to be here.
4. Sell yourself, don’t rely on your resume to. The ladies who immediately rattled off their skills and courses interested me much less than the ones who instead talked about their passion and love for their craft. Technology is an ever changing landscape, I want to hear more about how you develop your own skills and problem solve and less about the various classes of different languages you’ve taken.
5. Ask for advice. ‘Ask’ seems to be the theme for this post! A few young ladies asked me questions in regards to what courses they should take based on what’s relevant in the industry now. There will always be some difference in the requirements of projects you do in school versus in a job, it’s important to know where you need to grow.
Great tips Jennifer! These are great for all of us to remember whether we’re just starting out or getting ready for a client presentation!