Ready. Set. Go! Industry leaders show students how to succeed in workforce

Annual Career Perspectives and Networking Conference reinforces the importance of professional development skills for SEAS graduate students

Graduate students check in to the networking session at the CPNC.

Over 100 graduate students in UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences had the opportunity to network with potential future employers at the Fourth Annual Career Perspectives and Networking Conference. Photo Credit: The Onion Studio.

by Jane Stoyle Welch

Published October 18, 2017

Lightning talks, a networking reception and panel discussions with industry leaders, including a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist, highlighted the Fourth Annual Career Perspectives and Networking Conference.

“Love what you do, and throw yourself into it whole-heartedly.”
Marcus Yam, UB aerospace engineering alum and Pulitzer Prize winning photographer

Over 120 graduate students, alumni, faculty and staff in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences participated in the event. It was organized by graduate students and conference co-chairs Andrew Kroetsch, PhD student in chemical engineering, and Henry Miller, MS student in biomedical engineering, and staff from the SEAS Offices Graduate Education and Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement. The event was held on October 5, 2016 in Davis Hall.

Distinguished Speakers Panel

The event began with a lively panel discussion on “Building a Fulfilling Career vs. Having a Job: An Introspective Look.”  Four distinguished alums of the school shared their experiences and collective wisdom with about 100 graduate students on topics ranging from why networking skills are important to how to turn impatience into positive work opportunities.

Panelists were Marcus Yam (BS ’06), a Los Angeles Times staff photographer, Dennis Elsenbeck (ME ’96), head of energy and sustainability, energy consulting services,  at Phillips Lytle, LLP, Allison O’Connor (ME ’91), business unit operations manager at Moog, and Ashish Shah (PhD ’93, MS ‘89), vice president of R&D for advanced surgical and orthopaedics at Integer.

“Love what you do, and throw yourself into it whole-heartedly,” Yam told graduate students.

Yam, an aerospace engineering alumnus, took a very different career path, becoming one of the top photographers in journalism today. He was part of a Los Angeles Times breaking news team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif. He won an additional Pulitzer Prize as part of the Seattle Times’ coverage of the deadly mudslide in Oso, Wash. Yam was originally scheduled to come to campus last spring for a communicators conference but had to postpone his visit when the newspaper sent him to Mosul, Iraq, on an extended assignment. He was able to return to UB and spent a few days meeting with students, faculty and alumni, and talking about his career as a visual storyteller.

Lightning Talks

Six students had the chance to put their public speaking skills to the test during the lightning talks by giving three-minute elevator pitches to an audience of fellow engineering students and judges. Pedram Johani presented “Smart Health Monitoring and Diagnosis System based on Wearable Nano-biosensing Networks,” Swetank Saha presented “Fast and Infuriating: Building Super-Fast Wifi,” Maria Cajiao presented “Finding a Space for Green Infrastructure,” Zahed Hossain presented “Terahertz Band for Ultra Broadband Communication,” and Weisong Lin presented “Did We Make a Wrong Choice about Being Engineers?”

Judges included UB alumni Jim Wehrfritz (BA 78’), Allison O’Connor (BS 89’), and Ryan Litt (BS 05’) as well as current electrical engineering PhD candidate and Three-Minute Thesis winner, Phil Schneider.

In between each pitch, professionals from Praxair, UB's Career Services office, 3AM Innovations, PMI Buffalo, Avox Systems, Inc., and Buffalo Manufacturing Works took the floor to share networking and career advice with students.

Lightning talk winners were Swetank Saha in first place, Pedram Johani in second place, and Weisong Lin in third place.

Career Conversations and Networking Reception

During the networking session, attendees met with industry professionals including Ryan Litt, product leader, 3AM Innovations, LLC; Jim Chou, chief technical officer, WorkMarket; Cynthia Hoover, executive director, Adsorption & HYCO R&D, Praxair; Joshua Kelley, senior consultant, Sierra-Cedar, Inc.; Jim Wehrfritz, oil and gas industry consultant, Erie-Niagara Consulting, LLC; Kim Helmer, innovation leader, Zodiac Aerospace, AVOX Systems, Inc.; Michael Ulbrich, president, Buffalo Manufacturing Works; Henry Miller, co-chair CPNC, UB Blackstone LaunchPad; James Partsch Jr., director of corporate outreach, PMI Buffalo; and Dan Muffoletto, development systems engineer, Moog Inc. Panelists Dennis Elsenbeck, Allison O’Connor and Ashish Shah also discussed their careers with students during the event.

The informal setting enabled students to learn about careers directly from professional engineers and technical representatives. Students also had a free professional LinkedIn photo taken to further help them make connections with future employers.

Keynote Address

Jim Chou, Chief Technical Officer of WorkMarket, delivered the keynote address. Chou provided a talk on the rapidly changing pace of technology and the critical importance that soft skills and adaptability play in today’s job market.

About the CPNC

The annual Career Perspectives Networking Conference (CPNC) provides SEAS graduate students with a unique opportunity to interact directly with industry leaders to learn and refine the skills that are necessary to be successful in today’s job market. The event was conceived in 2015 by UB doctoral candidate Matthias J. Schmid.