Industry professionals share career advice with SEAS graduate students

Fifth Career Perspectives and Networking Conference.

Susan Nowicki of Northrop Grumman shares insights into careers at her company during the Career Preparation Reception, which was part of the Fifth Career Perspectives and Networking Conference.

By Nicole Capozziello

Published November 27, 2018

Nearly 300 graduate students gathered for this year’s Career Perspectives and Networking Conference, held October 5, 2018 at UB’s Davis Hall and sponsored by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“The most rewarding part for me is how much the students appreciate the Career Perspectives and Networking Conference. They always say how much they value an event like this, which is focused on careers and building networks.”
Andrew Kroetsch, CPNC graduate student chair and PhD candidate
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

This annual event aims to prepare SEAS graduate students for their careers. Attendees have the opportunity to network with company representatives and industry professionals while being provided training on the development of soft skills and to explore potential career paths.

The Career Perspectives and Networking (CPNC) was part of a week-long series of events, which also included the UB STEM UP fair and an alumni awards dinner.

The CPNC was started five years ago by PhD candidate Matthias Schmid to promote the excellence of UB’s engineering and applied sciences graduate students, as well as provide companies and individuals with access to some of its brightest graduate students. Each year, students from all SEAS departments participate in organizing the conference.

This year’s CPNC event was chaired by graduate student Andrew Kroetsch, a PhD candidate in chemical engineering, and coordinated by Katie Lengel, who manages the SEAS 360 Professional Development program which provides cost-free career readiness training to assisting students in the development of “soft” or “power” skills.

“A record number of industry professionals and students participated in this year’s CPNC,” said Christopher Connor, assistant dean for graduate education in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “They were able to enhance their networks and engage in mutually beneficial conversations related to careers.”

The CPNC kicked off with a keynote address by Sean Cunningham, BS ’89, industrial engineering, a senior supply chain professional at Intel Corporation in Santa Clara, Calif. Cunningham shared insights gained over his 23 years at Intel, where he has held multiple managerial roles in in engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain management.

The morning continued with a 3-minute elevator pitch Lightning Talk competition, which was a great way for students to learn from industry leaders and hone their own communications skills. Industry professionals who spoke included Judy Feldman, CIO/EVP of ValueCentric; David Cadigan, STG Main Storage Development Engineer at IBM; Melissa Lauricella of Astronics; Kristi Fields of the UB Office of Alumni Engagement; and Holly Justice of UB Career Services.

Six students presented lightning talks, with the top three students taking home $300, $200, and $100 prizes, respectively. The winner was Ballari Sen, an MS student in biomedical engineering, who spoke about her research on bio-materials and regenerative medicine. The research has the potential to impact diagnostic systems, medical devices, and other areas. Srinivas Ravi, a graduate student in computer science, took second place and Arpit Rana, a graduate student in industrial and systems engineering, took third.

The Distinguished Speakers panel explored the theme of “Building a Fulfilling Career vs. Having a Career: An Introspective Look.” Larry Megan, director of Praxair Digital; Dan Magnuszewski, co-founder and CEO of ACV Auctions; Joe Kessler, executive vice president and COO of Utility Operations at the New York Power Authority; Anil Kshirsagar, co-founder, founding CEO and chairman of CAPIOT Software, Inc; and Bob Harrison, vice president of engineering and construction at Transmission Developers Inc.; served on the panel, which was moderated by Kroetsch.

The event culminated with a career preparation reception, where over 25 companies were represented, including engineering partners Astronics, Moog, Northrop Grumman Corp., Praxair, ValueCentric and Zodiac Aerospace.

“The most rewarding part for me is how much the students appreciate the Career Perspectives and Networking Conference,” said Kroetsch. “They always say how much they value an event like this, which is focused on careers and building networks.”

In addition to being able to connect with industry professionals, attendees also had the opportunity to take part in one-on-one resume critique sessions and get a professional portrait photo.

The resume review was a particular success; beyond drop-in critiques, this year’s organizers collected and reviewed over 200 student resumes prior to the event, and then scheduled students for individual consultation sessions in which they received live feedback from alumni, industry professionals and UB career services professionals.

Students participating in the SEAS 360 Certificate of Professional Development program earned training hours by attending the events.

Also new for this year was a networking reception the afternoon prior to conference, giving students another chance to network with industry professionals. The addition of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean’s Wine and Cheese reception brought companies and faculty together in Davis Hall on October 3, the evening before the STEM UP fair.

The SEAS Offices of Graduate Education and Research, and Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement, organized these events, with support from the Engineering Partners Program, members of the Dean’s Advisory Council, Young Alumni Board and the Engineering Alumni Association.

Photo credit: The Onion Studio.