Recruiter explains packed VU engineering career day: ‘We go where the talent is’

Students navigated bustling aisles at Thursday's Engineering & IT Industry Career Day. (John Russell/Vanderbilt)

It was no mistake that undergraduates striding through Thursday’s Engineering & IT Industry Career Day looked purposeful and professional, cradling stacks of resumes and glancing at smartphones to find their destinations.

The event drew a record-breaking crowd of 683 young engineers, who were offered coaching by Vanderbilt University’s Center for Student Professional Development on how to optimize their job-finding strategies. The center also unveiled the new Careers by Symplicity smartphone app before the event, which allowed students to research the 62 companies represented and filter through full- and part-time job and internship opportunities.

Cathy Weisbrodt, the center’s assistant director, said there was a waiting list of employers hoping to get slots at the career day. University organizers consider companies’ history in hiring Vanderbilt graduates and students’ interest in the companies when deciding who to invite.

The result was a room packed with recruiters from employers as global as Microsoft and as local as Nashville Electric Service.

Click through a photo gallery of career day here.

Allison Williams, BME’16, said she stopped into the professional development center well before the event so coaches could review her resume, which she decided to revise. She asked her friends to critique her attire before heading off to the Student Life Center and got a thumbs-up for her skirt and jacket. Her strategy was to target healthcare-aligned companies, including HCA, Brainlab Inc. and UnitedHealth Group.

The career day offered an opportunity for person-to-person connections with potential employers. (John Russell/Vanderbilt)

Nick Blair, CompE’16, said he used the app to find seven companies with job postings he thought were a good fit.

“I’m also considering grad school,” he said. “But this is a good opportunity to get a lot of employers together for an overview of what’s available out there.”

Chances are, if Blair decides to get into the workforce, he’ll have his pick of companies. Eighty percent of Vanderbilt University School of Engineering graduates are employed before commencement.

Companies that hire Vanderbilt graduates want to come back and recruit more, said Hamilton Turner, director of research for OptioLabs Inc. He received his undergraduate degree here and earned a PhD in computer engineering from Virginia Tech. Jules White, assistant professor of computer science at Vanderbilt, is OptioLabs’ co-founder and CTO.

“We go where the talent is,” Turner said, taking a quick break from the long line of students in front of his booth. “Everyone we’ve hired from Vanderbilt is doing great work for us.”

Computer science majors were in particularly high demand at the career day, said Associate Dean Cynthia Paschal, who coordinates with the professional development center on the event. The median salary for Vanderbilt graduates with a computer science degree jumped 25 percent in one year to $101,000, she said.

“The demand is just so much greater than the supply,” she said.

Students still have work to do now that career day is over, Weisbrodt said. She suggested they follow up with a career coach to determine next steps and a strategy for keeping the search going. Information about her center’s services is available at

Companies at Engineering & IT Industry Career Day 2015

Accenture, ARCO Construction, AT&T, Belvedere Trading, BNY Mellon, Brainlab Inc., Brasfield & Gorrie, Bury, Camgian Microsystems, CapGemini, Capital One, Chevron, Cigna, Clark Construction, Covance, Crowe Horwath, CTS Inc., DCS Corporation, Deloitte Consulting Federal Practice, DENSO Manufacturing, Digital Reasoning, DISH Network, Drake Software, Epic, eviCore healthcare, ExxonMobil, Fast Enterprises, Five Stones Research Corp., Goodwyn Mills Cawood, Halma, HCA, Humana, InfoWorks, Institute for Software Integrated Systems, Intentional Software, Manhattan Associates, Mercury Intermedia, Messer Construction, Metova, Microsoft, Nashville Electric Service, National Instruments, Nissan, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Optio Labs Inc., OSISoft, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, PowerPlan Consultants, Procter & Gamble, Qgenda, Quality Manufacturing Systems, Skanska USA, Smith Seckman Reid, Strand Associates, System Simulation Development Directorate, Tennessee Department of Transportation, The Whiting-Turner Construction Company, Triumph Aerostructures, Turner Construction, Twin City Fan Companies LTD, UnitedHealth Group, U.S. Navy



Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering