One of the most effective ways for students to shape their career paths is to talk to people who are already working in their fields of interest.
“We wanted to provide a platform for students to communicate with alumni in their fields on a one-on-one basis,” says civil engineering major Abseen Anya ’11, president of Minority Scientists and Engineers (MSE). The group partnered with the Office of Career Services to sponsor an Engineering and Sciences Alumni Dinner and Panel.
“The event was very successful,” says Anya. “More than 50 students from different class years attended. And they were not just students from minority backgrounds.” At the dinner held after the panel discussion, students had the chance to talk with individual alumni. “The panelists were as enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge as were the students who interacted with them.”
Engineering studies majors Kareem Clarke ’11, vice president of MSE, and Joelle Neilson ’12, an MSE board member, served as moderators.
- Uday Jain ’93, electrical engineering graduate, senior research engineer, Li Creative Technologies, Florham Park, N.J., master’s in engineering, Carnegie Mellon;
- Megan Livak ’09, psychology graduate, new business development assistant, Van Cleef Engineering Associates, Hillsborough, N.J.;
- Stephen McFarlane ’06, mechanical engineering graduate, project engineer-small caliber munitions division, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., U.S. Army, master’s in mechanical engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology;
- Matthew Perez ’94, biology graduate, ophthalmologist with Horizon Eye Care, Margate City, N.J., Ph.D. in pharmacology, University of Pennsylvania, M.D., Thomas Jefferson University;
- Magee Perini ’05, mathematics and economics & business graduate, IT business relationship manager, Johnson & Johnson, MBA, Villanova;
- Romeo Urias ’10, chemical engineering graduate, an Olympus Fellow, Olympus America Inc., Center Valley, Pa.
The panelists addressed such topics as challenges in their first job, how to decide whether to pursue an advanced degree, tips on internships, and more. They shared their experiences and gave advice.
“At Lafayette you learn how to learn, and that is what is important,” says Urias. “I use my communication skills and the ability to approach a problem from different angles to find the solution.”
“I started out with a goal to do research,” says Perez. “Having had the opportunity to work closely with faculty as an undergraduate was very important….Your knowledge is important but you need to have a wider view. You need to understand more than your technical skill or training.”
“When I started my job there was a lot of effort going into ramping up for Iraq and Afghanistan,” says McFarlane. “There were few people to do the work, so I got to do very important projects right away. I was surprised. Although I did not use much of the detailed knowledge I had gained at Lafayette, the process of learning it enabled me to learn new material quickly.”
“What shaped my career path was doing internships and externships,” says Livak. “I found out what I really liked was marketing. I realized I didn’t have to limit myself to big marketing companies; all companies need marketing people.”
“I am in a company where I am not just solving engineering problems,” says Jain. “I have to get a complete view of what the whole company does — who is the customer, what do they want, where are the resources going to come from. You don’t just do what you are trained to do, you do more.”
“We are trying to increase the percentage of interns who are moved into full-time positions,” says Perini. “We did our recruiting on campus in October. All of our summer 2011 internships have been decided. So pursue them early; start looking in the summer or fall for an internship that you hope to have the following summer.”
“If you decide to go for an MBA or a law degree, you can wait a few years,” says Jain, “but if you want an advanced degree in engineering or science, do it while the academic material is fresh in your mind. A lot of people with master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s are looking for jobs. It is hard to get a job with only a B.S.”
Others who helped organize the event include career services staff members Maureen Walz Boehmer, associate director of special programs, Melissa Schultz, assistant director, and Molly Sunderlin, part-time career counselor, as well as Kate Vu ’12 and Taimoor Sohail ’14, MSE board members.