By: Tommey Liang
It all started with an idea, a good deal of initiative and a group proactive students from the Embry-Riddle – Daytona Beach chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Thomas van Veldhuisen, former chairman of the organization, said “Inspired by our feedback and what we’ve experienced at conferences, we envision Meet the Geeks re-made into an event close to the career fair where company recruiters … and members of all the professional engineering organizations … can socialize and network with each other.” From that correspondence in September 2019, a collaboration was ignited for a casual mix-and-mingle program designed for students and employers.
On February 24, 2020 taking place in the Henderson Welcome Center in Daytona Beach, FL, more than 130 students attended and had the opportunity to chat and build rapport with various companies. About 22 representatives from nine employers participated in the networking and mingling event – Embraer, Garmin, GE Aviation, FedEx Express, JACOBS, Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney and NAVAIR.
“It was incredible to be able to give the engineering students a chance to network with employers,” said Brandon Wirkus, 2020 chairman for AIAA. “I am so grateful for all the handwork put in to make this event a success, and I cannot wait to see how this event grows in the future.”
Students asked employers questions about anything from the projects done at said company to the day-to-day operations to what kinds of qualifications and skills are successful for positions. There was free food and beverages to keep both employers and students engaged and energized.
It certainly was a relaxed, yet professional atmosphere. Students from organizations such as National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and Experimental Rocket Propulsion Lab were present and represented their clubs well. What originally started as an invitation to only the student engineering organizations expanded to the entire College of Engineering. Students and employers seemed to enjoy the setting and purpose of the event. “It was definitely a much better way to learn more about a company than the info sessions,” exclaimed Soham Bahulekar, a May 2020 graduating senior in aerospace engineering.
Career Services and AIAA hopes to continue this partnership on bringing employers and students for many more semesters to come. It is a unique event where students and employers can come together over shared interests – company representatives desire to talk to students and share information about positions, and students yearn to start those conversations and build relationships with a potential dream company’s representatives. In lieu of information sessions prior to the Industry/Career Expo every fall and spring semester, maybe this could be the new standard for companies on interacting with students prior to the career fair.
A graduate of the University of Florida and master’s graduate of University of Central Florida, Tommey Liang is a program manager for aerospace engineering, computational mathematics and airworthiness engineering (master’s only) students at Career Services – Daytona Beach. Prior to Embry-Riddle, he served as a City Year AmeriCorps Member in Jacksonville, an ESL teacher in China, and a graduate teaching assistant at UCF Experiential Learning. He enjoys watching sports, movies, anime, playing videos games and spending time with his partner. Feel free to connect with him on social media: Twitter | Instagram