Diversify your passions.
Begin your career exploration early.
Be prepared to hear your share of “nos” before you hear “yes.”
This was just some of the advice imparted to students during Clark Alumni in Tech Roles, a panel discussion held as part of the Career Connection Center’s recent Internet, Software, and Technology Career Exploration Weeks. The two-week virtual colloquium offered webinars, workshops, and panels to help students investigate career paths in software engineering, information technology, product management, data science, game design, and other related fields.
Samantha Hughson ’19, software engineer at Tripadvisor
Hughson recalled that attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference when she was a Clark junior gave her a prime opportunity to network — and helped motivate her to secure an internship at Amazon. “Getting that experience while I was still a student gave me more confidence before I moved into full-time work,” she said.
While learning to read and write code is essential as a software engineer, honing her communication skills helped her make inroads during the interview process, which can be particularly grueling at tech companies. Hughson, who as an undergrad co-founded Clark’s Women in STEM club, also advised the students not to despair if they struggle to land interviews. She estimates that she applied for 100 various internships and positions and only heard back from a handful. “Most will ghost you,” she said.
Hughson suggested students seek out Clark alumni on LinkedIn or ClarkCONNECT for informational conversations about career paths.
Abdur Rahman ’20, private equity analyst at Tower Three Partners
While studying computer science at Clark, Rahman felt certain he would go into software engineering, but an internship at Deloitte exposed him to the world of finance. Intrigued, he engaged in conversations with alumni and others in the financial industry, which gave him a clear sense of what the market had to offer. That kind of networking “puts a face to the résumé,” he said, and makes you visible in a hypercompetitive environment.
Asked about his most important job skills, Rahman said multitasking and paying attention to detail are essential. He said he deals with 10 different companies at a time, which tests “how many balls you can juggle and still perform at an efficient level.” Precision in all things is key, he said, especially when communicating a concept where “every word means something.”
Deotima Mukherjee ’09, product manager at Instagram
When you begin a new job, it’s important to establish your credibility quickly, Mukherjee advised. Position yourself as a problem-solver, negotiate effectively, and speak with confidence in meetings. Be thoughtful in your communications, she added, and learn how to take a complicated project and make it into easier to digest for a wider audience.
Mukherjee said it’s also critical to spend time understanding both what you’re good at and how those skills will create a map to a satisfying and productive career. She knows software engineers who are flourishing in careers beyond their academic training and noted that career exploration extends well after college.
“Stay humble and understand that your first choice may not work out,” she said. “Know that the job you have now will not be the job you have for the rest of your career.”
Teodor Nicola ’19, assistant vice president and product owner on the electronic trading strategy team at State Street Corporation
Competing as a member of the Clark University tennis team helped Nicola build the strong sense of ethics, hard work, and discipline that he’s carried with him into his professional life. The “soft skills” that you refine outside the classroom and lab, he said, can be just as important for career success. “Diversify your passions,” he urged.
Nicola encouraged the students to be strategic about lining up internships and other opportunities. His own internship at a Silicon Valley company during his undergrad years “allowed me to present ideas, lead projects, and show outcomes,” he recalled. His technical skills gave him an avenue into the financial services industry, beginning as a quantitative developer on the trading desk and evolving into a position where he “builds electronic strategies to optimize revenue and cut costs.”
Internet, Software, and Technology Career Exploration Weeks was organized and hosted by the Career Connections Center in collaboration with the Department of Computer Science and the Clark Center for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.