ARC hosts annual Engineering Expo
September 19, 2016
Nikhil Kamath, senior in electrical engineering, understands the stress of career fairs. As a freshman, what started as a curious stop at the Engineering Employment Expo turned into his personal focus for the next four years.
Kamath, along with Jack Grayeb, serve as co-directors of the Expo. Their work has boosted both their own and other engineering students’ professional connections.
“We’re basically running our own company because there’s so many moving parts, with the budget and everything,” Kamath said. “And we are a registered non-profit, all the funds go back to the students.”
The Expo will be held at the Activities and Recreation Center on September 19th and 20th, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Approximately 3,000 students will walk through the ARC doors to talk to a display of around 150 companies over the course of those several days.
In addition to its fall dates, the Expo will be held again during the spring semester.
Kamath started on the Expo committee as a sophomore and then worked his way to co-director the following year. All of the planning, budgeting and preparation for the event are constructed and strategized by the committee of over 20 students.
Both Kamath and Grayeb take pride in their student-run endeavor, which has become a personal project as well.
“It’s been a great experience for me, I’ve met a lot of my really good friends through Expo,” said Kamath.
University alumni Drew Johnson and Jim Stapleton founded the Expo during their time here in 1989. They aimed to better connect students to potential employers. The Expo hosted 30 different companies in its first year.
The Expo is one of the nation’s largest student-run engineering career fairs, according to their main website. All proceeds from both the fall and spring events support College of Engineering student activities.
Kamath said a fair amount of big and famous companies come to the Expo looking to recruit students, and the committee is working to attract companies that are open to a diverse array of majors. They’ve been working to include more startups and companies more open to the civil, mechanical and industrial side of engineering.
Kamath is also a TA for Engineering 100 and encourages all of his students to attend, even though most of them are freshmen. He said that some freshmen think they don’t have much of a chance landing an internship.
“The number one (piece of) advice I would give is to just go. You don’t have any chance if you don’t go,” said Kamath. “So I tell all my students, ‘Try your luck. See what opportunities might be there.’”
While Gina Pfister, sophomore in bioengineering, heard about the Expo in her freshman engineering classes, she didn’t go.
“I think this was a mistake on my part. Expo is a great opportunity to have a hundred employers recruiting specifically UIUC students,” said Pfister in an email. “Whether you go looking for a job, an internship or simply to practice your elevator pitch, I think it is a great way to gain exposure and professional experience with engineering companies.”
Kamath stressed the importance of not being discouraged by setbacks. He didn’t get any offers his sophomore year, but did so as a junior.
He believes in the importance of talking to companies that students are interested in working for. Kamath encourages students to apply school passions to their professional life.
“I think that will shine through a lot more than just like going for a more famous or more prestigious company,” Kamath said.
Besides the career fair, the Expo committee also offers students several other opportunities to potentially connect with recruiters. A corporate social allows recruiters and students to meet in a more informal and relaxed setting.
“In an Expo, you’re in business formal and you’re waiting in a long line and maybe everyone is a little more uptight because it’s a career fair, it’s very competitive,” said Kamath.
The corporate social takes place on the first day of the Expo in the Illini Union. It’s business casual and is for just students and recruiters. Résumés aren’t neccessary and food is provided to attendees.
Each company has the option to host information sessions during the evenings of the Expo. Kamath said this allows the company to more thoroughly present themselves to students they might not have had a chance to talk with much at the Expo.
The committee is also a part of the Engineering Council. Together they work to make themselves more accessible to get student feedback.
“We want to make it the best experience possible for them,” Kamath said.