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UCLA students share their experience attending STEM-focused career fair

Students mingle in front of booths at a STEM-focused career fair. The fair, hosted Thursday by the UCLA Career Center, featured nearly 30 employers. (Renee Rubanowitz/Daily Bruin)

By Alexandra Crosnoe

Jan. 23, 2024 10:00 p.m.

The UCLA Career Center hosted a STEM-focused job fair Thursday afternoon to connect students with nearly 30 potential employers.

Hundreds of students attended the fair, which was hosted from 3 to 7 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion. Students lined up in front of booths to talk to representatives from public and private sector organizations, including Honda, IXL Learning and the Naval Air Systems Command.

Connie Gao, a first-year chemistry student, said she attended the event to get to know the job landscape and look into internships. She added that this was one of her first experiences interacting with professionals in the field.

“Obviously, as a first-year, I’m not trying to join the career workforce immediately,” Gao said. “But I think it’d be good to get that experience and see what different companies are looking for, and see if there’s any internship opportunities opening up.”

One private sector company looking to hire students was Silvus Technologies. Victor Ruiz, its recruiting coordinator, said the company – which was founded by UCLA professor Babak Daneshrad and his graduate students – creates networking systems such as walkie-talkies for military officers to use.

Ruiz added that Silvus Technologies is particularly interested in hiring college students because of their fresh perspectives.

“They’re learning things that we might have not learned when we were in school,” Ruiz said. “Since we are growing, we’re constantly needing folks on the entry-level side.”

Companies at the intersection of STEM and other fields were also present. Miguel Cabrales, external recruitment manager for Teach for America, said his organization focuses on finding leaders who will work to address educational inequity.

Cabrales said he participated in virtual UCLA job fairs last year, adding that he enjoyed interacting with students in person this year. He added that he was particularly excited to participate in the STEM job fair because of the shortage of science teachers in both Los Angeles and the United States.

“With UCLA students being so bright, so optimistic (and) so well-rounded, we want those students to go be our science teachers of next year and the years that follow,” Cabrales said.

Students at the event said they appreciated the opportunities the career fair provided. Isabelle Fischer, a chemical engineering master’s student, said she liked how the event catered to STEM majors specifically, as it offered more opportunities for her than general career fairs had in the past.

She added that the most exciting organization she talked to was the LA Department of Water and Power because it is currently offering job opportunities. Fischer also said she was interested in working for the company because of the benefits it advertised.

Elias Berner, a fourth-year computer science student, said he attended the fair because he did not yet have a job lined up after graduation, adding that he thought the event would be a good opportunity to connect with potential full-time employers.

Berner said he felt that the employers were approachable and easy to talk with. He added that he especially enjoyed talking to IXL’s backend engineer, whose work largely mirrors what Berner hopes to do in the future.

Ruiz said career fairs can be important for helping students gain experience in interacting with employers before finding a job. He added that job fairs can also be a chance for students to receive feedback on their resumes from recruiters.

Gao said talking to the companies was a positive experience, even if she did not receive an internship or job offer. She added that she would recommend the experience to students, even if they are not immediately looking for a position.

Though Berner said he thought the event’s turnout was a success, he added that he was disappointed in the lack of opportunities for international students like him, who need employers to sponsor visas for them.

Ultimately, Berner said his main takeaway from the event was the importance of showing up and making an effort with employers.

“You really have to put yourself out there,” he said. “You can theorize all you want, but you just got to put in the work.”

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Alexandra Crosnoe
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