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The second annual ICS Industry Showcase opened with images of the large crowds of students attending last year’s inaugural event, highlighting the stark contrast between 2019’s gathering at the University Club and the virtual version taking place Oct. 13 and 14, 2020. But don’t let the stillness of UCI’s campus fool you; there is plenty of activity going on in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). As evidenced by the ability to move this event online, technology is playing a crucial role in keeping society connected and productive, and the Industry Showcase once again succeeded in bringing together the ICS community and local industry leaders to strengthen research and recruitment partnerships.

Connecting Supply and Demand
“Why are we here today?” asked ICS Dean Marios Papaefthymiou, welcoming the online attendees. “To make sure we do our part in connecting supply and demand.” His presentation outlined how 8.8 million jobs have been attributed to the digital economy, which accounted for almost 10% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018. Between 2019 and 2029, employment in computer and information occupations is expected to grow by 11%, adding approximately 531,200 new jobs. When retirements are added in, the total demand is expected to exceed 1.5 million jobs — the equivalent of 150,000 jobs per year. Yet with approximately 55,000 graduates per year, demand is far outstripping supply.

Papaefthymiou explained how ICS, as one of the largest programs in the nation, is working to address industry needs. While 1,200 students graduated from ICS in 2020, he stressed that “it’s not only about quantity; it’s also about quality.” He went on to discuss the school’s selectivity, its growing faculty, as well as its research strengths, including artificial intelligence — the focus of the following panel discussion. Before turning the event over to the AI panel, Papaefthymiou thanked the corporate partners. “We’re deeply appreciative of your engagement with the school,” he said. “I cannot describe how happy and pleased we are to see you come and recruit our students. We’re very confident that we have some of the best students on the planet.”

Bridging the Gap
Although a main focus of the event is connecting local companies with students, another goal is building research collaborations. To help bridge the gap between industry and academia, a panel of computer science professors discussed cutting-edge projects in AI.

A slide from Professor Erik Sudderth’s presentation on AI and ML Solutions: From Research to Practice.

Erik Sudderth presented work associated with UCI’s Center for Machine Learning and Intelligent Systems in the areas of health, finance, law, the environment and national security, while Sameer Singh talked specifically about UCI’s collaboration with the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and efforts to address vulnerabilities in natural language processing. Xiaohui Xie discussed deep learning in medical research — in particular, projects aimed at the early detect of lung cancer and at enhancing our understanding of the human genome. Charless Fowlkes, who leads the ICS Computational Vision Lab, closed out the discussion by talking about ways to engineer visual intelligence, achieving better computer efficiency without reducing performance.

video of the introduction by Dean Marios and the AI panel discussion is available online.

Networking at Recruitment Information Sessions
After the AI panel and during the second day of the event, students got the opportunity to hear from a dozen participating companies and from the ICS Professional Master programs during the recruitment information sessions.

“We had the opportunity to speak to 50+ students about our company’s corporate overview, the technologies we are currently utilizing, and publicize our campus programs,” says Albert Tran, a talent acquisition specialist at BlackBerry. “It was a pleasure presenting to ICS students; they were highly engaged and asked very technical questions about our software.”

Ingram Micro also had great success with their information session. “The event was well organized, and all students were extremely engaged —attendance was high,” says Angela Bertolini, senior manager of talent acquisition and early career programs at Ingram Micro. “Such success results from UCI and Ingram Micro’s commitment to excellence, systematic planning and intentional effort to continuously offer opportunities to talented students. We are delighted with our partnership!”

Yet another company pleased with the event was Jam City. “ICS continues to be a top choice for Jam City to engage with talented and motivated students,” says Andrew Gonzalez, who leads recruiting partnerships and operations at the mobile entertainment company. “The 2020 Fall ICS Industry Showcase allowed us to present what makes Jam City the place to be, and clearly deliver information on our internship program and early career opportunities directly to students.”

ICS senior Garrison Finley, an informatics major specializing in human-computer interaction, was one such student in attendance. “It was nice to see the wide variety of companies represented at the event, and I was glad and slightly surprised to see many of them discussing opportunities in my field,” he says. “Going into the event, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to foster that personal connection with recruiters; however, through the smaller panels offered by many of the companies, I felt more comfortable reaching out and asking questions.” In addition to Jam City, Finley attended panels by Ingram Micro and Google. “Each one was informative and, despite the limitations of the platform, I could really get a sense of the passion and motivation their employees had for their work.”

Another senior, Chan Woo Park, an international student searching for a position in software engineering, is grateful for career events such as the ICS Industry Showcase. “These events have exposed me to many industry leaders and opportunities that I couldn’t imagine,” he says, noting that at the information sessions, he learned which companies sponsor work visas, what they’re looking for in applicants, and what internships and new graduate roles are available.

A group of students chat with Taco Bell technology professionals during the Taco Bell Summer Internship Information session.

“Our partnership with UCI has given us such great insight into upcoming talent in the technology space,” says Lydia Fujimura, an associate HR business partner for Taco Bell. “The event we hosted shed light on how insightful and intentional the students are.”

TJ Tarazevits, a full stack engineer at Cameo, shared similar sentiments: “We loved getting to connect directly with the talented students at UCI. At Cameo, we’re looking for the best and brightest young engineering talent, and we’re excited to find it here.” He adds they were able to invite several UCI students from the ICS program to begin internship interviews for the 2021 academic year.

Jason King, associate director of corporate relations in ICS, notes that the timing of the event is specifically geared toward summer internship opportunities. “Companies want to connect with students early to fill those summer spots, and student like having the ability to attend dedicated sessions based on their interests to learn about positions being offered,” he says.

Recent computer science transfer student Spencer Churchill, who is interested in quantum computation, felt he gained a lot of valuable connections. “Coming from a community college, opportunities to network with engineers at top tech companies were difficult to find. I was blown away when I saw the companies attending UCI’s ICS Industry Showcase and immediately registered,” he says. “My favorite part of the showcase was meeting engineers who made products I’ve used. I found that, having used their software for my own learning, we could have more involved conversations, which I greatly value.”

Building these connections is what the showcase is all about. “We want visibility and exposure for our school and students,” says King, “and we want to highlight the many opportunities within industry.”

— Shani Murray