In 2019, UC Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) hosted its inaugural Industry Showcase. Five years later, interest in the event is higher than ever. The 5th Annual ICS Industry Showcase, held Oct. 10 and 11, 2023, was the largest one yet, with more than 2,500 students and 35-plus companies participating.
“We’re large enough to have our own tailored event, and companies really appreciate that model,” says Jason King, director of corporate relations. He stresses that the event is more than just a recruitment fair. “ICS is a ‘one-stop shop’ for tech industry needs, so the Showcase acts as a springboard for companies — from startups to those more established,” he explains. “They get a taste of all that ICS has to offer in terms of talent for internships, expertise for research collaborations, and opportunities for further engagement.”
As one of the few stand-alone computer science schools in the nation, ICS offers access to up-and-coming tech talent. It is home to 3,600 undergraduates and 1,000 graduate students, spread across the Departments of Informatics, Computer Science, and Statistics. Students have skills in areas ranging from software development and game design, to AI and machine learning, to data science and analytics. So unlike a more general recruitment or STEM fair, the Industry Showcase caters to a targeted audience.
“This was by far the most successful recruitment fair we’ve ever attended,” says Elaine Pantleo, a technical recruiter for Codazen. “We are a software engineering company in Irvine, so we’re looking for computer science students. We met so many qualified potential hires — I was floored.”
Alongside Pantleo, Codazen was represented at the Showcase by UCI alumnus Zejin (Jimmy) Xu, a recent graduate of the ICS Master of Software Engineering professional program. “We just hired Jimmy in July but he has ramped up so quickly and was able to connect with the students, talking about both his transition from student to engineer as well as about the technical details of exciting projects at Codazen,” says Pantleo, noting that they were both impressed by the turnout. “There was a steady flow of high-caliber students all day long, and so many are already using half of our tech stack!”
While Codazen is specifically looking to hire recent graduates in January and July, the fair also offered internship possibilities as well as general professional advice. “Even as a freshman, there were plenty of opportunities for me,” says David Culciar, a first-year computer science and engineering major. “The companies that weren’t looking for freshmen gave me guidance on what they’re looking for and how to perfect my elevator pitch, and one even helped me further refine my resume,” he says. “I was able to use what I learned the first day and apply it the second day.”
Culciar also appreciated the corporate information sessions offered each day before the recruitment fair. On the first day, CoreLogic and Northrop Grumman presented; on the second day, Google and SAP. Culciar was one of hundreds of students attending each session.
“The information sessions were great introductions to companies that I knew little about,” says Culciar. “SAP and CoreLogic focused on what they do as a business, what it is like to work for them, and what they are looking for in applicants, whereas Google, a company I knew more about, talked about their progression track and how students — even first years — would be able to capitalize on what Google offers in order to boost their resume and garner experience.”
On the other end of the student experience spectrum is Farrin Marouf Sofian, who is earning her master’s degree in computer science. “Diving into the information sessions with CoreLogic and Northrop Grumman was quite insightful,” she says. “They were well-prepared, giving us a clear picture of what they expect from interns, detailing the necessary qualifications and showcasing various projects.”
Sofian had an even greater appreciation for the networking receptions for graduate students — one for master’s students on Oct. 10, and another for Ph.D. students on Oct. 11. Held on the 6th floor patio and conference room of Donald Bren Hall, these receptions offered a more intimate environment for conversations between students, recruiters, faculty and alumni.
“At the master’s networking reception, I had rewarding interactions, gaining valuable feedback on my resume and insights into the U.S. recruitment process — super helpful since I’m quite new to the system,” says Sofian, who recently graduated with a B.S. in computer engineering from Koç University in Istanbul.
Computer science Ph.D. and M.D. student Pooya Khosravi similarly enjoyed the Ph.D. networking reception. “I appreciated the opportunity to talk to industry representatives about software engineering and research positions at the companies, what their day-to-day work is like, and what made them decide to go into industry instead of academics,” he says. “I also enjoyed networking with ICS alumni and talking to multiple ICS faculty about research.”
According to Mauro Blardony, a senior technical talent scout at Adobe who attended the Ph.D. event, the atmosphere was just right. “It wasn’t too crowded or hectic. There was just the right amount of students to learn about us as well as for us to learn about them professionally and their desired career growth,” he says. “It was amazing. The student conversations were very fruitful.”
ICS values partnering with companies and is always looking for new forms of engagement. For example, this year’s Showcase introduced a Game Industry Meet & Greet event.
“Hundreds of students got to meet leaders from the local gaming industry to discuss studio cultures, get insight into how to break into the industry, and learn about job opportunities,” says Tyler Cushing, a lecturer in ICS who teaches courses for the game design and interactive media major. “Orange County is one of the largest gaming industry hubs in the nation, and seeing that reflected at the Industry Showcase was awesome. We hope to strengthen these local bonds in the years to come.”
Opportunities abound for further engagement between ICS and industry, such as through student capstone projects, cutting-edge research collaborations, and targeted recruitment and networking events. “The Showcase isn’t just a one-off,” says King. “It offers a roadmap for continuing the conversation and building long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships between academia and industry.”
Photos and video courtesy of Evan Sevits, ES Creative Solutions.
— Shani Murray