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Inaugural ICS Industry Showcase Delivers
The chatter of networking filled the University Club at the inaugural Industry Showcase hosted by the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS), as industry leaders mingled with faculty and students during the kick-off luncheon. ICS Dean Marios Papaefthymiou welcomed the crowd to the full-day showcase, which was designed to strengthen research and recruitment partnerships between industry and the ICS community. In addition to lunch, the free event featured a Student Career and Resources Fair, a faculty presentation on “AI and ML Solutions: From Research to Practice,” four Corporate Partner Info Sessions, and a networking reception hosted by the UCI Cybersecurity Policy & Research institute (CPRI).
Students and Faculty Dine with CEOs
As Papaefthymiou highlighted during his welcome, the School of ICS has more than 1,000 students graduating each year and a growing number of faculty with expertise in areas such as AI and machine learning, cybersecurity, human computer interaction and software engineering. With seating arrangements that intentionally filled tables with a mix of corporate and academic attendees, the 230 participants had plenty to talk about.
“The luncheon was such an amazing chance to speak to companies and recruiters directly,” says computer science and engineering major Amy Elsayed. “I literally sat next to a CEO!” Joshua Gatmaitan agrees. “It was so cool chatting, eating and networking with people with so much industry experience,” says the computer science major, who sat with representatives from Taco Bell. “I learned a lot from the team at Taco Bell, and the recruiter who I sat next to even learned some things about UCI’s ICS program!”
Jason King, associate director of corporate relations in ICS, notes that the luncheon was a unique component of the larger event. “It let companies directly connect with motivated, highly sought-after students from diverse backgrounds,” he explains, “and also connect with senior faculty and department chairs conducting research in growth areas like AI, machine learning, cybersecurity and data science.” In planning the event, the emphasis was on inclusivity. “We invited everyone in ICS to have a seat at the table, from student clubs and internal programs to research institutes and all three departments — computer science, informatics and statistics,” he says. “We wanted to showcase all of our school offerings.”
In fact, each element of the day was a part of concerted effort to address the needs of a variety of stakeholders. “This event was a coordinated response to feedback gathered over several months,” says Ashley Teran, senior director of development in ICS. It addressed student requests for greater access to companies, company requests for graduates with certain soft skills and for partnerships in machine learning, and faculty and staff requests for greater visibility around internal resources.
Career Fair Caters to ICS
Immediately following the luncheon, guests moved to the courtyard, where roughly 2,000 participants attended the Student Career and Resources Fair. As president of the Artificial Intelligence (AI@UCI) club, Elsayed joined other ICS clubs in hosting a booth. “We had recruiters come up and speak to us and a handful of students,” she says. “It was a wonderful event!”
While some attendees learned about ICS resources, such as the Office of Access and Inclusion (OAI), or the Women in Information and Computer Sciences (WICS) and UCI Association for Computing Machinery (ACM@UCI) student clubs, most of the traffic was around the 20 industry booths. Swarms of students gathered to talk with representatives from companies in a wide variety of fields, from entertainment (including Blizzard, Hulu and Paciolan) to tech (such as Aerospace Corp., Blackberry/Cylance, Hexagon and ID Tech), and from finance (including Experian and Acorns) to those offering products and services (such as Bio-Rad, Garmin, Glidewell, HireRight and Pacific Dental).
One company representative was recent ICS graduate Jose Vargas, now an IT associate at Ingram Micro, which hosted a booth. “My colleagues and I had so much fun talking to students and building connections,” says Vargas. “As a UCI alumnus, being on the other side of the table brought me a huge sense of pride. It was extremely rewarding to have students come up to me and engage professionally.”
The event was a bit of a preview of the university STEM Career Fair, which took place the following day and included the first ICS soft skills seminar featuring industry representation. ICS worked with the Division of Career Pathways to promote both events and offer the new seminar. “The ICS Industry Showcase was a complement to the longstanding university STEM Career Fair, with a focus on connecting company supporters to the school’s computing resources, including topical research presentations and company tech talks,” says Teran. It ended up being the largest ICS event ever held on campus.
“The showcase fair was packed, but it was so nice having such a close concentration of computer science-related companies all in one place,” says Gatmaitan.
Student Engagement at Info Sessions
In addition to talking with representatives at the Student Career and Resources Fair, students could attend Corporate Partner Info Sessions, presented by SAP, Twilio, CoreLogic and Google (all of which also had booths set up at the fair). These 45-minutes talks were tailored to ICS students, giving them a chance to learn more about the companies through demos and ask follow-up questions.
SAP presented the first session of the day, and senior software engineer MB Aouad says he was thankful for the opportunity share SAP’s vision of the industry. “I really enjoyed the session and sharpness the students’ questions.”
Ally Lee, program manager at Twilio, was similarly impressed by the students and their questions. “We were able to get an idea of the depth and caliber of ICS students from this one-hour engagement.” Bethany Cooper, principal of talent acquisition at CoreLogic, also had nothing but positive feedback. “We were blown away by the quality and quantity of [ICS] tech students.”
Gatmaitan attended the last info session of the day, presented by Google. “It was really refreshing having Anthony talk with us in such a real way,” he says, referring to Google engineer and ICS alumnus Anthony Mays. “He didn’t hold back and gave incredible resume, interview and general life advice.”
Showcasing ICS Talent and Research
Industry executives were also given the chance to attend presentations, with ICS Professors Erik Sudderth and Sameer Singh hosting a talk on “AI and ML Solutions: From Research to Practice.” Sudderth talked about applications of AI in law, finance, healthcare, national security and the environment, highlighting support from companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Qualcomm and SAP, and presenting AI partnership opportunities. Singh discussed one such partnership between ICS and the Allen Institute for AI, focused on teaching machines to read.
The day concluded with a networking reception hosted by CPRI. Executive Director Bryan Cunningham and Computer Science Professor Ian Harris talked about the institute’s strategies to address cybersecurity’s technical, legal, policy and human challenges.
“Our school has grown so much in the last five years, we needed to provide more visibility about the talent of our students and the research of our great faculty,” explains King. “So the nice thing about this showcase is that it wasn’t just a career fair,” he says. “It was a unique event tailored for ICS students and our corporate partners.”
As the only stand-alone computer science school in the UC system, and part of the 10% of such schools in the nation, ICS is well-situated to deliver on all fronts, meeting the distinct needs of its students and demands of this growing industry. “It was awesome to have one event,” says King, “that could highlight many different areas of interest but benefit all.”
Gatmaitan couldn’t agree more. “It was an incredible event full of opportunity and great connections,” he says. “It makes me thankful for the resources UCI gives students like me!”
— Shani Murray