Discovering Hidden Networking Gems
March 31, 2017
When Wing Tung Wong (’17), a mechanical engineering student at Carnegie Mellon University, was considering her career options, she came across a surprising source on her school’s Alumni Advisor Network. She came across a familiar name: a teaching assistant who had helped her with an introductory physics course she had taken as part of her major’s requirements.
That tutor, Korey, now works at Microsoft. Wing immediately requested a consultation, curious about his career path. She quickly learned about Korey’s work experience at Microsoft and the roles he and his team perform—information, she said, that was extremely useful, given how interested she was in the company.
“It’s nice to know that alumni are friendly and willing to help,” Wing explained, noting how grateful she was that the Department of Mechanical Engineering pointed her to the Alumni Advisor Network. “For mechanical engineers, it’s quite difficult for us to find opportunities sometimes.” That’s because, Wing said, most job fairs focus on software engineering positions, rather than roles best suited for mechanical engineers. The platform allowed Wing to find great alumni to connect with, in companies and positions best suited to her own background.
And those mechanical engineering roles can lead to unexpected directions: Mary Koes (’02) serves as an advisor on CMU Mechanical Engineering’s Alumni Advisor Network. After getting a dual degree in mechanical engineering and computer science at CMU, Mary went into a robotics PhD program at the school. She completed four years of the program before the birth of her son led her to reconsider her desire for a career in academia. Instead of continuing her PhD, she joined as an early employee at a startup that applied robotics to baby products.
Years later, a Google recruiter reached out to Mary about a role as a product manager. Eager for a new challenge, Mary took the position and has worked at Google for over a year. Mary also decided to take on an additional role as an advisor on CMU Mechanical Engineering’s Alumni Advisor Network, which not only gives her a chance to give back, she said, but to see all the other interesting, diverse paths that her fellow alums have taken.
Connecting with alumni in varied careers can be extremely valuable when finding your passion—passion that will come through in your job search. “Find a problem that really excites you, that you can talk about in interviews, that you enjoy diving into, and come up with an overall solution,” Mary advised. “If you have something you can talk about that really excites you, that will shine through.”