Industrial Roundtable — Meeting HPE
So Purdue seems to push internships pretty hard. A massive career fair called Industrial Roundtable is a major part of this for engineers. I had heard about it all Fall and, about three weeks out. Now I knew it was a big deal, but I didn’t realize just how impressive it would be. Purdue hands out special buttons to students who sign up and tells recruiters to only talk to students wearing them. This is because so many students come from other schools just because we have a crazy amount of companies there. Last year we had 1700 recruiters from 400 companies in attendance. And we have many other career fairs for Business, Computer Science, etc around the same time with more companies. So here’s the story of how I got my internship at HPE.
I whipped up a resume and got started in the process after being encouraged by many of my peers,. I think I started about 3 weeks before the event. Luckily. I had peers and friends who gave me great feedback on what worked or didn’t for them. This was my first time writing a resume and I hadn’t really spoken to recruiters before. The only experience with hiring that I had so far was just talking to companies that parked at the computer science building. That experience, however, was limited to just stopping by to get swag and giving my email between classes. But at least it got me started with talking to recruiters.
Computer Science Career Fair
Once I had my resume made, I tried my luck with my first career fair. It was once just for Computer Science students and we needed to swipe our ID’s to get in. I was encouraged to attend in my freshman seminar. They also erroneously claimed that most of the companies there would be considering freshmen. Well this was a only partially a lie. Yes, companies would talk to you (Except Honeywell, they told me to buzz off even though there was no one in line) but a lot of the time your resume went into the “freshman pile” which was disconcerting. Another plague of this career fair was “did you apply online?” It was almost pointless to show up as each company just told you to apply online and submit your resume.
The longest lines there were for Intel and Google. But in terms of “apply online syndrome” Google was by far the worst. They spoke to you, gave you some pretty cool Google swag, and took your resume. After all the pleasantries they directed you to check out their website to apply for a position. But the form wouldn’t even open to submissions for about a month. Granted I only really spoke to them to get some swag, but it was especially offensive that it was basically pointless. Every other company I talked to went the same way. They asked what year I was, put my resume in to the freshman pile, and I made pleasantries until I got their link to apply online.
The major thing I had going for me on my resume was an internship that I had in high school. I worked 5 summers at an e-commerce company called BCS Engineering. I didn’t really learn all that much about web programming or SEO, which is apparent by my search rankings, but I did learn about servers. My position included building many production machines and doing countless side projects and automation scripts to make their datacenter run. I got to try a little bit of everything including board design to home security installs and even digging a trench in the backyard.
Back to IR and HPE
Approaching the date of Industrial Roundtable, I was starting to get less confident. The CS career fair hadn’t gone the way that I wanted and I was afraid no one would want to talk to a non engineer. I also realized that I would basically have no time to actually go between classes. Luckily, the organizers know how precious our time is and we have an app to filter, search, and find the physical tent location of the companies. So I first filtered by companies accepting freshmen. About 20…. Then I filtered by companies accepting freshmen: three. Conveniently not including HPE. This was slightly unfortunate but I remember talking to a friend who got an internship as a freshman for a company that wasn’t hiring his major. So at least I had some hope.
Being a freshman who doesn’t own a suit, my wardrobe choices were… limited. I had also lost a fair bit of weight recently. Most of the people there were wearing suits and had big leather portfolios full of resumes but here I was. I wore a polo shirt that wasn’t tucked in to some tan jeans and the shoes tennis shoes that I planned to wear to marching band that afternoon. Not exactly the most professional…. I had decided that I was at least going to walk through and speak to companies that looked interesting regardless of who they were hiring. My goal was to not let them know I was a freshman. If they asked, I was a freshman—with 5 years experience. This would hopefully solve my main problem at the CS career fair.
Find the Longest Line… and Wait
I had learned something important at the dining halls in my first few months: If something has a long line, it tastes good. So I adapted this strategy to finding a company to talk to. Two tech companies with long lines caught my eyes. They were Nvidia and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. I don’t remember exactly why I didn’t talk to Nvidia, but I instead got in line to talk to HPE. This began me waiting in line for 2 hours to speak with them. I felt awfully self conscious and underdressed the whole time. I knew no one around me and they were all wearing suits. Which was appropriate for some of the businesses where the recruiters were wearing them too.
After being nervous for two hours and getting slowly closer to my goal. I had accepted the fact I was going to be late to my next class. This was all expected and accepted during IR week though. But once I got close enough to see the recruiters, I realized that they were wearing company polos and jeans and I was put at ease. I later learned this was because of a wonderful part of working at HPE. There is no dress code!
Once it got to be my turn to talk to them, I had a wonderful chat with the recruiter who took my resume and read it briefly before talking to me much. This is the way you should do it by the way Intel, Google, Honeywell, Dell! I talked to the recruiter for a while about some projects I did at my previous internship and eventually we started talking about mining. See, I didn’t just ramble on about my server rack to brag, it was also somewhat relevant! It turns out he too ran mining software in the winter as a replacement for electric heat.
Come Talk to us. Now!
I felt pretty good about my conversation with them and went to marching band that day in a good mood. The next day, I was chilling in the hall of music before rehearsal when I received the phone call i had been waiting for. The person I had spoken to was going to be in town for the next 6 hours and wanted to know if I could meet… right now. So I talked to my section leader and told her that I might be late for practice due to an interview. This was normal at Purdue because they push internships and coops so hard. I ran to the Union and got ready for my first interview. The only caveat, which they absolutely commented on, was that since I hadn’t expected to talk to them that day, I might have been wearing a shirt from one of their competitors…
It just so happens that Purdue has a lab for HPE on campus in the basement of the Union so I got to talk to my actual boss for the interview. Overall it went pretty well. They asked me some knowledge questions about the tools that I claimed to know and showed my around their datacenter. Presumably to see if I recognized anything and actually knew servers. Luckily I did and I was able to talk to them about some of the machines I had only read about. My biggest fear for the process was that I was going to get some coding problem to solve on a whiteboard or something. But I guess this wasn’t a pure programming job or they just don’t do that kind of interview here.
Some weeks pass, I apply online, and I get a phone call for another interview a few weeks later. After another interview going over the hiring process and pay, I got the job and was asked if I could start in January. So basically that’s the saga of how I got my current position at HPE. I would start working in the Spring semester and get transferred to Houston in the Summer. Which brings us to now. I will eventually put in another part in this about my experience with my job and what I actually do. Once I figure out what it is exactly that I do….