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Reporter: Samir Kabir
On Saturday, February 10, I and fellow MC-Hillman Entrepreneur Annick Tchakounte Tentchou attended the 33rd Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) STEM Career Fair at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park. The event was hosted by Lockheed Martin Corporation, The Council of HBCU Engineering Deans, US Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine. The event is a full 3-day affair, and the agenda is packed with various development workshops for students and professionals, networking opportunities, exquisite dinners, and galas. The goal of BEYA is to: “create connections between students, educators and STEM professionals while facilitating partnerships with individuals and their local STEM resources.” The students observed this firsthand, interacting on the conference floor with individuals of all stripes: researchers, professors, corporate recruiters, and other enthusiastic students.
Annick and I  attended the career fair portion, which was free for local students. Although I only had time to attend the event for an hour [because of another Hillman event!], I made the most of my time by presenting my best self. Before coming to the physical venue, I made sure to prepare thoroughly. I went through the list of vendors on the BEYA website, and as I knew I would only be able to attend for an hour at best, I prepared a list of 10 vendors that I was interested in. My short list contained a handful of research labs, and a few companies engaged in materials research. I went to their respective websites, and I copied information about their booth numbers and community college internships into a list on OneNote (to pull up for quick reference on my phone later). But I also had to impress employers there, so I dressed up in my best suit and tie, and printed 10 copies of my resume. Armed with my leather portfolio, I set out to confidently approach recruiters or professors and inquire about their opportunities.
After signing in, I quickly entered the conference room floor and went about approaching the booths I was interested in. Due to the time restriction, I prioritized my selection of booths to my top three choices for career or graduate school opportunities: John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (JHU-APL), Pennsylvania State Applied Research Lab (Penn State-ARL), and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). I introduced myself and my qualifications, and asked relevant questions about the work the researchers were doing, and how my previous and current positions and qualifications could be advantageous to their group and their research. After we had our conversations, I handed them my business card and resume as a final note to emphasize my interest in their work. I was pleasantly satisfied to note that they were interested in my repertoire of talents. My discussions with them was helpful to me as a reference for improving my communication skills, and noting future dos and don’ts in conversing with recruiters. Overall, the career fair was valuable – I learned a lot about being strategic with first impressions, and how to impress employers or recruiters with my qualifications and experience to achieve an internship or job.

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