Students, alums and employers connect, collaborate and network in Portland
By Heather Turner
Jan. 6, 2016
There are many perks of being a degree-seeking distance student – flexibility, convenience and high-quality instruction, to name a few.
For post-baccalaureate students studying computer science (CS) online through Oregon State Ecampus, employers say an added perk is their unique ability to work in teams online, making distance learners stand out among their peers.
“New hires at Garmin are expected to plug into teams straight away after coming onboard,” says Jason Bushnell, a human resources manager for Garmin, a maker of personal navigation devices that is based in Salem, Oregon. “Sometimes teams will include members from remote locations, so having experience working in teams online from the Ecampus program could be a real strength.”
Garmin is one of more than 20 industry companies that participate in the biannual Computer Science Career Showcase in Portland, hosted by the OSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). Other participants have included Google, eBay, IBM, Intel, Xerox, Jive Software, Puppet Labs, Kaiser Permanente and HP Inc.
The showcase brings together more than 50 post-baccalaureate CS distance students and alums from across the country and world – most recently including students who live in Oregon, Florida, Texas and Japan – with potential employers for an opportunity to network in-person, gain insights and learn what it takes to enter the workforce. It features alumni and industry panels, tips from faculty and graduates, a networking luncheon and one-on-one interviews with employers.
“We have noticed the quality of students to be quite high, with noticeable professional maturity from previous work experience as well as interesting balance from previous degrees.”
“As an employer, I got the opportunity to meet a large group of potential hires in a short period of time,” says Justin Ihara, an engineer for Micro Systems Engineering, Inc. (MSEI). “I saw a lot of students who were very eager to break into the computer science field.”
Justin, a 2013 graduate of the program, met his employer – a company based out of Lake Oswego, Oregon, that develops software and manufactures printed circuit boards for implantable medical devices – at the career showcase.
Following graduation in June 2013, Justin began working at MSEI as an intern and quickly moved up to a full-time position.
“Everything is heading in the digital direction, so I am right in the middle of what is new and interesting,” he says.
In December, Justin was invited back to the showcase as an industry expert, participating in multiple aspects of the event.
“The one-on-one interviews are important because they give students the opportunity to get face time with companies, as well as let the companies see what OSU’s post-bacc CS program has to offer,” he says.
Justin is just one example of success stemming from the program. Since its inception in June 2012, the online program has doubled the number of Oregon State computer science graduates per year, sending off more than 250 alumni prepared to make a difference in the field.
“The idea of looking through other people’s code…making sure that it’s a safe and reliable product is completely fascinating to me.”
Garmin, for example, has hired three Ecampus CS graduates for full-time positions and a current student for a six-month internship.
“At the career showcase we have found great candidates with personal interests in aviation – and even students with private pilot licenses in addition to the strong programming skills that we have come to expect from OSU,” says Jason, the Garmin HR manager. “We have noticed the quality of students to be quite high, with noticeable professional maturity from previous work experience as well as interesting balance from previous degrees.”
Students in the program are located in all 50 states and nearly 20 countries, and their educational backgrounds run the gamut, from health care, accounting and philosophy to sociology, construction management and liberal arts.
“The idea of looking through other people’s code, going through the logic of what could go wrong and what should be happening, and then making sure that it’s a safe and reliable product is completely fascinating to me,” says Tara Massey, a student from Forest Grove, Oregon, who also has a degree in liberal arts. “That’s the field I want to go into.”
Employers say the array of undergraduate degrees gives students the upper hand when transferring into the field of computer science.