Conference Opens Students’ Eyes to Professional World

Working professionals know that conferences are a great way to learn new things and meet new people, but the concept is a little foreign to college students.

About a dozen Computer Science students from Ventura College recently had the opportunity to dip their toes into the water of the professional world at the Data Center World conference, held in at the Los Angeles Convention Center in early April. They were accompanied by faculty from Ventura College and Oxnard College.

Elliot Gertner, a computer science faculty member at Ventura College, worked with Paula Hodge, Deputy Sector Navigator for Information and Communication Technologies, to secure funding for students from his Computer Architecture class to attend the conference.

Gertner said the students were eager to network with companies with the hope of landing jobs and internships.

“I wanted them to get a glimpse of what the workplace will look like,” Gertner said.

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Itzel Gonzalez, a student who attended the conference said the event opened her eyes to the demand for technology professionals.

The most valuable thing I learned at the conference is that there is a lot of demand for jobs in this technology field,” Gonzalez said. “It is better to start thinking now about how to evolve the career skills we will need to be able to fill those jobs.”

Gonzalez did some research on the conference prior to attending, but was surprised at the amount of one-on-one interaction she had with companies there as she walked through the exhibit hall. She was also surprised to see technology demonstrations from companies like GE.

“It was very new to me and a bit overwhelming but amazing and exciting,” Gonzalez said. “I was not expecting to see displays. For example, the flywheel at the General Electric booth or the Vertiv booth where they taught us about cooling systems.”

In addition to providing funding for the conference, Hodge also organized a special session for Gertner’s students on the basics of applying for a job. Students learned how to prepare a resume and cover letter, and some tips for interviewing and professional networking.

“They expanded their horizons compared to what they get from counselors at the college,” Gertner said.

Student Doug Weisse felt the pieces come into place as he saw real-world applications of the things he learned in class.

“The tradeshow featured every aspect of data management, mostly the equipment required to store the hundreds of terabytes stored in data centers,” Weisse said. “Seeing all the parts individually was inspiring, I could almost imagine all of them going together in some massive facility.”

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Coming out of the conference, Gonzalez plans to heed some of the advice she received about starting a blog.

“This is great advice since we are in the age where everything is online,” she said. “You get to showcase what work and projects you have created or been part of.”

On a related note, student Mason Karle-Dalrymple said the conference drove home the importance of professional networking, something he hadn’t previously thought was relevant to the computer science field.

“Having work experience, certifications, and community service is all good, but there’s something to be said for just going around and meeting literally everyone you can think of in an industry,” Karle-Dalrymple said. “My experience reflects on how I need to present myself if I want to go further in computer science or any industry.”

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