By Ted Bardusch, VP, Technology and Operations
Last week a group of Marchex Engineers and Recruiters went to the UW CSE (Computer Science & Engineering) Affiliates Career Fair to talk with a truly outstanding set of promising students. It’s held every year at about this time, and is open to those companies who are members of the UW CSE Industry Affiliates.
Being at this thing is inspiring. The energy, excitement, and brainpower in that atrium are palpable. The UW CSE program is highly selective, so the students who do make it in have already gone through a very competitive process.
Some companies attend with their general and technical recruiters. In my experience this is a big mistake. The students want to talk to people who’ve “been there, done that.” They want to interact with people who are just starting a career in software engineering, as well as people with decades of experience.
This year, we had 16 engineers attend the fair along with our recruiters, and it made all the difference. Why? Well, we engineers have our own language. And it’s critical to have “native speakers” at these fairs who can dialogue with engineering students, in that shared parlance, about what a company does.
Here’s one example. When the topic of why Marchex is moving to Scala came up, we responded: “A functional language with immutable methods and actors obviates the use of semaphores and mutexes in a massively multithreaded system.” (Still with me?) The end goal is to spark an authentic connection with a student, rather than simply hand over a sheet and say “These are the tools we use.”
We also see these fairs are also a big opportunity to showcase the upside of working at a technology company like Marchex. Something I always love to share is Marchex’s extensive use of Pair Programming. This is a style of coding in which programmers work side by side, alternating who’s typing and who’s watching, writing the tests and code together.
There is no faster way to learn, and no better way to pick up the professional’s tips and tricks. For an intern or new graduate just starting in the industry, Pair Programming is amazingly effective. And the information and learning flow is not one-way. Even seasoned folks come away with a new take on things or a different approach to a problem that can materially improve our systems and practices.
Compare that to other companies where interns are handed projects that haven’t been worth a “real” engineer’s time, then put in a corner with limited, if any guidance and interaction. Marchex has a very strong mentoring culture and it starts with bringing engineers to interact with students at the beginning of the onboarding process.
We’ve already seen a lot of interest from some outstanding students; I believe this will be another year with amazing results.