Companies Battle for Next Tech Superstars

‘Cool’ corporate names help woo computer science, engineering students.

Competition among tech companies isn’t limited to products and technologies; there’s also a constant struggle to attract the best tech talent. The contest will only grow more fierce based on Georgetown University research that forecasts a shortage of as many as 3 million U.S. high-skills workers by 2018. For tech companies, internships are a means to draw on an increasingly in-demand pool of science, technical, engineering and math talent before the next generation of tech wunderkinds hits the open job market.

Intel Intern

Intel intern Isioma Nnodum and fellow intern Marguerite Kabore meet to discuss Remote Monitor, a service that allows individuals to monitor various resources on servers they administer. Nnodum attends the Rochester Institute of Technology, Kabore the University of Texas-Odessa.

Offering paid internships is a proven method, and at least one executive recruiter likens the practice to a professional baseball team trying to entice a young phenom with the best signing bonus.

“It’s very much like Major League Baseball,” said Robert Greene, CEO of Silicon Valley recruiting firm GreeneSearch. “I know in the Valley that LinkedIn, Apple and Google are among the companies that recruit interns so they can hire them full-time. Companies, like baseball scouts, are trying to get quality people early. They’re looking for the superstar.”

The Ohio State University’s College of Engineering is among the more heavily farmed schools by major corporations.

“We have companies begging for our students, especially our computer science students,” said Dean Pidcock, who manages the university’s internship program. “A lot of companies use internships as a tool to find the best talent out there.”

While GE is the No. 1 corporate recruiter of engineering students on the Columbus campus — “They have a lot of facilities in Ohio and recruit for a variety of engineering jobs,” Pidcock said — Intel is a perennial recruiter of Buckeye engineering talent. Out of roughly 16,000 engineering students who graduated from Ohio State between 2002 and 2012, 44 were offered full-time jobs by Intel and 34 accepted positions with the company. More than a third of Intel’s recent college graduate hires are former interns and in 2011, Intel converted 63 percent of its eligible interns to full-time employees, according to the company’s U.S. recruiting office. Of that pool, roughly 85 percent were technical — primarily in electrical or computer engineering and computer science.

University of North Texas Internship and Career Fair

IBM and other technology companies use college engineering department events such as the University of North Texas Internship and Career Fair to recruit the next generation of talent. Photo: UNT College of Engineering

“Interns who not only succeed, but exceed probably will be offered full-time jobs,” Pidcock said. “Even if they don’t get a job, just having a name like Intel on their résumé will help that student stand out.”

The halo effect of a major corporation when first entering the job market carries a lot of weight with the namesake of Kathryn Ullrich Associates, a Silicon Valley search firm specializing in technology.

“It’s like the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval,” said Ullrich, president of the San Mateo-based agency. “It says that because Microsoft or Apple or Cisco or Intel hired me, I’m a worthy employee, compared to the person who worked in a small office.”

A strong corporate name on the résumé of a current or former intern brings with it the assumption that valuable work experience was gained, according to Ullrich.

“It’s highly likely that the person had a manager with good leadership skills and a development plan,” she said. “If you go to a dot.com, you probably only have that boss to learn from and the training and development processes might be learning by the seat of your pants.”

The clout of a bellwether company on a job application goes only so far, according to another tech recruitment specialist.

“In the early part of one’s career, having an internship at an Apple or Intel certainly creates a positive image. But as one moves through their career it has less of an impact,” said Lee Schweichler, managing partner with Schweichler Price Mullarkey & Barry based in Larkspur, Calif. “When you’re coming out of school and getting your first or second job, an interviewer who sees an internship with Apple, Google or Intel on the résumé might say, ‘Oh wow, this person has been to good places.'”

Greene, a specialist in engineering and technical product management roles, is on the other side of the spectrum.

“When I recruit people, I don’t look at their internships because they’re not as relevant as where they went to school and the coursework they’ve done,” he said.

A market leader or top global brand may not be able to rest on its laurels. Despite being a worldwide powerhouse in electronics and electrical engineering, the regional office of 165-year-old Siemens may lack a “the cool factor” with some potential recruits compared to some of its Mountain View, Calif. neighbors such as Google.

Recent Boston University graduate Robert Winnett

Electrical and computer engineering students from Boston University, including recent graduate Robert Winnett (pictured), frequently get plucked for internships at such companies as IBM, Raytheon, Intel, Genzyme, Microsoft and HP. Photo: Boston University Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering

“Because of where we’re physically located, many students would rather go to the Apples and Googles — not a big, old company,” said Sandee Pascoe of Siemens’ human resources department. “In a Stanford student’s eyes, Apple and Google are cool and Siemens is perceived as old and bureaucratic. The fact is we do do cool, new technology. San Jose State and Santa Clara [University] realize that because we draw well from those schools, but we have a hard time attracting Stanford students.”

A company’s perceived coolness does have its advantages when playing suitor to young prospects, but image and the thousands of dollars a month some companies pay technical interns isn’t everything, according to Schweichler.

“Apple has the cool factor, as does Google, but there could be a project at, say, Siemens that’s better for one’s career,” the recruiter said. “If you’re an engineering major doing process or chip design, then what Intel does would be cooler over an Apple or Google.”

For Isioma Nnodum, soon to be a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York, Intel is plenty cool.

“I’ve been dreaming of working at Intel since 8th grade,” said Nnodum, a computer engineering major who has been an Intel intern since January. Developing tools for chip testers is among projects he says may seem small on the surface, “but I’m able to run them and make an impact.”

Nnodum’s internship was extended to November. After that he will return to complete his degree with what he described as an “amazing experience and connections” and after graduation he hopes to return to Intel as a full-time employee.

“Or if not, maybe work for a different company,” he said with a confident grin. “I interned last year at Microsoft and it was wonderful. It’s not where I had dreamed of being since I was a kid, but it would be a dream to work at either of them again.”

Companies Battle for Next Tech Superstars

‘Cool’ corporate names help woo computer science, engineering students.

Competition among tech companies isn’t limited to products and technologies; there’s also a constant struggle to attract the best tech talent. The contest will only grow more fierce based on Georgetown University research that forecasts a shortage of as many as 3 million U.S. high-skills workers by 2018. For tech companies, internships are a means to draw on an increasingly in-demand pool of science, technical, engineering and math talent before the next generation of tech wunderkinds hits the open job market.

Intel Intern

Intel intern Isioma Nnodum and fellow intern Marguerite Kabore meet to discuss Remote Monitor, a service that allows individuals to monitor various resources on servers they administer. Nnodum attends the Rochester Institute of Technology, Kabore the University of Texas-Odessa.

Offering paid internships is a proven method, and at least one executive recruiter likens the practice to a professional baseball team trying to entice a young phenom with the best signing bonus.

“It’s very much like Major League Baseball,” said Robert Greene, CEO of Silicon Valley recruiting firm GreeneSearch. “I know in the Valley that LinkedIn, Apple and Google are among the companies that recruit interns so they can hire them full-time. Companies, like baseball scouts, are trying to get quality people early. They’re looking for the superstar.”

The Ohio State University’s College of Engineering is among the more heavily farmed schools by major corporations.

“We have companies begging for our students, especially our computer science students,” said Dean Pidcock, who manages the university’s internship program. “A lot of companies use internships as a tool to find the best talent out there.”

While GE is the No. 1 corporate recruiter of engineering students on the Columbus campus — “They have a lot of facilities in Ohio and recruit for a variety of engineering jobs,” Pidcock said — Intel is a perennial recruiter of Buckeye engineering talent. Out of roughly 16,000 engineering students who graduated from Ohio State between 2002 and 2012, 44 were offered full-time jobs by Intel and 34 accepted positions with the company. More than a third of Intel’s recent college graduate hires are former interns and in 2011, Intel converted 63 percent of its eligible interns to full-time employees, according to the company’s U.S. recruiting office. Of that pool, roughly 85 percent were technical — primarily in electrical or computer engineering and computer science.

University of North Texas Internship and Career Fair

IBM and other technology companies use college engineering department events such as the University of North Texas Internship and Career Fair to recruit the next generation of talent. Photo: UNT College of Engineering

“Interns who not only succeed, but exceed probably will be offered full-time jobs,” Pidcock said. “Even if they don’t get a job, just having a name like Intel on their résumé will help that student stand out.”

The halo effect of a major corporation when first entering the job market carries a lot of weight with the namesake of Kathryn Ullrich Associates, a Silicon Valley search firm specializing in technology.

“It’s like the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval,” said Ullrich, president of the San Mateo-based agency. “It says that because Microsoft or Apple or Cisco or Intel hired me, I’m a worthy employee, compared to the person who worked in a small office.”

A strong corporate name on the résumé of a current or former intern brings with it the assumption that valuable work experience was gained, according to Ullrich.

“It’s highly likely that the person had a manager with good leadership skills and a development plan,” she said. “If you go to a dot.com, you probably only have that boss to learn from and the training and development processes might be learning by the seat of your pants.”

The clout of a bellwether company on a job application goes only so far, according to another tech recruitment specialist.

“In the early part of one’s career, having an internship at an Apple or Intel certainly creates a positive image. But as one moves through their career it has less of an impact,” said Lee Schweichler, managing partner with Schweichler Price Mullarkey & Barry based in Larkspur, Calif. “When you’re coming out of school and getting your first or second job, an interviewer who sees an internship with Apple, Google or Intel on the résumé might say, ‘Oh wow, this person has been to good places.'”

Greene, a specialist in engineering and technical product management roles, is on the other side of the spectrum.

“When I recruit people, I don’t look at their internships because they’re not as relevant as where they went to school and the coursework they’ve done,” he said.

A market leader or top global brand may not be able to rest on its laurels. Despite being a worldwide powerhouse in electronics and electrical engineering, the regional office of 165-year-old Siemens may lack a “the cool factor” with some potential recruits compared to some of its Mountain View, Calif. neighbors such as Google.

Recent Boston University graduate Robert Winnett

Electrical and computer engineering students from Boston University, including recent graduate Robert Winnett (pictured), frequently get plucked for internships at such companies as IBM, Raytheon, Intel, Genzyme, Microsoft and HP. Photo: Boston University Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering

“Because of where we’re physically located, many students would rather go to the Apples and Googles — not a big, old company,” said Sandee Pascoe of Siemens’ human resources department. “In a Stanford student’s eyes, Apple and Google are cool and Siemens is perceived as old and bureaucratic. The fact is we do do cool, new technology. San Jose State and Santa Clara [University] realize that because we draw well from those schools, but we have a hard time attracting Stanford students.”

A company’s perceived coolness does have its advantages when playing suitor to young prospects, but image and the thousands of dollars a month some companies pay technical interns isn’t everything, according to Schweichler.

“Apple has the cool factor, as does Google, but there could be a project at, say, Siemens that’s better for one’s career,” the recruiter said. “If you’re an engineering major doing process or chip design, then what Intel does would be cooler over an Apple or Google.”

For Isioma Nnodum, soon to be a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York, Intel is plenty cool.

“I’ve been dreaming of working at Intel since 8th grade,” said Nnodum, a computer engineering major who has been an Intel intern since January. Developing tools for chip testers is among projects he says may seem small on the surface, “but I’m able to run them and make an impact.”

Nnodum’s internship was extended to November. After that he will return to complete his degree with what he described as an “amazing experience and connections” and after graduation he hopes to return to Intel as a full-time employee.

“Or if not, maybe work for a different company,” he said with a confident grin. “I interned last year at Microsoft and it was wonderful. It’s not where I had dreamed of being since I was a kid, but it would be a dream to work at either of them again.”