Last semester, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2019 National SHPE Convention that was held over Halloween Weekend in Phoenix Arizona. SHPE is the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and its yearly national convention is the biggest gathering of Hispanic students and professionals in North America. The weekend holds workshops, parties, a stadium filled with employers and recruiters, and more parties.
Before transferring to USF, I attended San Jose State University and saw the large community of Hispanic engineers that got together for club meetings, recruiter run resume workshops, and field trips. At USF I became involved in Diversineers (shoutout to Ornelle) which was the closest thing to SHPE. Still wanting to connect with Hispanic people in the engineering filed, I looked to the professional SF Bay Area SHPE chapter which holds various events all over the bay where students are welcome.
I was so excited to have found a community of people that were in a similar position that I was in and was convinced that USF would benefit from having a chapter. Diversineers and SHPE SF Bay Area chapter teamed up to put on a day of mentorship, dubbed mentorSHPE, that taught students and professionals tools to become a better mentor/mentee. Students from San Francisco State University, Napa Valley College and many more were at attendance at the event alongside engineering professionals from all disciplines. This may seem like a detour to my experience at the SHPE national convention, but the students and professionals that came to USF welcomed me with open arms in at Nationals.
The moment I landed in Phoenix it was energy overload. This was my first conference and I had no idea what to expect or how to prepare. While getting my badge people were already signing up for events, hackathons, competitions and more. I received a bag full of goodies and a paper map that spanned the length of a table with every location and schedule of events. From there, I met Juan Hernandez, a guy that went to a neighboring high school and used to work across the street from me. He is now studying Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly SLO and I hung out with him for the night. We went over to McDonald’s and got our costume for the Halloween parties at the local dollar store. While hanging out with Juan, he told me what to look out for at Nationals and how to best navigate the convention.
The following day was when all of the workshops began. I met back up with Juan, but our different interests in engineering ended taking us to different workshops and socials. I attended workshops on resume creation and development, how to best present yourself to recruiters, and entrepreneurship for engineers.
A workshop that stood out was the “What Drives Us” workshop hosted by Inter, Uber, and Broadcom Professionals. They shared how they began at SHPE during their college years and how they affect their workplace by way of effective leadership.
After all of the main talks were over, there were “Hospitality Suites” sponsored by companies where recruiters would casually network with people a day before the career fair. There were 2 hour waits to get into a lunch hospitality suite, with similar wait times happening for dinner Hospitality Suites. I saw Delia from the Delta Valley Professional Chapter and chatted with her after lunch. We attended a few workshops together and then it was time to line up for the evening “Hospitality Suites”. Delia was very keen on getting into the Johnson & Johnson suite and decided to part ways. I attended 15+ smaller suites that startups held and returned after 4 hours to see how the J&J line was doing. In that time Delia literally did not move and we joked about her being able to even get into the suite. After I attended 15 more hospitality suites, I returned to Johnson & Johnson and saw that there was no line. With 10 minutes left before all the suites closed, I charmed my way into the suite and found Delia finally talking to a recruiter. She saw me out of the corner of her eye and smiled. Afterward, we left laughing and joking about J&J line.
Towards the end of the evening, the Welcome Keynote took place where Phoenix mayor welcomed everyone to the city. She encouraged us to enjoy our time in the city and to fall in love while in Phoenix (which I found quite strange, but I am not complaining). There I met some people from the University of Rochester, a dream school for me because they have one of the top-rated music programs in the country. There they told me about how they never went over to Eastman which I found amusing.
Sponsors were highlighted along with regional awards. It didn’t really hit me until I saw all the logos on the screen, but the diversity in companies that were in attendance was far greater than I imagined. At USF, we only have a Computer Science Department, with Data Science and Biology being off on their own, as opposed to other schools having a unified engineering department that houses STEM programs together. Biotech, Mechanical Engineering, Materials, Civil, all had equal, if not greater representation at the conference than the usual Bay Area Software Engineering.
I happened to run into the San Francisco State people that attended the USF mentorSHPE workshop a few months back. I was great catching up with them and they invited me to tag along to a birthday gathering, where the Napa Valley College people were in attendance. After dinner, I went out with the Napa Valley College leadership and stayed up all night to party at the neighboring bars and clubs. At some point, I was in a swanky restaurant where I was served free food and drinks and ended up getting my resume reviewed by a group of engineers/recruiters at the restaurant which was quite a trip because everyone was so helpful in refining my resume before the career fair. I applied what I learned that night and refined my until the following day.
On my final day, everyone had a look of exhaustion. Everyone has had a few late nights in a row and waking up early did not help. There was an epic line that zigzagged from one auditorium to another and finally into the main stadium where the career fair was being held. From there I stood in the queue for a few hours. At one point, people got desperate and broke a section of a barrier that was holding the lines in the snakelike shape ended up being a blob of people trying to get into the next auditorium.
I finally was inside the stadium where all of the recruiters were in their respective booths and I talked to recruiters from companies such as Twitter and Unity to new companies that I caught my attention. One of them was Denso which is an auto manufacturing company. I ended up having a few onsite interviews which was exciting because I actually got to go into a booth and speak with engineers and Program/Project managers directly. They asked me about my projects (shout out to Professor Engle and her Search Engine Project) and talk about my interest in the Software Engineering field.
In the end, I had an amazing time at SHPE National Conference. It is one of the defining moments of my time as a student that I will reflect on for the rest of my life. I have made lifelong friends and encourage anyone thinking about attending a conference to do so. A few tips that I would like to give to future students:
- Apply Early: There is a database that you can submit your resume to, and companies already have interviews lined up before you even attend the conference. Apply early to get the most out of the career opportunities at Nationals.
- Be Professional: While you can party, it is important to maintain your professionalism with everyone that you meet. I would have never gotten my resume reviewed by recruiters a day before the career fair, or an on-site interview if it wasn’t for me clearly introducing myself and communicating my objectives at the conference.
- Make Connections: I made connections months before the conference with people both at USF and outside USF. Take advantage of the resources that the CS department provides by way of student organizations and workshops. Also, grab a friend an attend the myriad of events that happen around the Bay Area on a daily basis. You never know who you will run into and find at a conference.
I’d like to give special thanks to Diversineers advisor Prof. David Guy Brizan and Rosa Maria Garay for helping me organize the initial mentorSHPE event that took place at USF, I would have not gone to Nationals without your help.