Conference Spotlight: National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Annual Convention

by Kristy Amburgey

DSC_3557Attending conferences and events is an excellent way to professionally network, learn new information as related to your career and identify employment opportunities.  The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) 39th Annual Convention, to be held March 27 – 31, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana, is a great example of an event where you can both personally and professionally grow.  In fact, the annual NSBE conference, and the many events they host throughout the year, has resulted in great success stories for Embry-Riddle students and alumni.  Two such success stories come from Marie-Jeanne Steady Ndiaye (or MJ) and Vincent Bell.  We asked both of these alumni to share their experiences with the NSBE Convention.

Why did you decide to attend NSBE in 2012?

MJ: It was a very simple and pragmatic decision to come to. As an undergraduate student, I tried to attend as many professional conferences /conventions as I could; it is the best way to meet industry leaders and others who share your enthusiasm about your field.  The other reason why I attended the convention is that I quite frankly liked not being the “odd one out”. There typically aren’t many minority attendants; there’s this belief that we are not interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), so it’s nice to be reminded it is just a “myth”.

Vincent: I decided to attend the NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) Convention in 2012 after talking to Mr. Mark Lyden about working for The Boeing Company at the end of February or early March 2012.  He told me that Boeing and various companies go to the convention to hire knowledgeable minorities.  So my main reason for going was to obtain a job after graduating from ERAU.  However, I also saw an opportunity to present what I was working on at that time at the conference when I saw there were so many cancellations in the conference presentation schedule.

What was the conference like for you?

MJ: It was a bit overwhelming at first because there were thousands of attendees rushing and buzzing around. There was a multitude of sessions, workshops, and discussions panels. I just didn’t know how I was going to make the most of the convention and what events to attend. All I knew was that I wanted to take it ALL in!

Vincent: The conference was great, and I had an unbelievable experience.  The first day that I got there I met up with couple of other ERAU students.  And Mr. Lyden, who I had been in contact with prior to the convention, wanted to meet with all the ERAU students that attended the conference, and he invited us to an exclusive Boeing talk, to where we were able to talk to Boeing managers and Boeing engineers that came for the conference.  The second day I ended up presenting on what I was conducting research on with Dr. Bereket Berhane.

Everyone that has been to an ERAU career fair would enjoy the NSBE Convention.  The convention is one huge career fair with so many engineering companies/firms and graduate schools trying to get qualified students to come to their program and study. Plus this gives the companies opportunity to see what you know by means of presentation.  For example, after my first interview, which was with Boeing, I invited my two interviewers to my presentation, and one actually came.  So it was great experience for your potential employer to see what you know and how well you can present information to others that may or may not be as knowledgeable on the subject at hand.

Overall, it was great, and the feedback I received was amazing.

Where there any outcomes from NSBE Conference?

MJ: Definitely! I really enjoyed the Educational Sessions, including:

  • Professional Development sessions –  provided me with soft skills to my academic and professional career ahead
  • Mentoring sessions – provided a framework that I used for my grad school selection/application process. That session also helped me outline for myself how I wanted to maximize my grad school experience
  • Outreach sessions – we had an opportunity to interact with local high schoolers, conducting experiments and answering questions about different STEM fields. This sparked my interest for Science Outreach and more specifically promoting Space Ethos. So much so, that when I started working at the Kennedy Space Center, I joined the Speakers Bureau, which is a group of volunteers who represent the center at civic, professional, educational, and other public events. Bureau members are exceptionally qualified to discuss general and specific aspects of the activities and technologies associated with the space flight program

Vincent: Of course the big aerospace companies were there (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and others).  So I earned 5 interviews in those three days: Boeing, Raytheon, Goldman Sachs, Northrop Grumman, and Texas Instruments.

The interview with Northrop Grumman was for thermal analysis engineering, and I never heard anything back from them.  The Texas Instruments interview was for mechanical engineering.  Texas Instruments never contacted me back again.  The interview with Goldman Sachs was for financial analyst, where, if I received an offer, I would be inspecting engineering project funding.  I had a follow up phone interview but ultimately did not receive an offer.  The interview with Raytheon was for Navigation, Guidance, Control (GNC) engineering and with the Raytheon Missile Systems.  Raytheon Missile Systems actually flew me to Tucson, AZ for a hiring event with about 100 other applicants for various job openings.  I ultimately received a job offer with them.  My interview with Boeing was for a fuel system engineer.  The day after this interview, I was told that I would receive an offer within the month for a job with Boeing.   I took the job with Boeing over Raytheon.

Why should students/alumni attend this conference?

MJ: Three words: networking, development, and exposure! I think that is pretty self-explanatory. If you are a black engineer, you NEED to attend the national convention.

Because the National Convention focuses mainly on the big 4 (Electrical, Mechanical, Software, and Civil Engineering), I would strongly urge ERAU students with interest in space to join the NSBE Space Special Interest Group (commonly referred to as Space SIG). It is one of NSBE’s star programs and is opened to college students as well as alumni.

They are actually hosting a conference in January, Space Technology Session 2013 (next one won’t be until 2015!) that is unlike other conferences in that it is actually a hands-on engineering session.  Participants are divided into groups with each group being assigned to work on a pre-defined set of deliverables for one of NSBE’s space-related technical projects.   It offers students an opportunity to work in an apprentice-like setting with industry engineers, managers, and scientists. This is how I developed and honed my technical proficiency!

Vincent: Students and alumni should attend this conference because companies come to this convention to hire participants.   Knowing that you have a huge chance of getting hired is a main reason why the ERAU family should attend.  Even if you are a freshman, you can standout for the upcoming years and help your chances either with a job or internship, when you are ready.  When you are looking for a job and applying via the internet, companies do not know you nor see your passion.  They only see what you put on your resume at the time.  And that is if you did your resume right and tailored your resume to that job announcement to which you just applied.  But at this conference you are talking to people who are eager to talk to you to see what you know, and you can pick apart their brains at any time.  They want you to ask a lot of questions as much as possible.  Companies are really looking for the best applicant possible that they can hire.  So I think for ERAU students and alumni, we are those types of people that they can hire and train very easily.

Vincent also has some additional advice for students who will be graduating soon.

The advice I would give students who are graduating soon is to go out there and apply and apply to all jobs for which you are qualified.  Before I went the NSBE Convention, I applied to about 350 jobs in 2 and half months.  From these that I applied to, I only heard back from 10 or 15 of the companies.  None of them offered me a job at all.  After the NSBE Convention, I had two offers after talking to 5 companies.

Another piece of advice I will give is when you get a chance to have an interview (either over the phone or in person), ask as many questions that pertain to the job or the betterment of you ultimately receiving an offer.  For example, in every interview that I have had over the past 2 years, I have asked the employers what about my resume stood out to them.  If something stood out to them, it possibly may stand out to others as well.  Another question I have asked is what is something that I can change (either on the resume or the interview itself) that will help with next interview you may have.  This question will show employers you are eager to learn something new about yourself and work on weaknesses that may be apparent to them.  Also, you should ask questions on relevant projects that company has worked on and/or on which they are currently working.  This will show your interest in the company with which you are hoping to get a job.

At the end of your interview, make sure you have business cards of all those people that interviewed you.  Wait about a week or two and then email them.  In your email, you just want to tell them thank you for the opportunity to talk to them.  You are not asking where you stand in the interview process.  This step will allow you to pop back up in their head because they received an email from you, and it is another way to stand out above the rest of the people that they may have interviewed.

I hope these tips help all ERAU students and alumni get jobs upon graduating.

Based on our alumni feedback, you can see that the NSBE Convention is a great opportunity for candidates seeking opportunities, both right now and in the future.  Besides professional development and networking opportunities, you will have access to many premier companies who are hiring like Battelle, Boeing, CIA, General Dynamics, Johnson Controls, Lockheed Martin, Toyota, United Technologies Corporation and many more.

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.

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