On November 5th, History Department alumnus and Alumni Advisory Board member Andrew Keating generously hosted a group of grad students at the Box campus for the day. Andrew works as Managing Director for Healthcare and Education at Box. In addition to talking to us about his own career trajectory from academia into tech, Andrew invited a number of other ‘Boxers’ to speak to us about their experiences and current work at the company.
We heard from Emily Vogel, Manager of University Recruiting; Anand Subramaian, Data Scientist; and Laura O’Neil, Customer Content Program Manager. We then had the opportunity to enjoy Box’s bountiful cafeteria and to tour the offices with Pamela Sherman, Executive Innovation Center Specialist. Over the course of the day, we learned about how these Boxers have translated their diverse educational and professional backgrounds into careers in the tech industry, discussed the professional skill set of PhD students in the humanities, and gained insight into the mechanics of landing a job.
Andrew and his colleagues advised us to be open to the possibility of surprising professional opportunities. They spoke about the diverse ways in which they find intellectual stimulation through their jobs and, in particular, through interaction with colleagues. They encouraged us to think about all of our interests and skills when considering our professional trajectories - not only those gleaned through our coursework or research - and to be confident about what we have to offer. They cautioned, however, to be humble about our areas of inexperience and to focus on getting a foot in the door after finishing a degree. Finally, they reminded us that a great deal of job training happens on the job.
Through our discussions over the course of the day, we honed in on a number of skills that PhD students have and which are highly valued at Box. Among these were the ability to learn quickly on the job, to be self-directed, to work in collaborative environments (like a classroom or reading group), to delve deeply into a topic, to digest and manage large amounts of material, to own a project, and to take initiative. All of these skills are great assets in project management, but equally in problem solving. We also talked about the relevance of research and storytelling skills to work at Box, particularly within marketing.
Visiting Box gave us the incredible opportunity to get a feel for the work environment and culture of a Silicon Valley tech company. Happily, this helped us to take one of Emily’s suggestions to consider the environment and people as well as the content of the work when thinking about career options.
For those who might be interested in careers in tech, or simply in tips on landing a job, below are some additional pieces of advice from Emily Vogel on the mechanics of a job search:
Attend university career fairs and events and meet recruiters. Face time is valuable.
Follow up with recruiters after meeting them to express your interest. Recruiters are extremely busy, so try to direct specific questions to them. Following up politely once every couple of weeks if you don’t hear back immediately is fine.
If you are looking for more general advice about job fit or careers, try to get in touch with the relevant hiring manager for a job that interests you.
Referrals from a current employee can help your application - but only if that employee knows you and can speak to your experience and interest. Try to have a conversation with someone before asking for a referral.
Get advice from someone within the industry about your resume and cover letter. Every sector and field has its own language.
Recruiters won't be concerned about your subject area or coursework, or necessarily even your degree level. Instead, they are interested in your ability to translate that experience into a different environment, and in your interest and passion.
Think of careers not as sequenced steps but as a lattice that might also involve lateral moves.