This year we held our fourth Student to IT Pro Seminar for the students at Seminole State College. It runs from 9 am to 1130, concurrent with SQLSaturday but in a different building. Here is the schedule from this year:
|8:30 to 9:00||Check-in & Informal Networking|
|9:00 to 9:05||Opening Remarks|
|9:05 to 9:15||Keynote – You’ve Picked a Great Career|
|9:15 to 9:45||Entry Level IT Jobs & Salaries|
|9:45 to 10:30||My First IT Job – Lessons Learned|
|10:30 to 11:00||Participating in Your Profession|
|11:00 to 11:30||Things To Do Before & After Graduation|
|11:30 to 12:00||Lunch & Meet the Panelists|
|12:00 to 1:00||Students attend SQLSaturday|
We registered 172 (new record) via EventBrite (we deliberately try to separate them from SQLSat reg). About 85 attended. Steep drop, but not unexpected, and 85 beats our goal of 50 to consider it successful (as in worth the worth to put it all together). The themes we were asked to hit were “finish school”, “keep learning after graduation”, and “you’ve picked a great career”. We did, perhaps too much, you could hear them in every presentation!
- We found out day before there was no connection from the stage for a laptop. Minor chaos, resolved with a Miracast that mostly worked.
- The staff from the school handled check-in and handed out t-shirts
- Kendal Van Dyke moderated this year and did a great job
- I struggled to figure out who would connect with students for the keynote, finally asked my friend Jelani. He’s been doing Toastmasters, isn’t long out of school, and has completed the transition from student to IT pro. I thought this went well, he had a couple images of him as a student that he used with his keynote, very effective.
- The entry level IT jobs was hardest. Staffing companies don’t get a lot of calls to find beginners. I think students found it interesting, but not sure we gave them enough numbers. How long does it take to get the first job? Salary? I think we can help set expectations.
- We had a panel for my first IT job. Panels always get students interested. I think these are toughest to moderate, we want to take as many questions as we can. Kendal good at helping to reframe some of the questions to be more useful.
- Brad Ball did the session on Participating in Your Profession and shared stories about how investing in learning, community, and networking had led to so many interesting opportunities. It went well, Brad is dynamic, but he’s not average either. Does it inspire, or set a hard to hit standard? No good answer there!
- I did the things to do before and after graduation. I cut some of my stuff because I thought we had hit the themes well enough already, took a few questions at the end.
- We didn’t do any raffle this year. It doesn’t seem to drive attendance and we haven’t had problems with students leaving early, so skipping the raffle saves time and money (gotta be practical!)
At 1130 we wrapped up and did an informal lunch/networking session in the waiting zone outside the auditorium. Domino’s plus water, easy logistics (except the driver was at the wrong building entrance initially), about $250 total. Lots of good feedback from students, fielded some follow up questions. Doing a separate lunch lets us manage the cost better. If we did boxed lunches we would have to pay the $8 per box and guess how many would attend. Pizza is cheaper and more flexible if the attendee count varies. We ordered 30, had 9 or 10 left over.
From there we tried to get them to head over to SQLSaturday for the 12-pm session by Rick Heiges on Resumes and LinkedIn. Rick came by mid morning so we could point him out and do a plus for his session. I didn’t get a final count of students that did attend, but it seemed like it was 20 or a few more. Would have liked to measure that better, think about how to do so next year.
Overall, this was our best year yet in terms of numbers and implementation. I tried to watch most of it. Lots of students taking notes (students, right?), some good questions, no one dozing. All good signs. I wonder if we engage them enough. How many have ever talked one on one (or close to that) to someone actually in the business? I wonder if we shouldn’t try more of an Open Space model for at least part of it, make sure every attendee gets a few minutes of interaction. The other part is that for us, it’s a parallel effort with SQLSaturday and that is overhead that hurts at times. I wish we could move this to a different day but still find a way to get them to come to SQLSaturday. How to do that? Don’t know.
Sometime in the next week or two we’ll meet with our contacts at the college to get their feedback and start the early planning for next year.