How I Became My Own Kind of Superstar
Monday, August 28, 2006
Posted by: Khadija Ejaz
Start a huge, foolish, project
It makes absolutely no
Difference what people
Think of you.
Hey, College Student, I'm like you.
Three years ago I had graduated with a BS in Computer Science and was as exhausted as could be. The economy had just taken a tumble for the worse (the cosmos has a sadistic sense of timing sometimes), and I found no sense in hovering around looking for a job I would never find, especially with my alien citizen status. Desperately seeking an edge over the faceless mass of the unemployed youth, I dove into graduate school bleeding verve and enthusiasm. Honest to goodness, it was a do or pack-your-bags-after-4-years-of-hard-work-and-leave-the-US-forever situation. I wanted to do everything right. Snarl!
The career guidance magazines suggested that joining a student organization would do wonders for my job hunt. But we didn't have an IT club on-campus. Well, there was the ACM but they weren't really active. There used to be a Management Information Systems student organization in the 1980s that had gone defunct as the department shifted focus to adapting their curriculum to the IT explosion that was occurring in the world. More recently, the department had a student organization specifically for its graduate students, but like Mt. Fuji, it had gone dormant. While inquiring about these state of events, my advisor, who was also the director of the graduate MIS program, suggested I speak to the department head who'd been talking about restarting the IT club.
So I humbly walked down the sanctimonious corridors towards the department head's office, feeling quite meek and uncertain. It was my first semester in graduate school, and I was still getting used to how dramatically different things were. As if that wasn't making me dizzy enough, here I was, making my way to the department head's office.
What if he thinks I'm stupid??
Surprise, surprise - the department head was quite human. Long story short, he got me in touch with a couple of other students that he thought would be interested in working towards the common goal of creating a new MIS student organization. At the same time, he emailed all the MIS students asking for volunteers.
We moved into the next semester, my second. A handful of undergraduate and graduate students gingerly showed up at the first couple of brainstorming sessions. Things were slow in those days as we took a while to get a handle on the situation. One of us had heard of the AITP, and so we decided to go on ahead and register ourselves as a student chapter. That was the easy part. I spent the rest of the semester thumb-wrestling with the university: creating a new account for our new organization, getting funds transferred from the old MIS organization's account to ours, getting access for a website and listserv, signing up for office space (with a 2 year wait). Almost took me an entire semester to get all of that taken care of. Viva la paperwork!
Right before the semester ended, we made it as an officially recognized student organization. The Oklahoma City professional chapter had decided to adopt us, and the summer break seemed to come upon us just in the nick of time. We needed a breather.
Things suddenly started tumbling into place my third semester. I had been handling PR and the website the previous semester, but after the election, I became Madam President. Our committee saw new blood along with some folks from the old committee. And suddenly things clicked. Before you could say 'Robinson Crusoe', we were marketing ourselves to the IT community at campus events, posting flyers all over the university (except the elevators where we weren't allowed to), making announcements at MIS and CS classes either through an AITP committee member or through the professor. That year, we all ate, slept, and breathed the AITP. And had lots of pizza at meetings, pennilessly grinning through student frustrations.
Our goal was to unite the IT community at OSU, Stillwater, no matter the department. We wanted to aggressively market our students and help them network with professors and recruiters. Too long had we sat in classes and not got to know each other or the professor.
No idea was too big or small. We went for field trips to places such as Walmart ISD in Bentonville, Arkansas, and Statsoft in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We hosted information sessions for recruiters. We even made plans for the future to purchase post-its and other stationary with our logo on it.
We had major plans for the website, and my last semester, I found myself in a class with a couple of other AITP committee members. For our project management class project, we decided to enhance our rudimentary .NET website. Talk about your killing two birds with one stone! We got our class work taken care of and whipped up a killer website for our IT club wherein members could log in and view contact information of recruiters that we'd been networking with over the past year (career fairs and otherwise). They could even view information of current members and alumni. Committee members could add/edit/view/delete all of this information. Future plans consisted of features such as allowing members to upload their resume to the website for recruiters to browse through, and we already had a paper-and-binder version of that.
At the end of my fourth and last semester, I was President of a tight and bright-eyed IT community. Not long ago I had been plagued with insecurity, a shaky graduate with a BS degree. Two years later, the insecurity had been replaced with uber-(but not over-) confidence. I had connected everything in my life - my class work, my chattiness, my assistantship at the Career Services office, and that certainty obliterated any self-doubt that had made its way into my mind over the past few years. And I know it showed while interviewing with prospective employers. Two months before graduating, I received a job offer from Deloitte Consulting LLP in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and that's where I am today. A few months after I began working, I functioned as the primary contact for the new folks at my old student chapter for them to visit my workplace. That got my company a lot of attention on-campus which helped our recruiting process immensely. I even got to go back to my university with the recruiting team for career fairs and interviews.
I was invited back by the old chapter for their annual dinner a few months ago, and I learned that the little baby chapter we had nurtured and fought for had suddenly sprouted wings and was the largest in the region and the second largest in the nation. It was idiotic how sentimental I got. The post-its and pens with our logo on it was what broke the camel's back.
And now I'm working on kick-starting the Tulsa professional chapter.
I'm not shaky anymore.
Those career guidance magazines were right.
Hey College Student, this could be you.