Making Connections: Industry Professionals and Job Seekers Share their Stories

Telephones lay on a table with their cords.


2U, Inc. is the parent company of edX.

Under “normal” circumstances, the job hunt can be a trying process. Add in a global pandemic, social and political unrest, and a whole lot of uncertainty – and now you have a sizable challenge. 

Although each of these conditions has a unique set of practical solutions, they all share one mutual remedy: connection.

At 2U, Inc., we want to help you gather the tools and resources needed to make human connections during trying times, especially when it comes to finding a suitable career.

Our network of over 275 employer partners, which includes top names like Google and Salesforce, spans a variety of industries. In 2021, we secured 446 offers for 2U, Inc. program learners – and our quarterly Career Connections event had a big impact on those numbers.

Career Connections is a job fair, hosted by 2U, Inc., where job seekers and industry professionals are able to virtually connect. Attendees can network with industry professionals, and receive career advice and insights through a speaker series – all from the comfort and safety of their own environments.

At our December 2021 event, we hosted over 500 program participants and alumni, and 71 employer representatives. Job seekers were given the tools to succeed through our Speaker Sessions on Making a Career Pivot, Telling your Story, and Maintaining Positivity in a Job Search.

For many, attending this event made their “new normal” a little brighter.

Want proof? Below, we share stories of recent Career Connections attendees: industry professionals, Jessica Lucas and Jack McNicholas, and job seekers, Maria Gutierrez and Cameron Headlee.

If we have already convinced you, look out for our next quarterly event on the Career Engagement Network.

Industry Professionals

About the Company: “Risk3sixty is a scaling cybersecurity consulting firm, focused on helping our high-growth tech clients build their information security infrastructure,” Lucas says.

Risk3sixty hired four candidates through the Career Connections event: an ISO 27001 Analyst, an ISO 27001 Senior Analyst, an Automation Engineer, and a PCI Analyst.

“When the company was established in 2016, the co-founders knew that to build a great business, they needed a strong culture. Our CEO, Christian Hyatt, put it best, ‘Culture is a competitive advantage; While most things are fleeting, culture is our cornerstone.’” Below, Lucas discusses her background, what led her to Career Connections, and job seeking advice in her own words.

Can you tell us about your background?

I spent the first 10 years of my professional career in the military. I deployed, went into the field with Soldiers, and took care of Soldiers and their families. I loved my job, but I knew my life was not in harmony. 

I knew I wanted to make a career change and further my education, to have a better understanding of the private sector. While attending grad school, I juggled a full-time job and parenthood. Then, the year I graduated; the pandemic happened. My transition became a crucible moment for me, and one of the most humbling journeys.

What led you to attend Career Connections?

It was through a recent hire that I became connected with 2U, Inc. This person did not come from a consulting or auditing firm, but was what we call “a missionary” – someone who believes in Risk3sixty’s mission and embodies our five core values. Someone who would thrive, work, and stick around with the company for five-plus years. The hire came in as an entry-level analyst and within two months is already assisting with client walkthroughs.

I understand that leaving a job or career behind to find something more fulfilling can be a bit daunting, which drew me more to 2U, Inc. It [Career Connections] not only gives me the opportunity to identify future strange renegades[1], but also gives me an opportunity to connect, share my knowledge, and support career changers.

[1] Strange Renegades are A-Players that are in the top 10% of the talent pool and fit with our business strategy and culture. These individuals bring their authentic selves and unique talents, personalities, and strengths – and together we can create an inimitable brand.

What would you change about the event?

Honestly, nothing.

I have attended multiple virtual job fairs and, by far, 2U, Inc. organizes and executes the best fairs; ones that give me the opportunity to connect with a variety of talented candidates across the U.S. Through their [2U, Inc.’s] innovative and collaborative platform, candidates could join my room, scan my profile, ask questions about the firm or the industry, and connect with me outside the fair.

What is Risk3sixty looking for in candidates?

We have learned in the past two-plus years that the business world is more dynamic today than ever before, with an accelerating pace of new technologies, increasing competition, and changing regulatory requirements. Consequently, the demand for talent is outstripping the supply (The Great Resignation or Reshuffle). I have learned through mentorship from Risk3sixty co-founders, Christian and CW, and talent management experience in the military, that effective talent acquisition starts with a sound talent strategy that aligns with our business strategy, to ensure that we have talented employees and leaders who can make those plans a reality. 

Because culture is so important to us, we are committed to building our talent to sustain a rich internal pipeline. The President of Services, CW, always says, “hire for character, train for skill.” We care about finding people whose personal values are in sync with the values of the company. As a result, we believe that character counts more than credentials. As long as you have the hunger, humility, and ambition, we will invest in your professional development and growth; this includes sending you to training programs and conferences, and paying for necessary certifications.

Any advice for job seekers?

Be authentic and own your unique story – [Ask yourself] What is your motivation behind the change and why should you be seen as a missionary instead of a mercenary?  

Be prepared – Research the firm and the career opportunities. Have a clear understanding that you have what it takes to break into the new field. 

Be positive and patient – It’s easy to get disheartened, but keep on connecting, messaging, developing, and learning. I wish we could hire five entry-level candidates at a time, but [the] reality is that it takes a long time and cash to build internal capability to train and develop.

Don’t rush to take a job for the sake of taking a job. Make sure the company aligns with where you want to go and where you want to be.

About the Company: Infosys is a global leader in next-generation digital services and consulting.

Infosys hired one candidate through the Career Connections event: a member of its Associate Technical Team.

“Since joining Infosys last year, I have had the opportunity to speak with candidates [at Career Connections] who are eager to be in a learning- and team-based environment. In these opportunities I have found candidates who were interested, not only in the company itself, but [in] our mission to help bring technical innovation to companies all over the world.” Below, McNicholas dives into his background, what his company is looking for in candidates, and meaningful connections he made at Career Connections in his own words.

Can you tell us about your background?

Prior to last year, I was working in the realm of corporate staffing; putting teams together for companies to help them achieve their highest level of efficiency in talent acquisition.

What led you to attend Career Connections?

Since joining the campus team as a representative, I have been able to make a connection with 2U, Inc. I was able to attend a few events since my arrival, and have made connections with many great candidates.

What impressed you most about the job seekers at Career Connections?

What impresses me most about these candidates is their willingness to learn and hone in on the craft of programming languages, not only in the bootcamps, but in their own personal time. It is impressive when people put a lot of time and effort into something they love. That truly translates into people who succeed with us [Infosys] as we do have training in place, and many candidates are excited to have the opportunity to learn more.

Describe any meaningful connections you made during the event.

It would be hard to narrow down, as I have met so many great people through these events.

When I started at Infosys I met a candidate who was interested in software development and I let him know about our training that would be supportive of his bootcamp certificate. I assured him [that] he could scale up to the training.

Today he has joined [Infosys] and completed training. He is contributing on our Associate Technical Team, and working in software development.

He was the first candidate I took through the full-cycle process, as I had just started fully recruiting. That was a special thing to provide someone who was making a career change and did not think they could achieve this just yet. If you are willing to work and learn the platform we provide, you can always be successful!

Job Seekers

Can you tell us about your background and what led you to Career Connections?

After graduating high school, I was searching for a career I would love and have a passion for. While searching for my purpose, I worked to gain experience and knowledge of what I would be happy doing every day. 

After a few years of working in positions that had little vertical growth opportunities, I found coding – thanks to my brother, who had attended a different boot camp. It was then that I realized the endless amount of opportunities that are provided in the [coding] career field and enrolled in my boot camp. 

Turns out I loved it! Shortly after graduating, Career Connections was announced, and I immediately signed up.

One new thing that I learned about at the event was BootUp, a relatively new company that has a website specifically for companies that would like to hire boot camp graduates. It’s hard to find entry-level positions when competing with students that have college degrees and previous internships, but BootUp aids in the search for positions that are more open to boot camp students.

Describe any meaningful connections you made during the event.

A meaningful connection I made during Career Connections was with Matthew Liu, who is the Chief of Staff at BootUp. Not only did Matthew make us aware of the wonderful application that BootUp has built, but [he] also had some great tips for my resume regarding formatting for the Application Tracking System scanner. 

Matthew also announced a wonderful opportunity at JP Morgan Chase with their Early Career Software Development program. After the event, Matthew has been helpful in [answering] questions I have on LinkedIn and the BootUp website.

What would you say to someone on the fence about attending the next Career Connections?

If someone was on the fence about attending Career Connections, I would tell them, “It cannot harm you, it can only make you more confident.” 

Before the event, I did not know what to expect conversation-wise and was pretty nervous. After joining the first table and having a pleasant conversation, I was much more relaxed! 

This event allows you to speak face-to-face with recruiters regarding their company’s current positions and allows you to tell them about yourself. 

Some advice I would give is to have your elevator pitch prepared; [this includes] your previous experience and how [that and your] level of education can translate to the role you are seeking or open to. Also, I would research each company you are interested in and prepare some questions. This will allow you to stand out to recruiters when they look back on the event.

Can you tell us about your background and what led you to Career Connections?

I’m what you would consider a business lawyer: I have studied business [and law] at some top institutions, most recently at Oxford’s Said Business School in the Women’s Development Leadership program. I made my connection to 2U, Inc. and Career Connections through one of the speakers from my program.

My job search has been pretty stable in the sense that I am always actively looking for new opportunities. 

I look for jobs in the financial and legal sectors that involve responsibilities and skills that I already have. That has proven to be a “kind of good” strategy, but I think I need a new one to find a position. That is why I was very interested in attending this event.

The speaker sessions were a good introduction to the mindsets of different employers; to see what they are looking for and what is to be expected or shown by potential candidates.

I think what surprised me was hearing that different places aren’t really looking for very different things [in the hiring process].

What I heard was, “Well, here it works this way, there it works that way, and at this particular employer it works this way.” This advice wasn’t something that I expected, however, with the speaker’s recruiting background, it was reassuring.

Describe any meaningful connections you made during the event.

I made a connection with the recruiter from JPMorgan Chase. 

I explained my background to him and asked if my expertise in law would lend itself well to the opportunity he had at hand, which was for data coding. He reassured me that, with my experience, the boot camp for data coding that he had in mind would consider me for training.

Following the lead of another candidate, I took the opportunity to connect with him on LinkedIn. This way, if he saw my name and resume on his desk, then he might remember me from Career Connections. Which would grant me the opportunity to go deeper and more in detail about my experience, and why I want to become part of the [data coding] program.

What would you say to someone on the fence about attending the next Career Connections?

If someone was not sure if this event would actually be helpful to them, I would say, “If you are looking for a job and everything you [have] tried thus far has not yielded what you want or what you are looking for in terms of location, in terms of title, or in terms of company, then you might find something at the event [Career Connections] that will help you learn and grow as a job seeker.” 

It is always helpful and always positive [to attend these events], in terms of what you can bring forward when you are actually interviewed. You could say, “Well I learned this at a Career Connections event,” and by making note of it to the recruiter, you might find out that they also have a connection to the event as well.

Looking to make connections yourself? To learn more about this event and others, visit the Events page.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

As a first-generation college student, Erika Gonzalez used her Master’s program as an opportunity to face her imposter syndrome head on.

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