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Networking tips from NET/WORK: How these Baltimore technologists work the room

We caught up with six attendees about navigating jobs, skills and hiring on Wednesday night at Technical.ly's annual Baltimore jobs event.

Inside NET/WORK 2020. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Just as the number of tech roles is expanding across industries, so, too, are the entry points into careers.

So it was fitting that on Wednesday at The Assembly Room at NET/WORK Baltimore 2020 we met folks from mid-career software developers to coding bootcamp students. They had the option of introducing themselves to local startups, organizations that could help up-level skills, and growth companies seeking talent to help clients push projects forward.

Technical.ly’s annual job fair drew 150 attendees and 20 companies. There were headshots, resume reviews and plenty of swag.

David Cantor, a computer science teacher at Baltimore city’s Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, was at NET/WORK checking out the kinds of skills and companies that could later present opportunities for his students. He was intrigued at needs for Java and C++, as well as soft skills.

If he were to talk to his students about attending a networking event, he said he would mention the things that one would need to know if they’re never been to such an event before: Wear proper attire. Smile and make eye contact. And make sure to take advantage of the event’s resume review station and get a new headshot, as well as info about upskilling from IT training nonprofit NPower and coding bootcamp The Flatiron School, both of which had tables.

A key, Cantor said, is to approach the interactions from a place of finding out what’s available: Students would attend “to learn about what people are looking for,” he said.

It’s also important to come in ready. Carmen Jackman is getting her Masters of Professional Studies in UX design from MICA. She said she got music in the car going beforehand that prepared her to be engaged. When she got to the event, she said she liked that it was a more relaxed vibe.

Carmen Jackman wants to combine UX and history. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Jackman got interested in UX after designing a webpage with reference resources. As for what’s next, she said she’s interested in applying design skills to make history more accessible. It combines both her undergraduate and graduate studies.

“I want to stay in the Baltimore area, so I want to see what Baltimore has to offer in the tech sector,” she said.

Alex Zook came to the event with a group from the first cohort of the Coding Boot Camp at Johns Hopkins Engineering, a full-stack coding bootcamp that launched recently.

“Having been in Baltimore for a few years, you start to see a lot of potential,” Zook said. “It’s a developing city, and you want to be a part of that, and one area that there’s a lot of potential growth is tech.”

He said programming is quickly becoming a passion, so he was on the lookout for opportunities at the event. When it comes to approaching folks who are hiring, he said it’s important to “be true to yourself.”

“It’s easy when you’re in that position, you feel like you have the lower hand, especially when you want a job,” he said. “At the end of the day you want to find that right fit and it has to be the right fit for you. By being yourself and being honest throughout the process, you’re most likely to have the best outcome.”

In line for a headshot, Fairaz Raja came to the event to learn about the cybersecurity companies in the area — and as it turns out, one was located around the corner from his house.

Raja picked up skills via local cybersecurity training, and is interested in penetration testing. He stressed the importance of being “inquisitive” with companies, saying it’s important to show interest in what the company does.

Welcome to NET/WORK Baltimore 2020. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Still, the process may not always have positive feedback. That’s OK, said Sarah Levin, who is in higher education and attended the event to check out where tech and education meet. With something like a resume review, it’s best to be ready.

“You’re going to hear some stuff you don’t want to hear, so be prepared,” she said. “That’s just one opinion and there are thousands out there. You have to realize the different backgrounds people have and where their opinions are coming from.”

After all, networking is hard work, and there’s room for growth.

“But don’t be discouraged about coming to networking events,” she said. “You meet a lot of different people from lots of different industries,” she said.

We first met Wilbert Pierce at the event two years ago. As happy hour got rolling, he told us he’s now happily employed working in design and additive manufacturing at Longeviti Neuro Solutions, a Cockeysville-based company which recently said it will be taking space at City Garage’s Launchport in Port Covington. So what’s a networking strategy that’s helped him?

“Be confident and be happy,” said Pierce, who we can confirm espoused those qualities as he was glad to be interviewed. “People really resonate off of other people’s energy. … You never know who you’re going to meet.”

That played out for Pierce, as he met someone at the event who designs custom pool cues.

“I didn’t know that was a field, but we were able to relate because I do 3D design,” he said. “It lined up.”


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