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De-stressing recruiting

New Women in Computer Science program offers students support, mentorship

WiCS Career Pods

WiCS Career Pod members and computer science concentrators Nari Johnson, A.B. '21 (left) and Sara Kvaska, A.B. '21, search online for summer internships and job openings. (Photo provided by Sophia Sun/Harvard WiCS)

With nearly 20 percent of new college graduates moving back into their parents’ homes, according to a recent Pew research study, the pressure undergrads face to find the right job before Commencement is palpable.

Harvard Women in Computer Science (WiCS) has launched a new mentorship program to take some of the stress out of the recruiting process. Career Pods brings together several students with a mentor from the tech industry to create mini support networks, explained WiCS Career Director Sophia Sun, A.B. ’22, a computer science and economics concentrator.

Launched earlier this year, the program now includes 50 mentors and more than 100 mentees. Mentors are matched with mentees based on students’ areas of interest. The ability to ask questions of someone who is working in their desired field is a boon for students, and so is having a peer group for recruiting events, Sun said.

“At career fairs, for instance, a lot of students feel pressure to go in the first place, or they worry they’ll be left behind,” she said. “Then there is the pressure of the networking aspect, especially when it seems like every student is aiming for the same job, so it is a highly competitive environment if you’re on your own.”

Through in-person or remote meetings, mentees are encouraged to ask mentors for resume critiques and interview tips, or gather information about working in a particular role or for a specific company.

For sophomore Rose Hong, being part of a Career Pod has been a great opportunity to gain fresh perspectives on different career paths. Her pod has two mentors—one founded a startup while the other is a software engineer at Coursera.

“For me, joining a Career Pod was a great way to connect with a broader network of women in computer science beyond those at school,” she said. “Because these mentors are further in their career than I am, I hope to gain a more concrete understanding of my own career goals and take steps to meet them. Having mentors in the field also seemed like a great way for me to get advice on internship resources and discuss more current research and innovation happening in computer science.”

And since the pods are grouped by career interest, students often share tips with one another, or talk about specific job opportunities they’ve found that may be of interest to their peers, Sun said.

“The Career Pods are meant to be a source of encouragement, as well as help and advice,” she said. “When you are getting rejection after rejection, it is hard to remain confident and keep pursuing opportunities.”

Being part of a Career Pod has opened Catherine Kerner’s eyes to new job opportunities she hadn’t considered before. Her mentor has given her valuable advice on the pros and cons of academia versus industry, she said.

“In our first meeting, my mentor pointed out that one perk of a larger company is that you can often request to move to a different office location,” said Kerner, A.B. ’20, a computer science and philosophy concentrator. “Since I have always had interest in potentially working in a different country, I definitely put that down as something to remember.”

Moving forward, Sun hopes to expand the program by recruiting more mentors in biotechnology and academia. She also plans to create a set of guiding questions students can use to frame discussions about specific career fields.

To WiCS co-president Nari Johnson, who has enjoyed the support and encouragement from her own Career Pod, the program is a great step toward encouraging more diversity in computer science.

“For many students, especially those who are underrepresented in the tech industry, recruiting and exploring new career paths may sometimes be a stressful experience,” said Johnson, A.B. ’21, a computer science concentrator. “Career Pods was founded so that women considering technical careers can know they have an advocate they can always ask for help who is rooting for them all along the way.”


Current students interested in joining a Career Pod as a mentee can sign up here.

Those interested in serving as a Career Pod mentor can sign up here.

Topics: Computer Science, Diversity / Inclusion, Student Organizations

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