On a Wednesday afternoon, in a handful of rooms along the second-floor corridor of Albert Dorman Honors College, NJIT students and alumni networked, albeit not in person. The five participating alumni appeared on screen via Webex from the West Coast for the college’s Virtual Silicon Valley Networking event, interacting with and answering questions from small groups of students that rotated from room to room every 15 minutes.

Alumni Maria Karim ’05 Honors, a manager at Topcon (also formerly of Intel); Salman Naqvi ’10 Honors, a display exploration engineer with Apple; Phong Pham ’10 Honors, a mechatronics and controls engineer for Tesla; Jason Peña ’05, a program manager at Google; and Arun Sitaraman ’86 ’89, director of managed data services for IoT at SAP, all shared their expertise and insight to provide Honors College students with a helpful learning experience.

“It was a perfect opportunity to share my story, how an education from NJIT propelled my career. I could remember as a student myself wanting validation that I was doing the right thing. The networking event was able to provide the students with such validation and address some of their concerns,” remarked Karim, who earned a bachelor’s in computer engineering with a minor in applied mathematics, and now works at Topcon to refine and develop new technologies for geolocation and technical infrastructure. “One tip I provided to them was to look at themselves as a brand. Everything they post in social media should represent that brand. It's a road that leads to our best career and leadership selves.”

Maria Karim ’05 Honors shares her career experience with Dorman Scholars.

Pham, an electrical engineering and mechanical engineering alumnus, who for Tesla coordinates engineering teams that measure feedback from automobile and software systems to optimize performance, noted, “Seeing the students asking many questions and being excited to learn more about the future makes me feel proud of the students. As an alumni currently working in the Bay Area, I'd like to share my experiences [with] the students as previous NJIT mentors had shared with me. I hope that the torch is passed and it helps the students to be more confident in their future steps.”

Feedback from the students about the event was equally positive. Shikha Shah, a computer science senior and secretary of the Women in Computing Society at NJIT, was especially eager to speak with Peña after landing an interview with Google.

“I appreciated the honest answers and he got me in the right mindset of what to expect in the interview process. He gave me great study tips and websites to look over before the interview,” said Shah, who has since received multiple job offers from Fortune 500 companies. “All the speakers were very influential and gave incredible advice to help us move in the right direction for the next step in our life.

“I felt very empowered by their journey and loved how they are still in contact with their alma mater,” she added.

Robert Norton, too, enjoyed the networking event. The computer engineering senior commented, “I thought it was a great opportunity to talk with people who have decided to move from the East Coast and begin working as engineers of some sort on the West Coast.”