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Broad College works to maintain employment pipeline to Amazon and Seattle’s New Economy scene

By Omar Sofradzija

Many of us think about Amazon for all sorts of goods and services, from books and bread to TVs and tires. At the Broad College, students often think about Amazon as a place for great career opportunities.

From left to right, Broad College Recruiting Coordinator Penni Vandecar and Director of Career Management Marla McGraw pose outside of an Amazon fulfillment facility in the Seattle area recently. Photo courtesy Marla McGraw.
From left to right, Broad College Recruiting Coordinator Penni Vandecar and Director of Career Management Marla McGraw pose outside of an Amazon fulfillment facility in the Seattle area recently. Photo courtesy Marla McGraw.

The giant online retailer has been a magnet for Broad College alumni in recent years, and college career services professionals followed their path to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters earlier this summer. There, they networked with company leaders and expanded relationships to other New Economy players in the Pacific Northwest, from small start-ups to Microsoft.

Amazon invited Michigan State to its first MBA Career Services School Summit “because they want to hire our talented MBA students,” said Marla McGraw, director of career management and employer relations for Lear Career Services and Graduate Career Management, who made the trip with recruiting coordinator Penni Vandecar. Last year, about two dozen undergrads and four MBA graduates accepted jobs there, according to college records.

“Amazon has consistently been one of our top employers the last several years,” said Tony Mara, the Lear Center’s senior associate director.

MSU, and specifically the Broad College, was one of about one dozen schools invited to the summit. “They invited career services teams from  their key schools,” McGraw said, to “ help us learn about the different MBA roles that they have available, learn more about their new interview timeline and process, and to hear from leadership about what they look for in candidates. These are all important things that students should know prior to interviewing (that would) help them during the candidacy process.”

Marla McGraw, Broad College director of career management and employer relations, poses for a photo at the Amazon Spheres, a hybrid plant conservatory/employee lounge/work space on Amazon's Seattle campus containing around 40,000 plants from more than 30 countries.
Marla McGraw, Broad College director of career management and employer relations, poses for a photo at the Amazon Spheres, a hybrid plant conservatory/employee lounge/work space on Amazon’s Seattle campus containing around 40,000 plants from more than 30 countries. Photo courtesy Marla McGraw

The invite from Amazon is “really significant,” McGraw said. “Our students are interested in the tech space. There are a lot of really great careers and opportunities and experiences students can get. In addition, Seattle is a place where students might be interested in living. It has a great quality of life, many resources, and lots of things to do outside of work. Our relationship with them is important, which is why we spent the time to go out there.”

The invite says something about the Broad College, too. “Being invited to this is something that indicates, ‘We really like the quality of students that we see; we’re really excited about partnering with you; we want to make sure you have all of the necessary information to pass along because you’re a key partner of ours,’” McGraw said. “That in and of itself says that they like what they see.”

McGraw and Vandecar also stopped by the Seattle area headquarters of tech giant Microsoft, meeting with Broad College alums who work there in recruiting and human resources roles.

From left to right, Broad College Recruiting Coordinator Penni Vandecar, Director of Career Management Marla McGraw and Microsoft Recruiter of Talent Aquisitin Mike Maglio (MBA, '14) pose outside of Microsoft headquarters in the Seattle area recently. Photo courtesy Marla McGraw.
From left to right, Broad College Recruiting Coordinator Penni Vandecar, Director of Career Management Marla McGraw and Microsoft Recruiter of Talent Acquisition Mike Maglio (MBA, ’14) pose outside of Microsoft headquarters in the Seattle area recently. Photo courtesy Marla McGraw.

McGraw said discussions with Microsoft appeared “positive in that they’re interested in potentially having a presence (working with Broad College) and thinking of ways we can coordinate and make it more one-stop shopping for them so they’re not just coming for one degree population but coming for multiple degree populations; maybe even coming for engineering students at the same time,” McGraw said. “We’re planning follow-up discussions to establish a plan for this fall.”

Also on the agenda were a pair of Seattle area start-ups, including Wyze Cam Labs, co-founded by Broad College alum Dongsheng Song (MBA ’08). The company makes home detection cameras and apps sold by Amazon. “They are disrupting the market in that they’re a top seller on Amazon” by offering high-quality cameras at a fraction of the price of traditional home security detectors, McGraw said.

From left to right, Broad College Director of Career Management Marla McGraw, Recruiting Coordinator Penni Vandecar and Dongsheng Song (MBA '08), COO and co-founder of Wyze Cams, pose at the company's Seattle area headquarters. Photo courtesy Marla McGraw.
From left to right, Broad College Director of Career Management Marla McGraw, Recruiting Coordinator Penni Vandecar and Dongsheng Song (MBA ’08), COO and co-founder of Wyze Cam, pose at the company’s Seattle area headquarters. Photo courtesy Marla McGraw.

“We talked a lot about what they’re looking to do,” McGraw said. “It was a fun visit, and it was exciting to see one of our terrific alums getting national press.”

New Engen – a digital marketing firm – is in growth mode, recently having hired a trio of Broad MBAs and assigned a Broad alum to open its New York City office. “They definitely want to come in the fall to recruit our MBAs,” McGraw said.

While in Seattle, McGraw and Vandecar also hosted an alumni event at their hotel that included a mix of alums and current Broad students interning in the Seattle area representing companies including Amazon, Boeing, and Liberty Mutual, among others. “It was an opportunity for us to build relationships,” she said.

Now, McGraw believes the Broad College has built upon its position to help students find meaningful, fulfilling careers.

“We have additional connections with companies for them (student job-seekers), so they have more opportunities. We have some recruiting intelligence to pass along: what it’s like to be a candidate for those organizations and what their process looks like. We have key connections for them to reach out to if students have questions,” McGraw said.


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