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Making the Transition from Student to Employee in Silicon Valley                   NAFSA Region XII Conference October 25,...
o Talk to people you know who work for the company – they are the best resource         to find out what the work culture,...
   Be aware that willingness on the part of the recruiter to negotiate salary and/or benefit       packages may be limite...
and resolving the issue. It shows your eagerness to learn and better than stumbling       around for days, getting frustra...
   Academia Think vs. Business Think: Communication, Expectations and Pitfalls as       students adapt to the business cu...
Open and frank discussion during the interview, with a background realization thatthis is a quintessentially American phen...
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Transition from student to employee in silicon valley handout


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Transition from student to employee in silicon valley handout

  1. 1. Making the Transition from Student to Employee in Silicon Valley NAFSA Region XII Conference October 25, 2012Chair: Lisa Harris - Palo Alto University Presenters: Marjory Gooding – California Institute ofTechnology, Kathy Grzegorek – Stone &Grzegorek LLP, Rachel Haas – Alcatel-Lucent IP DivisionADVICE FOR STUDENTSQ1: How can students best prepare for the interview?  Prepare. There are many websites which have popular interview questions. Some that were mentioned –,, or just google questions that are typical for the job being interviewed. For Engineering specific positions prepare by solving puzzles, reviewing course materials or other books (Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions and Solutions).  If you are interviewing for Engineering positions you should be prepared to spend the majority of the interview solving coding problems on a white board. You will want to get the basics right so study/review algorithms and data structures (recommended Introduction to Algorithms)  Ask around with classmates to find out what questions they have been asked.  Take advantage of “mock interviews”. Some companies offer these when they attend University events.  Be ready to talk about how your background fulfills the specific requirements of the job. o Be well versed in your resume. If you have written it on your resume, you should be ready to prove your understanding of it. This is more than just memorizing definitions. Having knowledge is important but you won’t get the job unless you can demonstrate an understanding of that knowledge. DO NOT lie on your resume or think you can BS your interviewer. They will know and you will not move onto the next step in the processes. It’s better to admit you don’t have the answer, ask questions, and show eagerness to learn. o Don’t just jump to answering an interview question. Pause, think (or pretend to think) about the answer before you begin speaking. Try to give specific, direct concise answers whenever possible. o Give eye contact. This will help you come off as confident.  Find out as much as you can about the “culture” of the company. For example, is this a small start-up company where employees are expected to “wear many hats” or is it a company where roles are well-defined? You may or may not like/fit in one or the other situation.
  2. 2. o Talk to people you know who work for the company – they are the best resource to find out what the work culture, the job, and team are actually like. Find out who you will interview with and learn about them – send a contact request for Linkedin and review their profile. Get acquainted with the latest technologies and tools used by companies in your industries. Keep updated on what’s happening in the industry, recent accomplishments of the company or group you’re interviewing with, and know the job market. As with so many other things in U.S. culture, the seeming informality masks a seriously important hierarchy. Learn about that hierarchy before you walk into the interview. Have 2-3 substantive questions about the position. The interviewer will ask you at the end if you have questions. (Examples: “Will this position have the opportunity to work on xyz?” “I have some ideas about ABC that flows from xyz. Would that be possible?” Have a couple of procedural questions ready. (Examples: “What are the next steps in the interview process?” “What do you estimate is a reasonable start date?”Immigration Issues Hold off on the discussion about immigration until the second interview, if there is one. Don’t burden the recruiter with detailed questions about immigration. That person probably doesn’t know much about those details. Many employers will pay immigration fees or part of the fees In certain categories, employer is required to pay legal and government filing fees (such as H-1B) If you know and can articulate that the whole package (H + green card) is likely to be around $15,000, you are in a much stronger position in an interview than if they think the price is $100,000 Some companies understand immigration issues and have handled visas before, some companies have not SALARY Be aware that it is not appropriate to start talking about salary or negotiation of salary until the second interview. Be aware that it may not be possible to negotiate a different salary than the one that is offered. This is particularly true in an academic setting or in a start-up situation.
  3. 3.  Be aware that willingness on the part of the recruiter to negotiate salary and/or benefit packages may be limited. It’s ok to ask “Is there a salary range?”  Do not discuss your salary with coworkers. This is unprofessional and frowned on.Q2: How can students best prepare for their first year of employment?  Before you accept a position, decide if it’s one you see yourself working at for a minimum 2-3 years. Your company will invest a substantial amount of time training you for the position and it may take a minimum of a year for you to fully ramp up. It also doesn’t look good on your resume to have a number of 1-1 ½ year long jobs.  Have your OPT EAD and passport in-hand when you show up for the first day of work. You won’t need any of this after the first day, but it’s important to have it that first day. It is recommended to confirm receipt of your EAD with your HR contact and/or manager. Processing is slow and these are sent via regular mail, so sometimes an employee’s start date will need to be pushed out.  Attend the orientations. No one is going to take the time to explain details if you’ve skipped the orientation.  Show up on time. Americans are casual about the time that a party starts; they are not casual about what time the work day starts. This may soften over time, but stick to the 8-5 schedule for starters. – Ask HR or your manager regarding hours, dress code.  Many engineering roles/tech companies work non-traditional work hours. Be prepared to work late and some weekends. There is a lot to learn and you want to show enthusiasm for learning new things. It is also important to get off on a good start and set the bar high – by meeting deadlines.  Dress fairly formally on the first day. You can always take off the suit jacket if it seems inappropriate.  It’s likely you will join with a large batch of new hires. This is a great opportunity to make friends with people who are in the same situation as you.  Talk with your fellow workers about the new job. Ask them about their jobs. Ask people out for coffee or lunch. Most people will be welcoming, but realize that making friends and learning about your new job is something you have to work on.  Working on teams is taken to a new level. Instead of working with just 2 or 3 people on a project you may work with various teams (with employees located around the US or even outside of North America).  Ask questions. This has been repeated by every new grad I questioned. Worrying about what people think or might consider “stupid questions” is worse than just asking
  4. 4. and resolving the issue. It shows your eagerness to learn and better than stumbling around for days, getting frustrated until someone notices nothing is getting done.  Being comfortable speaking in English in the workplace is important. There will likely be many cultures represented in the workplace, so falling to your native tongue can come across as rude. There is also more emphasis on clear communication in general. Not all conversations will be in person or even over the phone. Concise, detailed communication is important since some conversations may be entirely over email or corporate communicator.  Develop a short three sentence answer to “Where are you from?” You can go into detail if the person asks follow-up questions. Be aware that Americans don’t know much about other countries. Be gentle around this—you can help in the long run by talking about your home country when the time is right.  Develop a short three sentence answer to “Where did you go to school? What did you major in?” Be aware that many Americans develop strong loyalties to their universities, particularly if the university has a football team.  Learn something about American football and/or baseball. You don’t have to like it, but you do need to know something about itWhat cultural adaptations do students/managers need to make during that important firstyear?  Formality/Informality- There are expectations about communication in the workplace on both sides. An American boss might be surprised at the level of formality that a new international employee brings to the workplace. Conversely, the new international employee might be surprised at the level of informality in the American workplace.  Deference / ‘lack of initiative’- An American boss might be puzzled with what could be mistaken for a lack of initiative from a new international employee. This is just a matter of expectations on either side. Communication cures it. What looks like a lack of initiative is deference. That may be entirely new to an American boss who is accustomed to dealing with American students.  Seniority -- A new international employee may not understand that seniority doesn’t mean as much in the American work place as it means in the work place at home. That can be shocking.  Level of Openness/self-disclosure -- Levels of self-disclosure vary from person to person and from culture to culture and by status in the workplace. The new international employee very much wants to fit in. Negotiating those differences is not simple.
  5. 5.  Academia Think vs. Business Think: Communication, Expectations and Pitfalls as students adapt to the business culture: Example 1: Ph.D. students are trained to investigate a seriously small topic in a seriously deep way. They are not trained to move quickly from one project to the next which is a highly needed skill that the tech world requires. What happens when these collide? Example 2: People from the academic world actually think about different types of things than do business people. (Example: are we focusing on number theory or are we focusing on getting our product to market before our competition does?)ADVICE FOR HR RECRUITERS Interviews  Internationals may not know all the protocols of interviewing in the US—make allowances for cultural differences but focus on the salient skill sets.  Internationals don’t know when to ask about immigration sponsorship—give them the info early so that it doesn’t interfere with the substance of the interview  Open and frank discussions during the interview, with a background realization that this is a quintessentially American approach.  An understanding that for some cultures, conversation is an art and friendly discussion on general topics must precede “getting down to business.”  Development of some level of expertise in immigration and export control, even if it is only the willingness to take questions back to the boss for answers. Other attractive aspects  Evenhandedness in salary and working conditions  Many international students are from group-identified cultures. A company that is based on a team approach will resonate.  Understanding about cultural differences/calendars/holidays/vacation needs  Great working conditions, exciting projects, flexibility  Great resources (computers, networking, conferences, support for presentations)What makes international students marketable and attractive to businesses in the techsector?
  6. 6. Open and frank discussion during the interview, with a background realization thatthis is a quintessentially American phenomenon  Amazing technical skills  Willingness to be part of a team  Ability to think outside the technical and cultural boxes Flexibility, adaptability - Internationals are good at adapting to a new work setting. They generally have more practice than American recruits. Being bi-cultural is an extraordinary advantage that may not show up on a resume  Maturity  A less “entitled” approach to the workplaceKathleen GrzegorekStone & Grzegorek LLP Marjory GoodingTel: (213) 627-8997 Director | International OfficesFax: (213) 627-8998 California Institute of Jet Propulsion Laboratory TEL 626.395.2188 | FAX 626.795.0520Lisa Harris Rachel HaasAssociate Director HR Business PartnerOffice of Student Services Alcatel-Lucent, IP DivisionPalo Alto University Main Office: Email: Rachel.haas@alcatel-lucent.comTEL: 650-433-3851 I FAX: 650-433-3338 TEL 626.395.2188 | FAX 626.795.0520