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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, June 16, 2024

Tufts seniors grapple with tech turbulence

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The tech sector exploded with growth during 2020 and 2021. Big tech added thousands of employees after the switch to remote work. However, as the market has started to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, layoffs and rescinded offers are plaguing the industry, and the job search process is getting tougher for aspiring tech workers at Tufts.

Computer science is on the rise at Tufts; more and more students are studying coding with hopes to work at prestigious companies such as Alphabet or Meta post-graduation. Robin Kahan, the associate director of engineering career services, elaborated on this trend in an email to the Tufts Daily.

“We have seen an increase in students going into tech – not only an increase in the number majoring in Computer Science, but students in other majors like Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Engineering Psych, Electrical, and Computer Engineering, and even Applied Math and Physics have been hired by tech companies,” Kahan wrote.

 However, tech jobs are not as readily available as they once were, as senior Ellis Brown has seen first hand. Brown is a computer science major who will be starting a job at Google in September. Although his job search was successful, he has seen how competitive the market has been this year.

“There are a lot of people who I would assume would have gotten a job last year, that are unable to find the internships, either at the prestige or pay that they were looking for, or just [not] able to find any opportunities,” Brown said.

According to Brown, some big tech companies have shut down almost all of their hiring this year.

“[Microsoft] rejected every single new grad who was not an intern,” Brown said. “They just said, ‘We are not hiring anyone except for previous interns. There’s no interviews, nothing. We’re not even considering anyone else.’”

The interview process for computer science jobs has always been long and arduous, but this year’s competitiveness made it even more time-consuming. Austen Money is a fourth-year dual-degree student (graduating in 2024) majoring in computer science and studio art. They are currently looking for internships for next summer and can personally attest to the difficulty of the process.

“It seems like a lot of it is a numbers game,” Money said. “You’re just sending out as many applications, tuning up your resume, doing online assessments, which take a lot of time out of your day, and so it’s hard to make time for that during the semester.” 

For international students, there is another layer of complication: They rely on companies willing to sponsor them in order to remain in the United States. Yong Quan Tan, a senior international student and computer science major, is interviewing with the company he interned for last summer; however, he is still aware of the challenges others in his position have faced.

“I was very fortunate because the company that I’m interviewing for right now, they do care a lot about diversity, … and they’re open to hiring internationals,” Tan said. “But, I think without that opportunity … having to find somebody that would sponsor an international applicant, I think that's definitely additional stress because I think that really filters out a lot of companies.”

Tufts computer science students have many tools to tackle the challenges they are facing. Brown, Money and Tan all benefited from Tufts resources in their job search. Money was even able to get funding from Tufts while interning for a job they found through the Tufts community.

“I did my first internship last summer … at a local healthcare tech startup, which was nice,” Money said. “I was doing basically an independent project for most of the summer, and I was getting paid through Tufts because it was an unpaid position.”

Money said they found this role through Piazza, an online forum primarily used by computer science courses for its Q&A functionality, which lends itself well to the project-based learning common to many courses in the department.

“There's this big forum board for [computer science] students [on] Piazza,” Money said. “There’s a job board on there as well. The person who founded the startup graduated from Tufts, so they knew about the board. They contacted one of the professors who then posted it to the job board.”

Tan also said the job board helped him. Tufts students have a strong network of support that doesn’t come directly from the institution. Brown got his first internship at Apple through a connection he made at Tufts.

“By being a Tufts student, I was able to network with other Tufts alums and talk to people and professors at the school in order to make connections that allowed me to meet my first job and get my first referral,” Brown said.

Networking is very important to find a job in tech today. Kahan emphasized the importance of making connections early.

“Students with career interests in tech should start early by networking with professionals in the industry, especially Tufts alumni,” Kahan wrote. 

While computer science students may be facing challenges today, they have good reason to be optimistic about the future. Jobs at Amazon and Facebook may be the most prestigious, but there are many more companies that need coders. 

Tommy Law is a director of security and information technology at Botkeeper and is involved with the hiring process. He previously worked at HubSpot, a company that has hired interns from Tufts in the past. He is optimistic about the future of tech.

“The coding will not go away. Oh, unless ChatGPT takes over the world. But we still need humans in the middle to do coding, it still has to be done,” Law said. 

Sue Atkins, associate director of employer relations, is encouraging students to broaden the scope of their job search.

“Layoffs in big tech companies have reminded students to expand their viewpoints. Most people in the world work in small to medium-sized companies, so students need to think about opportunities in companies they have not yet heard of or in industries other than tech. Positions like software engineer, web developer, and cybersecurity analyst can be found in other fields, too!” Atkins wrote.

Brown also believes that demand outside the tech sector will remain strong.

“I don't think that it’s tech jobs that are going to be affected as much, rather than the tech sector. So if tech is going down, you can still find a job,” Brown said. “Say you want to work as a software developer for Home Depot, they've got important software catalogs to run, they've got important websites. … You can still get a job at Home Depot, probably making the same amount. And that same amount will probably be a decently paying job. It’s just going to be harder to get those tech jobs.” 

While it might seem hard for new graduates now, Law still believes they will remain important to tech companies.

“There's only so much I can bring to the table without fresh ideas from a fresh grad. An example is the interns that are now part-time or an employee here at my current company. I give them an idea, but I want to hear what their ideas are to build it better,” Law said.

Tech companies need fresh ideas and new faces; the future of the industry is still bright. Innovations like ChatGPT promise a new wave of growth and change, and Tufts graduates will help bring in the next wave of progress.