HR Recruiter Scouts Students to Take on the Country's Top Technical Challenges

April 2012
Jessica Yu
Jessica Yu

In the competition for colleges' best and brightest, recruiting talent for a not-for-profit company that works in the public interest can be a challenge.

"MITRE seeks out people with passion for engineering and technology, but the candidate pool shrinks further because for most positions, MITRE cannot sponsor workers with H1-B visas," says Jessica Yu, a senior human resources generalist who leads MITRE's Recruitment and College Intern and Co-op programs. MITRE manages federally funded research and development centers for the U.S. government, and so, with a few exceptions, MITRE employees must be U.S. citizens.

In addition, there's all the confusion about sporting goods. "Many students at job fairs confuse MITRE Corporation with Mitre Sports," the British soccer, rugby, and cricket brand. More frequently, the students don't know the MITRE Corporation at all, she says.

"Coming from a recruiting perspective, it's sometimes difficult to explain the MITRE Corporation to people who aren't familiar with it," she says. However, since joining MITRE in 2007, Yu has helped to build a recruiting program designed to attract top computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and other math and science talent to MITRE as entry-level and interns and co-operative education students. She is also actively involved in promoting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to help prepare MITRE's next generation of technical experts.

A Win-Win Situation

Last summer MITRE hosted more than 200 students as summer interns and co-op students, its largest class ever.

"Successful internships are all about finding the right match. Our interns and co-ops get to experiment with all this great technology and use it to address complex problems. They connect with something they really love and work on problems that are really important. They like the technical challenges."

(Video) Jessica Yu talks about MITRE's Recruitment.

Before MITRE hired Yu, each company business center had its own process for hiring interns and managing them while they were on the job. Today Yu, who is at the Bedford, Mass., campus, and her colleague Joy Haugen, at the McLean, Va., campus, work across the company developing a student program that works for everyone.

"One advantage of our program is that it encompasses high school to Ph.D. level students. Participants can interact with staff at different levels, studying lots of different things." They also work with employees at all professional levels in the MITRE organization.

She says many students prefer to lend their skills to a not-for-profit organization. "Here, they're going to help the government operate better, smarter, and more efficiently."

Creating an Internal Network

To help the students develop personal connections with other interns, Yu organized a program that includes networking events such as lab tours, workshops on topics including resume writing and job interview skills, and outside activities. For example, interns and co-ops at MITRE's two main campuses have had the opportunity to participate in a community service activity. In Bedford, students volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. In McLean, they volunteered at a swimming pool designed for clients with disabilities.

Yu also encourages programs that bridge the cultural gulf between experienced staff and employees just out of school. For young newcomers, the experience can be socially isolating, given that many employees have decades of employment with MITRE. With that in mind, she looks for ways that young employees can bring their ideas and fresh perspectives to MITRE. One outlet is through MITRE's Millennial Advisory board—a group of millennial generation employees who meet with CEO Al Grasso periodically to lend their perspective to the work that MITRE does. Yu facilitates the program, taking notes at the Bedford meetings and following up on actions that came out of the get-togethers. She also helps populate the group by reaching out to managers who have recent college graduates on their teams.

Many Paths Can Lead to MITRE

Yu entered college intending to pursue a journalism career. As a teenager in Ludlow, Mass., she wrote for a special weekly section in the Springfield Republican dedicated to area high schools and produced in large part by students. That opportunity propelled her into a part-time writing position on the sports desk. Her newspaper colleagues urged her to pursue a degree in something other than journalism so she would have a fallback career. Yu followed their advice and enrolled as a business major at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Since coming to MITRE, she has also had the opportunity to expand her knowledge and grow professionally. Yu is working toward a graduate degree at Bentley University in Human Factors in Information Design, which emphasizes human behavior and its relevance in product design and the user experience. "It's a field I didn't even know existed until I began working at MITRE," she says. She is also pursuing an MBA with a focus on Global Business and Markets.

—by Molly Manchenton

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