Interviewed by Peer Career Coach Maira Zamir
Dahun Mamora is a 2020 graduate from Illinois Tech with a masters degree in Engineering management with a specialization inproduct design & development. She is the founder of ‘Beyond our Limitations’ which is an organization established in response to the financial & professional challenges international students face in the United States. Being an international student herself from Nigeria, she knows the challenges of finding a place in the professional world after graduation in America. Dahun is someone who is very proactive and is not willing to let this pandemic limit her career opportunities. Here is what she had to say about her experience at IIT along with some great advice for getting job opportunities.
What is the greatest lesson you learned during your time as a student at IIT?
So for me, the greatest lesson I learned is to have an idea on what you want to do after graduation as early as possible so that you can try to tailor your classes according to that. I know at IIT, they already have a curriculum for you but they also allow you to pick electives and you also have the opportunity to even replace some classes that were supposed to be core classes, especially if those classes are not offered in the semester you desire. semester you desire so do I have an idea what you want to do is say that like in terms of your career is so that you can know what classes to select because for me i already knew i wanted to go into product management after graduation so for the classes that I picked as electives, they were classes that typically people in my major would not do but because I already knew what I wanted to do, i basically wrote a petition to take classes from other departments. So for product management, an MBA is super important right so I started to take my electives School of Business in MBA that was going to greatly help me help me with my career choice and it’s just amazing that for the project I did in one of those classes I have it on my resume and during interviews employers ask me about it all the time.
Did you have an internship in your undergrad? If so, what advice do you have for people who will be interning or doing co-op in the future?
I would say again that it helps to know what you want to do after graduation because sometimes the internship you would get hired for is probably not related to what you want to do long time. I interned at Dell as a release manager intern and what I really wanted to do was go into product management. I was talking to a friend and he told me about how he interned at Bank of America as a data scientist and what he actually wanted to go into was product management. So, he decided to talk to his manager about that during his internship and told him that while I do my data science work for my internship, I would also like to connect with people in the product management department to do extra work for free to gain some experience. That actually ended up opening a window of opportunities for him and he is now a product manager at Visa. So this was someone who created an opportunity for himself. So basically, learn to create opportunities for yourself within the company you are working for and even outside your internship.
What is one major thing you learned when you stepped into the professional world after graduating?
My greatest lesson when I started my first job is that not everything you learn in college will be applicable towards your job. And to be honest, at least for my first job, the skills that were most important initially were soft skills like being able to work in a team, effective communication skills etc.
For an entry-level job, it would be great if you have the technical skills but most of the time employers are looking for someone who can work easily and effectively with a team. If people like you on the team, it will be so easy to build the technical knowledge cause they will be willing to help you build that knowledge. Know how to work with people, know how to communicate, learn to build relationships with people in the professional world because once that is done the technical skills they will teach you as you become part of the team. That is probably the most important thing I learned in order to succeed.
How did you land your first job?
I got my first job out of undergrad by attending the National Society of black Engineers (NSBE) conference and through that I got a couple of job offers. I got one of my job offers from my master’s program by attending this year’s NSBE conference as well. Because of Covid-19, the conference this year was completely virtual. One of the down sides of that was that the recruiters really didn’t have that much time to talk to you as there was a long queue of people waiting to talk to them via video call. So what I did was, I literally connected with every single recruiter in every company I was interested in via LinkedIn. They didn’t have time to talk to me at the career fair so I figured if I reached out to them outside the career fair, they would be willing to chat as well. And it’s amazing that one of them responded, so that’s how i got my interview and I ended up getting the job.
What advice would you give to graduates of 2020?
Let me take a step back, so I graduated with my Masters degree in May with no job offers but let’s fast forward a few weeks after; we are now at the end of June and I have two job offers. I know that because of the pandemic this is a period where people are getting laid off but I still got job offers, so my point is don’t generalize the current situation. Find the companies that are still hiring and be hopeful. Don’t give up.
Most of all try to really manage your time now wisely. For me, apart from searching for job opportunities I have been doing alot of things on the side as well. Like I said , I was interested in product management so I enrolled in a product management course to strengthen my skills. Asides that, I make videos and market them so I have been getting offers from people to advertise their products and their business and I have been getting paid for that. So essentially, what I am doing on the side for my own brand is actually marketing myself for job opportunities. Marketing is really tied to product management and when I mention all my side work to employers during interviews, they love it. They want to know more about me and my work. So keep yourself busy, think about things that will enable you to be well qualified for the next job and work on building those skills in this excess time that we all now have due to social distancing. Definitely continue to apply for jobs and not only apply for jobs but also connect with people on LinkedIn. Ask people on LinkedIn to be your mentor rather than straight up asking for a job. This helps build a community that will benefit you long term. Please keep going and don’t give up please.