Reverse Pitch and State of the Practice events help CSE students connect with tech community

Feb 22, 2017      By Victoria Grdina

Students at Nebraska Innovation Campus in January for the Reverse Pitch event.
Students at Nebraska Innovation Campus in January for the Reverse Pitch event.

The Lincoln community is a growing hub for tech jobs — and tech talent. The Department of Computer Science and Engineering teamed up with Prosper Lincoln this year to bring hiring companies and job-seeking students together in a new series of events.

The series kicked off in January with the Reverse Pitch event and will continue through April with several “spinoff” State of the Practice events. The events are designed to help students explore opportunities with businesses eager to hire them. 

“This is a way of facilitating a certain kind of ‘matchmaking’ between students and companies,” said Dr. Matthew Dwyer, Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. “It creates an opening that makes students feel like they can approach the company and have a good conversation.”

The Reverse Pitch event featured nine Lincoln organizations giving quick company pitches to more than 200 students in attendance at Nebraska Innovation Campus. Hudl, Firespring, Spreetail, Don’t Panic Labs, Nelnet, Assurity Life Insurance Company, Pen-Link, Virtual Incision, and Sandhills Publishing each had five to 10 minutes to share their work, business models, unique company perks, and position openings. Following the pitches, students were invited to chat with company representatives stationed at booths in a career fair-style setting. 

Students chat with representatives from the nine participating companies at the Reverse Pitch event.
Students at the Reverse Pitch event speaking with representatives from the nine participating companies.

The State of the Practice events will be smaller events hosted by the same companies at or near their business locations. These events will include office tours, Q&A sessions with employees, and a more in-depth look at company projects and job roles. Hudl and Don’t Panic Labs will host the first State of the Practice on March 2 in the Nebraska Global Building. 

The events were presented by Prosper Lincoln, a community initiative to make Lincoln a better place “to live, work, and play.” Prosper Lincoln Innovation Ambassador Rich Claussen saw a high demand for tech talent among thriving businesses and an opportunity to help them find it in a new way.

“There are many companies that believe that what’s stunting their growth is their ability to identify, recruit, develop and retain great talent,” said Claussen. “We wanted to open eyes and change perceptions.”

The nine participating companies alone offered a total of 75 internships and 92 jobs that they planned to fill within the next year. Claussen and Dwyer shared a common goal of making students aware of just how much opportunity is available right within the city.“It’s important to communicate to the students that there are really great and innovative jobs here in Nebraska,” Dwyer said. “They don’t necessarily have to go to the coast to get these jobs. They can be doing work that’s just as cutting-edge and just as exciting here.”

Dwyer and Claussen plan to hold the Reverse Pitch event again in the fall and get more businesses involved. Dwyer also hopes to establish a long-term, ongoing conversation between the tech sector and the CSE program that would allow the department to align its training with industry needs.

“What we want is a program that’s so unique and a local tech ecosystem that’s so rich and so full of opportunities that students are coming from other states to study here — and stay here.”

Businesses interested in participating in future Reverse Pitch and State of the Practice events should contact Rich Claussen at rich.claussen@prosperlincoln.org