Good things bear repeating. That’s Terrence Head’s view of attending the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) conference. He encourages students, corporations and organizations to continually mine the opportunities that exist through BEYA, and returning year after year is one of the best ways to do that.
|Terrence Head, director of productization, business technology transformation, BAE Systems|
Head should know. He’s attended 12 BEYA conferences during the past 18 years as a student and as a working professional. He’s now director of productization, business technology and transformation at BAE Systems Inc., a global provider of defense and security products, and in 2012 was a speaker at two BEYA conference workshops.
He recalls how “raw and green” he was in 1995 when he was a student at South Carolina State University attending his first BEYA conference. He was impressed by all the learned and accomplished STEM professionals who “looked like me” and he admits being “overwhelmed in a great way.” Wisely, Head kept going back, using knowledge he gained from the seminars and workshops to polish his appearance, resume, elevator speech and more.
“It gave me an edge,” said Head.
And it didn’t take long for this diligence to pay off. He landed internships at General Motors and Chrysler as well as his first job at Lockheed Martin through BEYA.
Head recalls attending conference workshops and seminars learning what companies were looking for in candidates for employment. He said that’s how he discovered what to focus on and how to prepare for his future.
Head said BEYA experiences can be helpful to any student, from freshman to Ph.D. candidates, but he stressed that there’s a major advantage in going to the conference in one’s freshman or sophomore year and returning again and again. The benefit of repeat attendance is that one can build on one’s knowledge and experiences and become more polished and confident.
“You will find what you do and what you don’t do well the earlier you go,” he said. “If you go in your freshmen year, you can see what it’s about, stumble, make mistakes, find your footing.”
Through the years he learned what to wear, how to introduce himself, the talking point to make sure to leave with those he meets.
Head has master degrees in business administration and technology management from the University of Maryland-University College. He also has a doctorate in information technology from Capella University. He has been recognized by BEYA as a modern day technology leader.
Head said recruiting isn’t part of his responsibilities or those of many other professionals at BEYA.
“We go every year to give back,” said Head, adding that he could never repay all the benefits he’s received from participating.
From a corporate perspective, the conference provides an exceptional opportunity to meet and interview talented African-American students and professionals, he pointed out. It’s also an excellent means for companies such as his—BAE Systems—to better establish a brand image.
“Nobody knows BAE Systems,” said Head. “We’re the biggest company you’ve never heard of.”
However, his firm raises their visibility by being involved at the conference, having signage with their logo and informing students of the work they do and the opportunities that exist.
Head also offered the following tips to students about getting the most out of the BEYA conference experience:
• Impressions happen at any time. Realize that even though the career fair may end at 5 p.m. and the seminars and workshops are over, you will encounter professionals throughout the hotel, conference spaces, restaurants and elsewhere. Be mindful of your behavior and the positive or negative messages you may be conveying. You don’t want to be remembered as the one behaving inappropriately in the lobby by someone who has decision-making power over internships or full-time employment.
• Networking is important. Learn the value of making connections throughout the conference. Ask questions. Engage professionals in conversation about what their work, what their companies do and your aspirations.
• Don’t leave home without a business card. Head said he learned the value of this and attended BEYA events with his pockets full of cards he could hand out to just about everyone.
“If you take advantage of all the resources you will quickly distinguish yourself among your peer,” Head said.
Head calls BEYA an investment that will pay dividends “not just that one semester but throughout your matriculation years.”