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Memorable Connections... Fast

“This is a kind of social experiment,” said Rob Weber, EMTM lecturer and senior fellow at the Jerome Fisher Program. Weber was speaking to the 125 current and former EMTM students gathered on May 22nd in Houston Hall for a speed networking session he organized.

Maximizing the social connectivity of the typical cocktail party and borrowing from the model of “speed dating,” speed networking invites participants to engage in a series of short career-building meetings with several people over the course of an event — in this case, two hours.

Weber ensured that specially designed matchmaking software, aided by a questionnaire, aligned people by interests and area of expertise. When they arrived at Houston Hall, event participants were handed a packet with instructions for where to sit and who to look for.

“We’ve basically given you a road map of what to do,” Weber told the crowd. “The goal is to have a meaningful six-minute interaction with each of your matches. When the buzzer goes off, you have to get up and move to the next person.” The six-minute mark was chosen as an ideal amount of time to make at least 12 memorable connections.

In the meantime, participants were invited to network informally between rounds at the back of the room where refreshments were served.

The speed networking activity immediately set the room abuzz in conversation, and participants quickly found much to discuss. “I just met someone from Lockheed, and it was interesting because of both of us started out in telecommunications and ended up in defense,” reported Chris Bradley, EMTM’10, senior member of projects in the National Intelligence division of General Dynamics in Chantilly, VA, after a first round. “I’ve never done anything like this before, but it’s very valuable for making new contacts and seeing what other people in your functional area are doing.”

Some found immediate success in their networking efforts. Dennis D. Scott, EMTM’10, principal of DDS Entertainment, a video entertainment company based in Bronx, NY, had two interesting meetings. First, he encountered a fellow student starting a business who was interested in possibly contracting Scott’s company to produce corporate commercials. Later, he encountered another EMTM colleague who offered to help him subcontract equipment and staff for filmmaking. Scott was very pleased with the event’s outcomes. “A lot of it is the safety of knowing everyone is an alumnus or currently in the program and it creates a comfort level for people — you know who you’re dealing with.”

Anurag Jain, EMTM’06 was similarly lucky in his matches. As the owner of a B2B company called Magic Pins, he was delighted to end up talking to another alumnus who works in the disaster recovery arena. “That’s one of the things we’re looking for for our company. Because of the EMTM connection, meeting him was that much more appealing,” Jain said.

Even if they were not there to specifically search for a new job opportunity, many students commented on the value of the event, given the current state of the economy.

“This was the right time for this event. In a bad economy you need to develop your network more than ever,” said Pavan Heda, EMTM’06, director of pipeline information at Centocor R&D Inc, a Johnson & Johnson company in Chesterbrook, PA.  “I think your next job is only as good as your network. It takes more than degrees and accomplishments to climb the ladder.”

“As I’ve told people I’m not actively job hunting, but particularly in this market you should always be thinking and looking at what’s out there,” said Jeffrey Cantor, EMTM’05, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Cantor met several people at the event who were potentially useful contacts, including one current student who works in manufacturing catalysts for diesel engines and another in a company that supplies battery-monitoring technologies, both of which are areas of interest to his colleagues at the Department of Environmental Protection.

Many people found the event’s built-in structure not only conducive to networking, but also helpful for creating interactions they might not have had in the first place.

“It’s so much better to network face to face,” Heda said. “If you tried to do this anywhere else it would be difficult — you might be tempted to stay and chat with the people you know already. But here you’re encouraged to make introductions and I ended up talking to 12 or 13 people I’d never met before.”

“At an event like this you might come for the lecture, then maybe talk to five or ten people and leave,” says Sue McFarland Metzger, EMTM’95, program director for both information systems and media and technology and an adjunct professor at Villanova University. “But here you’re forced to make connections. And then you get a sense of who they’ve spoken to, so you really feel the effects of connection throughout the room. We all know the value of connections but it’s different to experience it so immediately.” Metzger said that she made several contacts that would be great guest speakers in her classes, and she also made an unexpected valuable contact: the commissioner of her township, who unbeknownst to her, happened to be an EMTM alumnus. Metzger’s husband Louis, whom she met while she was in the program, was also in attendance.

Some students found an opportunity to go deeper with people they already knew. “I was matched with some current students I’ve met before, but what I hadn’t known is that one of them is getting out there to start his own company,” said Shilpa Tiwari, Software Architect at Siemens in Malvern, PA. “This is great because I’m looking in that direction myself and it’s really helpful to open up that channel for future conversations.”

For Samian Kaur, a staff engineer at InterDigital Communications in King of Prussia, the speed networking was a chance to dip a toe into EMTM life before she officially starts the program next fall. “It really gave me a glimpse of what I’m getting into,” she said. “I got to make connections with a lot of successful EMTM alumni who offered help, direction and lots of encouragement. The event also made me greatly appreciate the various opportunities that open up with the program, and I got some helpful pointers on how to maximize the experience. The EMTM cohort came across as a close-kit alumni community, and everybody was very welcoming and friendly. I already have a roster of so many interesting contacts in the community.”

“My experience has been fantastic,” said Victor McCrary, EMTM’95, Business Area Executive for Science and Technology at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, and an adjunct professor at EMTM. Though McCrary was primarily at the event to see his former classmates he found the speed networking activity surprisingly useful. “I may use this technique in the course I teach here on politics and networking and how to move up in the corporate environment. An exercise like this teaches you to exchange information in a robust and crisp way. In my role at Johns Hopkins my job is to fund innovation, so it’s especially important to keep the network fresh, meet with people who are 10 and 20 years younger and hear what they’re doing. You never stop learning, and you should never stop networking.”


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“We’ve basically given you a road map of what to do. The goal is to have a meaningful six-minute interaction with each of your matches. When the buzzer goes off, you have to get up and move to the next person.”

Rob Weber
EMTM Lecturer
Senior Fellow at the Jerome Fisher Program

“This was the right time for this event. In a bad economy you need to develop your network more than ever. I think your next job is only as good as your network. It takes more than degrees and accomplishments to climb the ladder.”

Pavan Heda, MS, PhD, EMTM’06
Director, BIO R&D, Project & Pipeline Information
Centocor R&D, Inc.,
Johnson & Johnson
Malvern, PA

“My experience has been fantastic. I may use this technique in the course I teach here on politics and networking and how to move up in the corporate environment. An exercise like this teaches you to exchange information in a robust and crisp way.”

Victor McCrary, PhD, EMTM’95
Business Area Executive for Science and Technology
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Columbia, MD

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