Set up to succeed: How 5 Chicago companies help new grads kick off their careers

Andreas Rekdal

Hiring someone straight out of college is a big deal. In addition to keeping the team engaged and happy, companies that make entry-level hires need to establish career paths and support recent grads as they discover their professional identities.

Fortunately, many Chicago tech companies are addressing those challenges head on. We spoke with a few of them to learn how they’re doing that.

 

Optiver is a global tech-driven trading firm with more than 200 employees in Chicago. Lyndsey Dean, IT recruiting lead, said the best part of working there is the chance to see tangible results from your work. The company is also always happy to teach new hires the ropes, so long as they’re willing to learn.

How do you pitch Optiver at college campuses?

You get to see your contribution to the firm each day, regardless of the team you are on. As a trader, you will see the revenue you help generate. As a developer, you will design, build and own the systems that facilitate the trading. As a trading systems support engineer, you will operate the live trading environment to ensure all these systems work well. Each person at Optiver has a direct impact on the bottom line.

How do you help recent grads get started on their career journeys?

Our goal is to acclimate new hires as quickly as possible. In order to do that, from day one you will begin coding and learning options theory. We have mentors that can offer you guidance and team leads to provide regular feedback. Most importantly, we are happy to teach anything you may not know, so long as you are eager to learn.

 

A provider of live sports data for leagues and broadcasters all over the world, STATS is always looking for people who bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the table. Courtney Swoyer, global director of human resources, said her company is currently ramping up its hiring efforts in data science, sales, engineering and design. To her, the biggest perks of working there are the career growth action plans and continuous learning opportunities.

How do you pitch STATS on college campuses?

We are the global leader in sports intelligence and the pioneer of live sports data. What sets STATS apart is how strongly we value broad collaboration and idea sharing — whether coming from a new hire right out of college or a long-time employee. As a leader in the space, we are looking for bright candidates who are highly motivating in the creation and distribution of new products in the world of sports data analytics and intelligence.

We want the best candidates in data science, deep learning, software engineering, product design, sales or operations who can make an impact and work well within their teams. As a company that thrives through innovation, we value our employees and strive to create an environment of collaboration and teamwork where they can learn, grow and succeed.

How do you help recent grads get started on their career journeys?

We are constantly looking for new and fresh ideas, recognizing that they often come from the recent grads we hire. To help new hires get acclimated in the office, we offer team and office building activities like summer picnics, office happy hours, recreational sports leagues and small group meetings with executives to welcome newcomers.

Employees own their growth, sitting down with managers to set goals and map out future career paths and action plans. In addition, each team offers hands-on training, mentorship and peer-to-peer learning to train new hires and keep current employees up-to-speed on changes in the marketplace. One of our key values is “it’s your team,” and the best teammates don’t only perform — they support their teammates and strive to make everyone better. At STATS, new hires join a true team that lets them get the training and resources they need to make an impact as we work together to innovate in the sports intelligence space.

 

Founded in 1989 in Amsterdam, IMC is a tech-driven market maker that trades on exchanges all over the world. For global brand strategist Candice Caldwell, the firm’s biggest selling point to entry-level employees is the opportunity to solve complex problems and make a difference to its bottom line. To help make that happen, the company has built its own trainee program.

How do you pitch IMC on college campuses?

IMC is a global quantitative trading firm driven by the best people and technology out there. We’re looking for students who thrive in collaborative, fast-paced environments and are driven by solving complex problems.

How do you help recent grads get started on their career journeys?

New hires start in our global traineeship program where they learn everything needed to succeed at IMC, including an introduction to the trading industry, a deep dive into the current state of the markets and insight into our trading strategies and technology stack. After the traineeship, they’re paired with a mentor who helps them get up to speed quickly in order to start making meaningful contributions.

 

LiveWatch makes DIY home security systems that connect to the user’s smartphone and smart home systems. Recruiter Gladys Gonzalez said her biggest pitch to prospective entry-level employees is the opportunity for professional growth. One of the most important components of that pitch is outlining her own career journey.

How do you pitch LiveWatch on college campuses?

College students are my favorite to recruit because they are looking to start a career, not just get a job. Since we still have a startup-like feel, I like to emphasize the amount of growth opportunity. LiveWatch truly believes employees should grow with the company and the brand. We have a “win together” mentality that is electric from the moment you walk into our office.

We thrive on our “work-hard, play-hard” environment, and the hard work definitely pays off. I started in the sales department and loved it. I also showed interest in recruiting, so the moment we had a need for another recruiter, I was promoted. Loyalty is one of our core values, and I felt it first hand. My experience is my pitch.

How do you help recent grads get started on their career journeys?

Transitioning from college classes to the start of a career is a big deal. The whole team is always very welcoming and eager to learn about new team members. We have a month-long training program for new hires that really sets them up for success. Our trainer has designed a program that starts with the new employees shadowing current employees, so they have a transparent grasp of what the day-to-day looks like. It is followed by a class that teaches them about the innovative technology we use for our home security systems, as well as the services we offer. Once our new hires begin to work with customers, we ensure that managers get a weekly one-on-one with each employee to coach and mentor them for success.

 

Enova is an online lender that uses data analytics to assess the creditworthiness of consumers who don’t qualify for traditional bank loans. Head of recruiting Julie Emerson said the company’s baseline program, which teaches new hires the ropes, is a major draw. But she also likes to highlight the opportunities to try out different teams and departments for size.

How do you pitch Enova on college campuses?

What makes Enova a great place to work is our dedication to helping our team members learn, make a true impact and grow their careers. No matter what level you're at when you join our team, you're given the trust and tools you need to dive in and drive real results from day one. We know our people are our greatest asset. That's why we have an entire team dedicated to ensuring our team members are happy and getting what they need to grow, from interesting work to training and awesome perks like onsite massages.

Even with all of our programs, the number one reason our team members like working for Enova is our people. I have to agree!

How do you help recent grads get started on their career journeys?

Learning and growth is so important for someone coming out of school, and we have a responsibility to help set new grads up for success with the right training and exploratory opportunities. Our software engineering new hires love our Baseline program, which provides them with four to eight weeks dedicated to training on our tech stack and our business. Every new hire across the company has an onboarding plan for the first 90 days and a dedicated buddy who shows them the ropes.

We know not everyone knows exactly what they want to do when they graduate, so we also offer a variety of rotational opportunities for team members to get exposure to different departments and functions. I think the most empowering part of working at Enova, especially for a new grad, is that we truly support our team members in driving their careers in the direction they want — whether they want to make a lateral move or get promoted to the next level.

 

Images via featured companies. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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