Career kickoff: How 5 Chicago tech companies support recent grads

by Andreas Rekdal
May 11, 2017

In speaking with local tech founders about why they choose to build their companies in Chicago, the quality of the city’s young tech talent comes up practically every time. But those quality employees don’t just show up from nowhere. To learn more about how the ecosystem’s next leaders are developed, we set out to learn what tech companies look for in recent college graduates — and how they support those employees as they grow in their careers.



One of Chicago’s fastest-growing tech companies, SMS Assist makes it easier for property managers to book services to keep their buildings clean and properly maintained. The company provides new employees with two weeks of training during the onboarding process, as well as a leadership development program for new managers that helps them hone their leadership skills.

What does SMS Assist look for in prospective team members who are just graduating from college?

“When hiring the best talent, aside from job qualifications, we look for people that fit our core values,” said chief human resources officer Anne Scharm. “You have to be entrepreneurial, a team player, do everything with integrity and, most importantly, have a passion for customer service.”

What is the best thing about starting your career at SMS Assist?

“My favorite thing about starting my career at SMS Assist is discovering skills that were hidden within me,” said operations manager Isolda Aguilar. “I've learned to manage my time in a fast environment by keeping up with multiple priorities with national clients and affiliates.”




Grubhub lets local restaurants take orders for delivery and pickup through its suite of mobile and online platforms. Just coming off its first full year of running a formal college recruiting program, senior director of talent acquisition Corwin Schroeder says the company has learned a lot about how recent graduates impact the company. To support new employees and encourage career growth, Grubhub has developed a curriculum of customizable training resources and performance management tools.

What does Grubhub look for in prospective team members who are just graduating from college?

"I look for students who are eager to join the organization and are truly passionate about technology and solving problems,” said director of software engineering Caryn Drange. “Having great communication skills and the ability to collaborate with professionals at all levels are also key to landing the job."

What is the best thing about starting a career at Grubhub?

“Upon graduating, I knew Grubhub was an excellent match for me,” software engineer Nisha Patel said. “I love that Grubhub is a place where I can showcase the skills I learned while in school, as well as challenge myself with new and exciting projects. I have great mentors who are interested in my professional growth and are always there to lend a helping hand when needed.”




Jellyvision is the company behind ALEX, an interactive decision support solution that guides employees at large companies through the process of choosing health benefits and making decisions about retirement savings, career paths and managing their finances. Jellyvision has an apprenticeship for recent college graduates that teaches participants how to provide customized software for its customers. The company also provides mentoring, feedback and networking resources to participants along the way.

What does Jellyvision look for in prospective team members who are just graduating from college?

“We look for smart, hardworking, humble folks who are self-motivated and self-managed,” said VP of people Mary Beth Wynn. “When talking with those just graduating, we look for evidence that they will be self-motivated and self-managed in two ways. First, we look for folks who have pursued passions, whether at school, at work or on their own, rather than following the path of least resistance. Second, we look for folks who have done research into who Jellyvision is and what ALEX is — and who have thoughtful answers about why they want to join us and how their skills map onto the role that they’re interviewing for. That kind of prep for an interview speaks volumes about the kind of thought and prep they’ll put into the job.”

What is the best thing about starting a career at Jellyvision?

“Most of my past internships construct separate projects specifically for interns to complete,” said project management apprentice Michele Popadich. “While these types of experiences are beneficial in the short term, they never allowed me to contribute directly to the company's operations. Instead, an apprentice experience at Jellyvision fosters a reciprocal relationship in which the apprentice gets to learn from the vast and knowledgeable resource that is the Jellyvision staff, while also supporting the team in every way possible.”




Wasteful spending contributes to the country’s rising healthcare costs, but it also diverts resources from treatments that actually work. Procured Health addresses both of these problems with a data-driven solution that flags patterns of wasteful spending as well as treatments that are not supported by medical best practices. The startup has recently launched initiatives to support new managers as the company grows, including full-day workshops and monthly roundtables covering management best practices. (Update: Procured Health is now Lumere.) 

What does Procured Health look for in prospective team members who are just graduating from college?

“For analytics, we look for prospective team members with a strong interest in exploring data, but, more importantly, that have a passion for continuously learning new analytical methods in order to solve real-world problems,” said data analytics manager Mike Doerner.

What is the best thing about starting a career at Procured Health?

“Starting my career with Procured Health meant immediately going to work on some of the healthcare industry's toughest problems,” said senior data analyst Erin MacDougal. “It's exciting to be part of a team that's motivated to reduce healthcare costs and improve outcomes, in a culture where everyone's ideas are heard.”




LiveWatch makes home security equipment that consumers can install at home by themselves. Its system can be controlled with a suite of mobile apps that also notify the user when the alarm has been triggered. Marketing content specialist Tommy Carroll, who joined LiveWatch after graduating from Northwestern University in 2015, said the company has given him opportunities to grow far beyond his job description.

What is the best thing about starting your career at LiveWatch?

“The best part of LiveWatch is that you get to understand the inner workings of a growing business in a very detailed way,” Carroll said. “You get hired for a certain skill, but you get the chance to learn how all the departments work and get to contribute and grow your skills in more business areas than I’ve heard any of my recently graduated friends experiencing.”

What does LiveWatch look for in prospective team members who are just graduating from college?

“We’re looking for teammates who see themselves as entrepreneurs,” digital marketing manager Scott Lakin said. “People need to be good collaborators and able to learn quickly, but they should also be excited by the opportunity to treat their work as belonging to their own personal business unit.”



Images via participating companies.

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