HackPSU offers talented recruiting pool for participating companies

Travis Johnson
October 31, 2019

On first glance, there’s a lot to process at HackPSU, but tech company representatives know exactly what they’re looking for when they sign up to sponsor and attend Penn State’s 24-hour hackathon.

They’re scouting for talent, and the student-run event doesn’t disappoint for companies eager to recruit young, hungry upstarts.

Their next opportunity to potentially draw from the biannual event’s rich recruiting pool will come on Nov. 2 when HackPSU takes place at the Business Building. There, nearly 900 students from multiple schools across the country will compete in the 24-hour hackathon co-sponsored by the College of Information Sciences and Technology and Penn State IT.

“Everyone on the HackPSU (student leadership) committee has gotten internships through this organization,” said Penn State graduate Colin Moran, HackPSU’s former marketing director. “We hear all the time people that tell us, ‘If I hadn’t come, I wouldn’t have gotten my internship.’”

The event has grown exponentially over the past few years, but the overall premise remains. Teams of students work against the clock to create “hacks” or solutions to real-world problems and then present them in a case challenge format.

Networking is a big perk since HackPSU regularly draws representatives from big companies’ technology staffs.

Google, GM, Geico, Ernst & Young, JP Morgan Chase, Vanguard and AccuWeather are among the firms that will attend this fall’s event. Most of them will bring recruiters along and they’ll set up shop in the Business Building’s atrium to start building their lists of potential interns or hires.

“Normally that happens on the phone,” Mike Mumper, an IT project manager for Geico, said. “However, this is a good opportunity for students to have those discussions right then and there. We talk to them about their goals, see if they’re a good fit for us, do our objectives align? Are we a good fit for them?”

Mumper and other GEICO representatives attended their first HackPSU event in the spring but had plenty of familiarity with Penn State’s College of IST. The company teams with the college as part of the University’s Corporate Partner Program and has worked with Penn State students in the business school.

The decision to return to HackPSU was a no-brainer.

The same goes for Ernst & Young (EY), a professional service firm that helped bring a new element to the event in the spring.

While HackPSU was previously only geared toward students majoring in technology disciplines, EY sponsored a business track challenge in the spring and will do so again this fall.

Last spring’s business challenge prompt asked teams to figure out how businesses can strategically embed cybersecurity resilience in every level of their organization and how to invest in infrastructure, technology and people to do so.

“We were hoping the participants would look into understanding and researching how cybersecurity isn’t just a technology issue, but it’s really a strategic business imperative,” said Tom Campuzano, EY advisory consultant. “As digital threats are increasing, businesses really need more than just a standard, off-the-shelf security solution to protect themselves.”

About 20 teams participated in the business track competition. After getting the prompt the day competition started, teams had the rest of the time to prepare a presentation of their findings to a panel that included other EY representatives.

“A big thing we were looking for when we were judging the business case was how much research went into them,” said Alexis Merritt, EY cybersecurity consultant. “Did they do the research in the current field of how cybersecurity is transforming at the moment? Did they look at those trends as well about what’s coming up?”

Campuzano noted that EY likes to hire recent college graduates and part of the reason why is the transformative nature of technology. He said he feels events like HackPSU are perfect recruiting grounds because all the projects deal with current issues companies and their technology users face.

“To be able to recruit students that are already thinking about these issues is really important,” Campuzano said. “Should they, or when they join EY, I think they’ll be equipped to serve our clients well, keeping abreast of these issues.”

Last Updated October 31, 2019