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The Kids are Alright!
TIKI reflects after attending the Vanderbilt Career Fair
Reports of the Millennial-Gen Z feud are greatly exaggerated. Well, sort of.
Yesterday, Mike and I stopped into Vanderbilt University for their career fair. Aside from being the only people in the facility donning Hawaiian shirts, we were one of, if not the only start-up company in attendance. The hope was that we’d have conversations with a few interested students in the computer science / engineering field about potential internships and post-grad positions and start building a pipeline at an established, prestigious, local (like, right down the street local) university. What ended up happening defied our expectations. The kids are alright.
As someone planted firmly in the Millennial demographic, I have accepted the sometimes bitter pill that is the realization that I’m not a kid anymore. I swallowed that pill a few years ago as a high school track and field coach in Massachusetts. I was talking to the kids about track and field being an authentic way to measure success that trumps the artificial dopamine hits that come from Facebook. The kids were quick to point out that Facebook is for old people. Even Instagram seemed to be a bit dated. Apparently high school girls enjoy a thing called VSCO, and that they have fake Instagram profiles called Finstas. I digress. I realized at that moment, that I was in fact old.
Being a habitual Twitter user, I also watched a sort-of tongue-in-cheek war emerge between Millennials and Gen Z. Millennials are soft and love GIFs, Harry Potter, and The Office. Gen Z is emotionally bankrupt, eat Tide Pods, and receive social cred by participating in viral memes on a children’s dancing app.
A classic older sibling versus younger sibling battle emerged, and, admittedly, it has been nice to have the “Millennials are ruining everything” badge removed from my sash. What I have found as a coach and high school teacher, and more specifically at the career fair at Vanderbilt, is that I have a soft spot for the Gen Zers of the world, and that they do, in fact, have much to offer beyond TikTok videos.
There is an added caveat here, which is that our booth at the career fair was adorned by tiki hut thatch, branded coconut cups, a blanket featuring an extremely prominent cartoon of a pineapple eating a slice of pizza, and a very tasteful sign that a very artistic individual and blog author labored through creating.
It also helps that prior to the event, students can check out bios on each of the participating businesses, so what we do was already readily apparent. We hoped to attract people interested in start-up culture and data at large. We were very easily differentiated from the corporate set-ups that took up the majority of the 140+ tables at the event.
Attract we did. While there were a good amount of students who came by the table solely based on the, er, unique setup that we had, we predominantly had students come talk to use who were genuinely interested in what we were doing and eagerly wanted to help. These students were predominantly in the computer science / engineering field, but we also had many other types of students approach us, almost all of whom were thinking critically about approaching the “data problem” from their specific area of study. By the end of the event, we had 35 kids sign up to receive further information from us at TIKI. These kids have impressive academic credentials (this is Vanderbilt, after all) but more importantly, they were eager, inquisitive, and for the most part, very mature, trumping the cliché stereotypes attached to the generation. There was one student who actually did have a Hawaiian shirt underneath his formal suit. I haggled with him and by the end of the day I had traded him a TIKI bucket hat in exchange for an electric toothbrush, a coffee mug, an insulated coffee cup, a frisbee, stickers, and a few gigantic Nashville Predators magnets. This particular Gen Zer was also very resourceful.
At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be very surprising that these kids were on top of things. Growing up entrenched in technology, and, more specifically, educational content and resources, has created a generation who, if they want to learn something, can hop onto YouTube or Twitter and receive an education equal to, or even better than degree-path programs of the past. Some had already created their own successful businesses or played major roles in growing pre-existing companies and organizations. They asked relevant and topical questions that dug into the crux of the problem we are solving. On top of all of that, they were kind, appreciative, and excited about the future.
Safe to say, the career fair was a success for us at TIKI. As I mentioned in a previous blog, developing local talent and creating a pipeline is one of our priorities moving forward. While it should be pointed out that the line of people waiting to talk to the representative from Oracle was much longer than any crowd that made their way to the TIKI table (and the same can be said for other big-name corporations at the event, such as Meta, of which I also traded a student a shirt and bucket hat in exchange for placing our “Mark Follows You”sticker on their display) the students who came to our table were the “right” people for us, and quality always beats quantity. 35 interested students ain’t too shabby either.
With so much interest stemming from such a well-respected institution, the future looks bright at TIKI. The kids are, in fact, alright.
You still look dumb dancing in public, though. And The Office is good. Fight me.
Until next time,
Shane and the TIKI Team