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When Ashley Abbott ’19 visited the Career and Professional Development Office at St. Edward’s, she was thinking ahead to a summer job. But before she knew it, she was setting her sights on an internship (and eventual career) in Austin’s supercharged technology sector.

At the recommendation of the office’s associate director, Adrian Ramirez, she enrolled in Career Prep Accelerator, a program initiated by The Bill Munday School of Business between the university and the Austin Technology Council (ATC). And Abbott says the high-tech, high-touch workshops, which are open to all business graduates and undergraduates, gave her and her fellow students the tools they needed to line up coveted internships at ATC member firms, including MagRabbit, Hewlett-Packard, Skyles-Baynes and TalentGuard.

The three-week program gives students one-on-one attention with a career development professional to sharpen their resumes, customize their cover letters and practice interviewing. Students also meet recruiters from local tech companies who are part of ATC, which convenes 1,600 executives representing 280 high-tech companies and more than 60,000 employees. The students learn exactly what the organizations at the center of Austin’s $21.5 billion technology and life sciences sector seek in internship candidates (and employees) and which technical and soft skills they need to develop.

For Abbott, the experiences made a concrete difference. “When I did the mock interview, I learned how to connect the experiences on my resume to the questions an interviewer was asking,” she says. “And I was surprised when recruiters said they didn’t focus as much on hiring based on experience as they did on finding people who were responsible, who took initiative, and who wanted to learn.”

Mark Studer ’16, another student in this fall’s Career Prep Accelerator, says he got the chance to make real connections with recruiters who were ready hire — and that will lead him to an internship or job. “It was incredibly helpful to get to talk with representatives one-on-one, get their business cards, and learn more about the work they were doing,” he says.

According to Nancy Schreiber, dean of The Bill Munday School of Business and professor of Management, the program represents the best of what such industry partnerships can offer. “We focus on teaching relevant knowledge and skills and also on helping our business students establish professional networks within the technology sector,” she says. “Our partnership with ATC is a great example of how the school provides students with seamless educational experiences within the Austin business ecosystem.” 

Julie Huls, president and CEO of ATC, is similarly enthusiastic about the collaboration, which she believes will help students and tech companies work together effectively. “St. Edward’s has actively sought out our input as they develop market-driven degrees that lead to great careers,” she says. Additionally the partnership will help ATC meet its goal of developing tech-savvy employees for the growing number of incubators, entrepreneurs and inventors in Austin.

In the end, the students will be the ones who benefit most with access and insight from those at the center of Austin’s tech scene. Just ask Abbott: During the closing meeting of the course, she met with a representative from MagRabbit, a software development company in Austin. The representative mentioned an internship for the coming spring semester that intrigued Abbott, and she followed up with an application and a cover letter. “It’s still early in the process,” she says. “But I know he sent it straight to the CEO.”

Erin Peterson is a freelance writer.