Las Vegas Outreach Trip

Eller PDC Coordinator Coach's Corner

Last semester the PDC Career Coaches visited major US cities on outreach trips to connect with alumni and build relationship for future opportunities for students. This is the fourth blog in the series. (Previous posts: St. Louis; MinneapolisDenver)

Companies Visited: Zappos, MGM, Interop

Along with two company visits, I attended the Interop Convention, the leading independent technology conference and expo designed to inspire, inform, and connect the world’s IT community on April 29-May 1st, 2015, held in Las Vegas, NV.


Zappos’ primary selling base is shoes, which accounts for about 80% of its business. There are currently about 50,000 varieties of shoes sold in the Zappos.

In 2007, Zappos expanded their inventory to include clothing, handbags, eyewear, watches, and kids’ merchandise, which currently account for 20% of annual revenues. Zappos expects that clothing and accessories will bring in an additional $1 billion worth of revenue by 2015, as the clothing market is four times the size of the footwear market.

I met with the 2 University recruiters at their headquarters which is downtown Las Vegas.

Zappos renovated the previous City Hall. Currently the University of Arizona career services and Computer Science have a partnership with these university recruiters. The recruiters attended the hackathon challenge at University of Arizona and hope to participate in activities such as those in the future. That said, Zappos’s company policy is that the recruiters do not go visit or attend career fairs at universities. They post jobs on company website and university website and then applicants are given a “challenge” example:

What is the best mistake that you have made in your college career?

If someone was to write your biography, what would they title it and why?

The results of this challenge involves creating a video response. Typically 28-32% of original applicants complete, although all are given the chance to respond. At that point the university recruiting team reviews ALL videos and funnels to appropriate department. Zappos is not concern as to what major or GPA the student was or had. That is not important to them. Finalists are then offered a trip to Las Vegas where they spend the weekend and learn about the unique culture and of Zappos to determine if it is a fit for them. After the weekend of activities and learning about Zappos, offers are presented to those that are selected.

Zappos is undergoing a transition to Holocracy style management which evolves around self-management and governance. Those employees that did not wish to participate were given the choice to adapt or have a buy-out based on number of years with the company.

I toured facility and my impression was that it was very relaxed and upbeat. There was food/drink available. There were lots of games and a very young and lively culture.

Zappos does not hire sophomores or international students.

Zappos core values are as follows:

As we grow as a company, it has become more and more important to explicitly define the core values from which we develop our culture, our brand, and our business strategies. These are the ten core values that we live by:

Deliver WOW Through Service

Embrace and Drive Change

Create Fun and A Little Weirdness

Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded

Pursue Growth and Learning

Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication

Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

Do More With Less

Be Passionate and Determined

Be Humble

MGM ITMy second stop was the MGM IT Corporate headquarters where I met with Montreal Green (Management Associate-Information Security) and Anne Hanson (Executive Director Planning & Strategy – Information Technology) at MGM Resorts International.

MGM Resorts International is a hospitality Company. The Company’s primary business is the ownership and operation of casino resorts, which includes offering gaming, hotel, convention, dining, entertainment, retail and other resort amenities. The Company operates through two segments, namely wholly owned domestic resorts and MGM China. The Company operates 15 wholly owned resorts in the United States. MGM China’s operations consist of the MGM Macau resort and casino (MGM Macau). The Company’s casino resorts offer gaming, hotel, convention, dining, entertainment, retail and other resort amenities. All of its casino resorts operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year, with the exception of Grand Victoria which operates 22 hours a day, every day of the year. At its wholly owned domestic resorts, the Company’s primary casino and hotel operations are owned and managed by the Company.

I toured the IT facility. The building is about 15 minutes off the strip. It is a relatively new building. The culture is very traditional and corporate. The environment is very sterile, quiet and serious. The main control center room, where all transactions from every casino are monitored, has massive screens that identify all transactions guests make during their stay. We discussed disaster recovery, risk, security and the critical nature of their business and what any outage might cost them. They don’t have the control they would like for hiring university candidates although they do. All hiring must be approved through corporate. They have development program for internships and we do have a University of Arizona students who are participating this summer. They have later offer timeframe than most.

A student must be 21 to work for MGM and therefore they do not hire sophomores or international students.

InteropThe INTEROP Convention which was held at the Mandalay Bay Resort was lively and active. I attended lectures and toured all the exhibition center. Below is the summary of the lectures attended:

Women in Technology Panel Discussion

To Lean In or not to Lean In, that is the question. Or is it? How different are IT career paths and opportunities for men and women in 2015? Join your peers for an open forum discussing how to advance in an IT organization, keep your skills sharp, build fruitful relationships with colleagues, learn effective dispute resolution techniques, and build a mentoring network. Bring your questions, war stories and great ideas.

During this program, Interop and NPower have teamed up to host 20 special young women from Las Vegas East Tech High School. Immediately following the luncheon, our panelists will meet with the students for a Q&A and unique mentoring session.

Harper Reed, CEO, Modest Inc.

Harper Reed is a US-based technology engineer, innovator and entrepreneur. He has been called a “tech pioneer”, a “digital wizard” and “hard to miss in a room”. He is fascinated by how technology continues to shape, transform and empower human behavior. He is currently the CEO of a funded mobile commerce company in Chicago called Modest, Inc. In 2012, Harper was responsible for delivering Barack Obama’s online campaign and get-out-the-vote program. As Chief Technology Officer at Obama’s campaign HQ in Chicago, Harper was the man who was responsible for engineering perhaps the most sophisticated political campaign of all time. From 2005 to 2009, Harper was the CTO of Chicago-based clothing company Threadless, one of the first successful crowdsourcing companies, and helped increase revenue tenfold during that period. From 2009 to 2012 he consulted for companies like Rackspace, an innovative cloud-based website host, and Sandbox Industries, a forward-thinking venture capital company which funds hundreds of tech projects in their early stages and then launches the best few. Harper has also developed a number of community-based apps in Chicago. Find Harper on Twitter: @harper

Brian Shield, Vice President-Information Technology, Boston Red Sox What Does it Take to Be a Championship Caliber Player in IT?

The most successful professional sports teams have developed a rigorous and time-tested process of identifying, evaluating, recruiting, cultivating and retaining talent. Prospective and current players are assessed both physically and mentally before they are offered incentive laden agreements that call for continuous improvement and attainment of key milestones.

In business and within IT organizations there are no combines or the level of scrutiny that you would find in professional sports, but what lessons can be learned and applied to IT professionals? What does it take for a player or an IT professional to advance in their career, overcome career limiting obstacles, differentiate themselves from their teammates and hit it big? For those that are managers of your teams, what would your line-up look like if you managed your talent like a championship-caliber professional sports team? How do you cultivate your talent or encourage continuous improvement in yourself and your “players?” What does your farm system look like? What is the role of free agents (i.e. IT consultants) in your line-up? With the war for IT talent only going to become more difficult in the future for companies, how can you find, retain and become an all-star caliber IT player?

SDN First Steps

While SDN promises to transform the network through increased automation, operational flexibility, and new applications, the transformation won’t take place all at once. The most likely step is to start with one or two use cases built around an SDN island (whether logically segmented or designed as a standalone system) that will reside within the traditional enterprise data center. This approach minimizes capital investment, lets IT get comfortable with new processes and tools, and serves as a beachhead from which to expand further into the enterprise. Our keynote panel assembles SDN experts who will identity likely use cases for initial deployments. We’ll also discuss the skill sets organizations should prioritize as they move forward with SDN projects, and share advice on how to manage the disruption – and exploit the opportunities – SDN brings to traditional operations and engineering disciplines.

The conference had several hundred exhibitors. I networked specifically with the following:

Ciena                                                    Lucas Films

Ping Identity                                         Great Identity

Schneider Electric                                  Great Bay Software

Citrix                                                    Sohpos