From coast to coast: Lehigh aims to increase presence on West Coast

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Designed by Anna Simoneau

Lehigh’s Western Regional Office is working to retain the university’s presence through West Coast jobs after graduation.

About 10 percent of Lehigh graduates live on the West Coast, said John Welty, vice provost of Lehigh’s Western Regional Office, which is located in San Mateo, California. That number is close to 8,000 alumni. Many graduates stay on the East Coast after graduation, but Welty said he thinks half of the newly-recruited students will return to jobs in their home states.

“One of the things we like to do for those who are interested in coming to the western states is to make it easier to get a first job or a second job by connecting the student body with enterprises here,” Welty said.

Alex Valentino, ‘16, works at EPS Renewables in California as a business developer. His job began after building relationships with EPS in India during a global social venture class. He helped get the company’s American branch running in California.

He said even though people considering West Coast jobs might only think of media or technology positions, there are other options like start-up companies. He thinks more Lehigh students should apply for jobs on the West Coast because there are more companies focused on the younger generations, especially when it comes to hiring.

Teresa Briggs, the managing partner for Deloitte’s Western region, said going to school on the East Coast does not mean you have to work in that region. She said while it is harder for East Coast students to understand operations at Deloitte’s West Coast branch, recruiters listen to students’ interests and take their choice of location into consideration.

“What’s happening in technology is really driving business,” Briggs said. “They’re all being significantly disrupted and influenced in technology. So being (in Silicon Valley) and being immersed in the hub of technology is good for the economy, and you are ready to work for any business.”

Microsoft software engineer Tamara Hass, ’16, said her goal was to work in Washington and to perform well in her field, even if that meant leaving behind friends and family in Philadelphia. She said she sees many entry-level jobs available for Lehigh students on the West Coast, but students need to find them online.

“I feel comfortable in my job given my skill set that Lehigh has given me,” Hass said. “But what people will find is that these big technology companies can be scary and overwhelming.”

Valentino said because so many graduates stay on the East Coast, it can be hard for students who relocate to find friends at first.

He said he can count the number of Lehigh graduates he knows on the West Coast on one hand and questioned if working in California was the correct choice. He said at first it was upsetting not knowing many people, but he is confident he made the right decision at a job he is excited about and can put a lot of effort into.

Hass said she thought finding other Lehigh alumni in Seattle would help her find comfort and build connections. She said she knew five Lehigh students going to Washington after graduation and was interested in finding more.

After two months, Hass found a Seattle alumni mailing list and helped grow a network of Lehigh graduates. She used events such as happy hours and social media to easily find Lehigh alumni. She’s a member of a West Coast alumni group on Facebook that has approximately 40 people in it.

“Even if you’re in a new city and don’t know anyone, it is good to know you have some Lehigh people around that can help you build connections,” Hass said.

Stephen Buck, ‘92, has worked at comScore in California for 15 years, calculating movie box office revenue as the senior vice president of business relations. Although Buck grew up in Philadelphia and lived in New York for 10 years, he said the move to California was not difficult because he knew he wanted to be among entertainment companies.

“I credit Lehigh for that,” Buck said. “Lehigh taught me that you are going to be who you are, wherever you are. Do not be afraid of the unknown and take initiative to go where you want.”

He said the West Coast is not for everyone and that students should consider if the region has qualities they are looking for. He said if students want to work in the automotive industry, Detroit is the best option. If they want to work in the movie industry, Los Angeles is the better place for them.

Briggs said that specifically in California, job markets can be split into technology in the north and entertainment in the south. She said the Bay Area has a lot of employment, meaning the labor supply is tight for consultants, accountants and computer scientists.

“You’re in an environment (in Silicon Valley) where new technology is being created and new problems are being solved,” Briggs said. “That is not really found anywhere else. The concentration is here and you are just surrounded by it.”

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