Before I even graduated college, I had already broken into three tech companies – HP Labs, Google X, and Nvidia. Something I learned to help me land those internships was how important it is for engineers, especially those without a resume that can speak for itself, to be able to communicate their skills and career desires clearly and confidently.

Think about it. At the time I landed the first of my internships, this was me:

  • I had not completed a college degree in engineering
  • My experience level was two years
  • Before my first internship, I only had school projects, part-time work, and other roles outside of tech on my resume

If this description more or less fits your experience level, keep reading. I'm going to explain how I developed my successful engineer elevator pitch by first figuring out the kind of technologies and engineering teams I wanted to work with and why, and then proving it through my communication.

The elevator pitch

The elevator pitch is a useful tool when interviewing for software roles. It should point to what you do well and then end with any "social proof" or some external validation of what you have accomplished. Hiring managers like to know that you worked for other people who are happy with your level of work.

My elevator pitch went through several iterations. I always picked it back up after I started a new role. Here is one example that I used after I completed my internships:

I want to be an engineer and build emerging technology using agile principles while speaking at tech conferences.

Notice the above includes a specific title (engineer, of course), a specific field (emerging technology), a discipline (agile), and provides social proof (speaking at tech conferences).

The level of specificity in this elevator pitch has led to folks finding ways to help me. Often after speaking at an event, I would get a lead or invitation to my next. This allowed me to make the most of high-impact networking events, no matter what I was working on at the time.

But this was not my first or final elevator pitch. Let me demonstrate for you how it began.

Version 1.0

I want to work in emerging tech as an engineer.

During my sophomore year, after a speech in which I talked about my engineering studies went viral (with an assist from President Obama), a director from HP reached out to my school and asked me to do an in-person interview regarding a robotics and AI opportunity. I was shocked, but I said yes and went in not knowing what would happen and without being sure I was really prepared for it. I sat down for three back-to-back-to-back interviews. At the end of the day onsite, I was given a verbal offer, which I accepted.

My elevatory pitch then was more open-ended than it is now, even if it was coming from behind a podium that seconds later would be occupied by the 44th President of the United States. But making sure to at least communicate my desire to work in various emerging technologies helped me land that first role. While there, I found myself in a good learning environment where it was okay to fail and iterate, and I wound up learning enough about the work I was doing any myself to be able to hone in even further on what I wanted to pursue.

Version 2. 0

I want to be an engineer using robotics while inspiring others to get into STEM.

Three months after starting my HP internship, I had completed a successful robotics project. What signaled its success was the fact that we had multiple systems working together. The software and hardware were integrated into a five-finger robotic hand that worked with a computer vision algorithm.

A little prematurely, I thought my career was set and that I could plan exactly what was going to happen in the future. But I still had and always will have something to discover in this field. The first opportunity was not going to be my last opportunity.

When I started updating my LinkedIn profile with skills and software that other professionals were using (which is essentially just another way to disseminate your pitch for yourself), I caught the eye of a Google X recruiter in Mountain View, California. I delivered my pitch and also took every opportunity to tell the story of the hardware I created, showing my design process from beginning to end and describing my interactions with the team. I got the internship!

I can't express this enough: Learn the vocabulary for your field, whether you're using it in your elevator pitch or elsewhere. Industry keywords can be quick indicators for what you have done and what you want to do. Also, around this time is when I started communicating my "why" for the work I was interested in, adding that I wanted to inspire more young people to get involved in STEM. Motivation is important to hiring companies and potential partners, and articulating well what yours is can make a big difference.

Version 3.0

I want to be an engineer and build emerging technology using agile principles while speaking at tech conferences.

I want to briefly mention the value of pivoting. I realized there was so much more to the tech field than I could understand at one time. There was an ecosystem that did not have a lot of connecting tunnels and it was likely that information or plans would change suddenly. Over time, I made a couple of shifts and I started studying AI. I received another LinkedIn message from a Nvidia recruiter, and again I took remote interviews and shared my past work. Again, I got the internship, and this time I would work on self-driving cars, an emerging field but at a company that focused on AI. Learning to swap new ideas into my elevator pitch was a big but necessary step.

But while recalibrating the tech I wanted to work on, I got more specific on how I wanted to go about my social proof. Specifically, I began focusing on wanting to speak at tech conferences (and doing it), which is a more direct manifestation for going about inspiring others to get involved in STEM.

Where are you at with your pitch?

What we often lack is the encouragement to show our work in progress. But it's been so important for my journey to be clear and speak confidently about where I want to go as an engineer, even as the details can evolve or be swapped out entirely at times. Beginning with some specific technology or field direction, while remaining somewhat open-ended, can be a good jumpstart into opportunities and teams where you can hone and develop your career – hopefully to your Elevator Pitch 3.0 and beyond!


Camille Eddy is a product engineer at Sector. Are you looking for a job in tech? Check out Sector's job search accelerator to learn how to research, apply, and interview for tech jobs.

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