First engineering cohort on the job at recruitment fair

Hannah Gallardi (left) tells students about artificial intelligence company Paradox at Friday's Engineering and Technology Job/Internship Fair in GCU Arena. Gallardi, a GCU alumna, is the Scottsdale-based company's internship coordinator.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

You’ve met Siri. And Alexa.

But at the Engineering and Technology Job/Internship Fair Friday at Grand Canyon University Arena, GCU students also got to meet Olivia, a recruiting tool designed to make recruiting more human, ironically, with the help of artificial intelligence.

Representatives with Scottsdale-based Paradox were one of approximately 35 companies at the fair Friday to introduce themselves to students and find internship talent -- and possibly full-time staffers -- to add to the company of about 40 employees.

The job fair marks an important turning point for GCU, which will graduate its first engineers this year as the university focuses on, not just its traditional stronghold of teaching and nursing, but a new era in STEM  (science, technology, engineering and math).

“We have an artificial intelligence recruiting tool, Olivia. She’s modeled after our CEO’s wife. She is able to pre-screen candidates. … She can answer any question about the company. She’s acting as a human resources/recruiter assistant,” said Paradox Internship Coordinator Hannah Gallardi, who also is an alumna of GCU. She graduated in 2016 with a degree in Psychology and Justice Studies and is finalizing her master’s degree this year in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

The Engineering and Technology Job/Internship Fair on Friday connected students with industry. GCU's first engineering students are slated to graduate in 2019.

AI company Paradox launched just two years ago under the helm of Aaron Matos, the owner and former CEO of, and just released the Olivia mobile app for iOS and Android in January. The fast-growing company, whose customers include everyone from Sprint Corp. to Delta Airlines and the Tempe and Mesa school districts, was at the Engineering and Technology Job/Internship Fair to find software engineers, product managers, product designers and the like, said Gallardi.

Ashley Shawler was at the fair looking for mechanical engineers for her company, Western States Fire Protection Co.

“She had met one of our mechanical engineering students (during a GCU tour), and she became an intern for them,” said Tacy Austin, engineering and technology student success specialist for the College of Science, Engineering and Technology. The company has since joined GCU's Engineering Technology Advisory Board.

Shawler, the company’s office manager, has been sold on GCU students since then: “You don’t have as many kids, but you have quality kids,” she said. “... Your kids can hold a conversation.”

Students talk to Toni LaMack (right) of Benchmark Electronics, which is a contracting engineering company that is relocating to Tempe and developing an Engineering Center of Excellence.

Benchmark Electronics seemed to be a favorite among the engineering and technology students at the fair. The company gave students a question written in coding language.

"It's not about the answer but how they take the question," said Toni LaMack, Benchmark senior recruiter.

The company is relocating its corporate headquarters to Tempe and building an Engineering Design Center of Excellence in Tempe. The design center will provide an Internet of Things infrastructure, as well as solutions for customers in military, medical and industrial market segments. The company wants to grow its employee number to more than 200 in three years.

LaMack said the company is looking for software engineers, mechanical engineers, software architects, networking software engineers and more.

She brought two of the company's engineers with her to help look for interns and full-time talent. She said it's important for the engineers in the company to know that they're not just going to be in the office working on projects. They will spend some of their time teaching and mentoring fellow employees. Benchmark's internship program, she added, is a five-star program. Each intern is assigned a mentor, and many interns are extended offers for full-time positions.

"GCU has some really good talent," LaMack said, and is impressed how much hands-on experience the students already have -- "that's what we're looking for."

Mechanical engineering student Cooper Davis possessed a unique viewpoint at the job and internship fair. While he’s a student at GCU, he is also an intern with one of the companies looking to recruit students.

Cooper Davis (left), pictured with Kroger Project Manager Nikki Wearth, is a GCU mechanical engineering student who is interning with Kroger.

Davis landed a project management internship with Kroger, though what he does has little to do with groceries. He’s on the corporate facilities side, involved with the building and remodeling of stores.

“We deal with designing the projects. I learn the systems, learn what they do, assist the project managers with what they need,” Davis said.

Austin said because of Davis' knowledge and work ethic, Kroger reached out to CSET for more interns.

Chuong Nguyen and Sunjil Gahatraj, both computer programming seniors, weaved their way around the booths at the fair. They were hoping to do what Davis has done -- secure an internship -- or what Gallardi has done -- step into their first job in the industry.

Nguyen said they spent about two hours at the fair.

“We’re exposed to real-world companies,” said Gahatraj, who was impressed with the event and felt he was prepared to take that next big step in his life. “GCU is teaching you what you need for the real world, all the communication skills you need,” he said.

John Varkey, electrical engineering junior, agreed. He said he has attended "a lot of resume workshops" during his time at GCU. He wants to work in the aerospace industry and reflected on his time at GCU as he spoke with company representatives at the fair. He said that as one of the first to go through the engineering program at the University, he felt a responsibility to those who came after him.

“One of the things I love to do is help people. Every time I would meet an engineering student under me, I loved to help them,” he said, as he himself looked for help from GCU and industry to take the next step in his engineering journey.

Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


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