A Caltech whiz kid finds her way to Intel


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When graduating senior Michelle Jiang visited a job fair in Florida last year, recruiters were chasing her down. Literally.

After dropping off a resume at the booth for Johnson Controls, a maker of heating, air-conditioning and power solutions, the next day the company's recruiter ran up to her. "'You're from Caltech, come with me. My boss just told me we want you to interview with us right now.'" As in, skip the line of other recruits hoping to land an offer in what's a rather nerve-wracking job environment for soon-to-be grads.

Though Jiang was admittedly caught off guard by the recruiter's exuberance, it's the kind of thing to which students at the California Institute of Technology, one of the most revered institutions for graduating engineers, physicists, and actual rocket scientists, eventually get accustomed.


Jiang, 22, a warm, chatty native of Vancouver, Wash., by way of Canada and China, didn't end up with an offer from Johnson Controls though. In fact, she didn't even interview. She chose instead to pursue a not-so-traditional path for a double major in mechanical engineering and business at Caltech.

Mechanical engineers-in-training ("Mech-E's" in engineering parlance) at her school generally have little trouble landing a job at Northrop Grumman or Raytheon, both a quick jaunt down the Interstate 10 from the school's Southern California campus. But as a girl who grew up glued to her parents' Compaq Presario--with 3GB of hard drive space and a whole 256MB of memory--she imagined a future surrounded by motherboards, not missiles.

Now, as to why recruiters have reason to chase her down: Jiang interned at Hewlett-Packard right out of high school, where she was in the Math Club and Science Olympiad, studied abroad at Cambridge University, and is a member of the Society of Women Engineers.

And lest you think she's some academic robot: Jiang's a former cheerleader, and plays both volleyball and tennis at Caltech.

While college graduating seniors around the country are nervously waiting to hear back about jobs, Jiang can say, with plenty of relief, that she had that sewn up months ago.

Thanks to her decision to study abroad during the same semester her peers would be angling to beat her out for jobs, she began the hunt last fall. "I was kind of freaking out," she remembers.

Playing the overachiever to a T, her top three choices, naturally, were the heavyweights of the tech world: Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel.

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