In one day, Bowdoin students traveled from L.L. Bean’s manufacturing center in Brunswick (where the famous L.L. Bean boot is made) to a tech start-up in Portland. Along the way, they visited a veterinary diagnostics lab that employs 5,000 people, several technology companies, an international education agency, and a shared work space that houses many small businesses. They spoke to entrepreneurs, human resource directors, CEOs, engineers, scientists, software developers, marketers and more.
This was Bowdoin’s first-ever “Bowdoin Day in Portland,” designed to show students diverse and interesting career possibilities in and around Portland. The day is modeled after the popular “Biz Tech Trek” that Bowdoin Career Planning organizes every year for students to introduce them to companies in Boston.
Associate Director of Career Planning Todd Herrmann helped organize the event with Sean Sullivan ’08, a former Career Planning employee and Portland-based entrepreneur, and John Spritz, of Growing Portland. “The day was a truly revelatory experience for the organizers, the students, and the employers involved,” Herrmann wrote in an email. “We all learned about the synergies that exist between the needs of growing companies in Maine and the skills of brilliant Bowdoin students of all classes.”
Twenty-seven students from all four classes signed up for the event, according to Jordan Bell, assistant director of employer relations for Career Planning. He said students mentioned several reasons for joining Portland Day, from being interested in a particular company to wanting to see what might be available for them in Maine after they graduate.
The tour included either visits to the following companies or talks by their representatives: L.L. Bean, Idexx, Kepware, Tyler Technologies, Blue Tarp Financial, the Portland mayor’s office (with a visit from Mayor Michael Brennan), ThinkTank, StartUp Portland, Peloton Labs, Blackstone/Olympico Strategies, Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, Likeable Local, Buoy Local and Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). Bowdoin alumni working at a few of companies also made an appearance, including IDEXX’s Alex Kelly ’13, and CIEE’s Meg Green ’13, Max Taylor ’10 and Kristina Powell ’06.
Bell said a common theme coursed throughout the day. While company representatives told students about their companies and their missions, they also tacked on a sales pitch of sorts. “They talked about why we need young people staying in Maine and working,” Bell said. “Everyone was giving their pitch on why Bowdoin students should should stay in Maine, or why they came back or love living here.”
Maine is facing a demographically challenged future as its population ages, spurring policy leaders and business people to take action to try to increase the workforce.
By the end of the day, Bell said students’ “eyes were opened…seeing all these cool jobs they thought were only available in Boston.”