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Carnegie Mellon University

Our easy, rapid implementation process


Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a top-tier global research university. With almost 7,000 undergraduates actively enrolled, the institution is best known for its strong science and engineering programs. They have produced some of the most exciting advances in modern computing technology and machine learning, among many other contributions.

The Career and Professional Development Center, CMU’s 24-member career service center team, decided to make the transition to Handshake over the summer of 2016.

Deciding to switch

“We were looking for a more modern system, with a team that could deliver on our high expectations for customer support,” says Kevin Monahan, CMU's Associate Dean for Career and Professional Development.

“Our previous system had certain functionalities that were broken, that the vendor said they couldn’t fix. We knew we were stressing the system with our usage–but they weren’t responding in a way that made us feel like we were partners in improving the product,” says Monahan.

After seeing a demo of Handshake, the team was excited.

“Handshake has a 21st century build. I see things that work like Netflix and Pandora –the software is capable of making incredible recommendations. This is happening in so many systems now, and it’s what our students expect and desire,” says Kevin O’Connell, Assistant Director for Marketing and Communications and Lead Handshake Admin.

Making the transition

By early 2016, the CMU team had finished their review process and was ready to commit to Handshake. Thus, they began the process of bringing in other key stakeholders. “We knew this was going to be a change,” says Monahan. “It’s a bit like moving to a new house. You have to decide what you want to bring with you. You have to get things set up in a new place and that takes work. But, if in the end you're in a better place, it's totally worth it.”

CMU created a dedicated implementation team led by Kevin O’Connell and McKenna Houston. Together, they worked with team members throughout the organization to ensure a smooth transition–launching Handshake to employers first, then students.

“The transition has gone as well as I could have imagined,” adds Monahan.

Handshake’s role

“Our philosophy at Handshake is to be there throughout the transition,” says Handshake account manager Ryan Kent. “Basically, our team is that helpful moving company you always use–supporting you every step of the way, and making the transition as easy as possible.”

Monahan agrees: “Everyone at Handshake has been really responsive. It’s really great to go back and forth when you know you’re going to get an answer to your question–and you can get critical feedback.” He continues, “It’s been a real culture shift for us. If you have a problem, Handshake actually wants to help you solve the problem.”

The Handshake Network

Carnegie Mellon is best known for its incredible STEM students. “We have never had an issue with those technology companies finding us,” says Monahan, “but what I have noticed is that because of Handshake we’re getting more PR firms. We’re getting non-profits and other organizations reaching out that typically would have had trouble finding us. That has been fantastic. They post and students can find it, which is a huge win for our non-STEM students. In the past, those students have always said, ‘There is nothing in the system for me,’ and now, for the first time, that’s not the case.”

Advice to others

“Get started earlier!” says Kevin. “The University approval process took a lot longer than the Handshake deployment. Whenever we asked Handshake for clarification or for additional resources, we had that within hours. The University side wasn’t always able to move that fast. ”