Alicia Lin (MII-PS '12)-Integrated Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Alicia Lin (MII-PS '12)

Alumna launches LinkedIn Students App to empower students in their career search

After receiving her master's degree in 2012, Alicia Lin was searching for a job that would complement her new skills in product and service innovation. The program had taught her to approach everything differently, even the job search itself. While exploring and applying for positions, innovation-minded Lin recognized a glaring opportunity gap for technology to better support college students in finding their ideal career path, “In the 21st century, with all the technology available, [I thought] there must be a better way for college students to prepare themselves to find not just a job, but a desirable career after graduation,” she explains. Fortunately, Lin found her next career step at LinkedIn, where, as a Senior UX Designer, she has addressed this challenge for college students by developing an innovative product: LinkedIn Students App

Beyond Traditional Roles

Lin obtained her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Unlike many mechanical engineers who traditionally focus on product implementation, she became interested in front-end development after studying the Integrated Innovation Institute's Master of Product Development (now Master of Integrated Innovation for Products & Services). “I was really lucky to have the option to pursue an interdisciplinary graduate degree, like MPD, since it helped me figure out my path into design and product [and] land my role as a UX Designer at LinkedIn,” she says.

Lin at LinkedIn

Leveraging her new responsibilities at LinkedIn, Lin began to explore and develop a tool for students to use in their job search, outlining the process to create an app, which she called the LinkedIn Students App. Lin assembled a small team for the project, including fellow CMU alumni from the Information Networking Institute (INI), Songzhe Cheng (M.S. ’14). Lin explains, “The initial idea was to assist students with degree majors that don’t easily translate to a specific or obvious career and provide them with the tools and strategies to do so. We could identify alumni who studied what they studied and show students who they were and what they were up to so they had more information on what paths people like them went on to do.”

Product Launch Gets Impressive Support

In May of 2015, Lin presented the idea for the LinkedIn Students App to the CEO at LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner. She explained her vision of how LinkedIn could not only help students find a job after college but also assist them in pursuing the right career based on their skills and goals. Lin says, “I am grateful that I was able to present my ideas [and] thrilled that the CEO saw the value in my proposal.”

In November 2015, Lin and her LinkedIn team piloted the LinkedIn Students App for undergraduate students at San Jose State University. As part of the pilot, they conducted a formal research study where they asked students to use the app everyday and provide feedback on the its usability, features and expectations. In February 2016, they used the feedback to redesign the app and presented this new product iteration to students at the University of Central Florida. “Our team traveled to UCF and assisted students in crafting their LinkedIn profile, taking a professional headshot and showing them the LinkedIn Students app,” explains Lin.

After seeing its success in the pilot programs, LinkedIn decided to back the app. In April 2016, the company publicly launched the app in both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store.

Preparing Students to get LinkedIn to Their Future Career

Now with a 12-person team, the LinkedIn Students App has continued to grow. The app has successfully helped students to identify roles and companies where they could be a great fit. It has also connected students to alumni from their alma mater to discuss their experiences within the companies. Lin says, “Part of being more successful in your job search is leveraging your network. Many students don’t realize the power of the alumni network and how alumni can help you figure out your career path and give you insight on how to get a job.”

Lin is happy that the app is supporting students in their professional journey, “There is no judgment if a student is unsure about their career path. I asked a Business student what she wanted to do when she graduated. She indicated that she didn’t know and seemed embarrassed by this fact. My response was ‘Perfect! that’s exactly why we are here!’”

Lin goes on to explain, “The job search process is brutal. You may face many rejections before landing a job. Our goal is to help students figure out better strategies for their job search. Sometimes it’s as simple as a role transition and understanding what opportunities are out there that you may be qualified for. We are here to help students reach their full potential by helping them understand how their skills can be used in the real world in ways they might not have thought of before.”

Alicia LinAbout Lin

Lin grew up near Philadelphia, PA. She loves living in the Bay Area where she enjoys rock climbing and hiking at nearby locations such as Yosemite and Red Rock Canyon in Nevada.

By Chris Zeise