Devin Whitford doesn’t need his master’s in mechanical engineering to do what he’s doing now — waiting tables at Carrabba’s in Latham and Garden Bistro 24 in Colonie.
But the table-waiting experience could help the 24-year-old Albany resident get a foot in the door at one of the world’s most innovative startups, Quirky, which takes people’s invention ideas, brings them all the way to market and shares the revenue with the inventors.
The Manhattan-based company with a location in Hong Kong plans to open a third location in the fourth and fifth floors of Center City on State Street next month, and hosted a job fair Thursday at Proctors’ Key Hall.
“Even though I have the technical background, since I’ve been serving for the last year, I’ve kind of developed that ability to talk to people and create those sorts of relationships,” said Whitford, who applied for a technical support position. “So, I think that’s a good place to start — it’s part technical expertise, part communication and talking to people.”
Whitford, who earned his master’s degree from Binghamton University in 2012, was one of about 100 people to submit a resume and fill out an application Thursday.
And he wasn’t the only overqualified server to do so.
Up until just recently, Devon Brott, who has an associate degree in paralegal studies from Schenectady County Community College, was waiting tables at the local Denny’s.
The 29-year-old Schenectady resident applied for a customer-support position with Quirky because, he said, “I like people.”
“You’ve got the opportunity as a customer-service representative, director, anything, to make the experience that much more efficient, to streamline and make friendly once again what used to be a walk-in job,” he said.
Brott left his job at Denny’s Sunday because it didn’t allow him to have a set schedule and be with his 2-year-old son on Saturdays.
A hiring manager at the fair told him that wouldn’t be an issue at Quirky.
“It would give me security, it would give me stability, it would give me a set schedule,” Brott said. “It would give me the ability to work locally without having to commute to Albany or Saratoga for a job that I feel is at the same caliber that I’m at.”
The Proctors conference room bustled with job-seekers from when the fair started at noon until well past 2 p.m. when it was planned to end. The applicants wore Quirky name tags with irreverent messages such as “Hire me, I take great selfies.”
Quirky will use the influx of applicants to immediately fill between 20 and 25 customer and technical support and supervisor positions, and plans to hire 180 people to work in Schenectady by the end of the year, said Anthony Cuni, who will manage Quirky’s customer-service division in Schenectady.
“This is more than I ever expected,” Cuni said. “I was terrified that no one would show up and that the word didn’t get out, but this is amazing.”
Cuni said the people he talked to worked “very corporate” jobs at insurance agencies, health care companies and banks, for example, and were excited about the chance to do something different.
The company was founded by Ben Kaufman in 2009 on the motto, “Making invention accessible.”
“I think that we’re kind of bringing a fresh breath of air, a quirky personality that people are attracted to,” Cuni said.
What interested Brott the most was Quirky’s projected growth, which is being helped by its partnering with General Electric to put the “smartest air conditioner in the world” on store shelves next month.
“You’re looking at progressive growth. You’re not stagnating,” he said. “[Schenectady is] a town that used to rely so heavily on just industry, that physical industry, that getting into something where it’s intellectual industry — it’s a boon for the economy. It’s bringing something that’s never been here before.”