Building Your Career In Tech: Computer and Information Technology Alumni Share Their Experiences

Friday, October 21, 2022
Computer and Information Technology Alumni Share Their Experiences

The Computer and Information Technology PVCC Alumni Career Panel provided an opportunity for current students and the campus community to hear from several of our alumni about their personal stories and career paths. From their insights and experiences to how they arrived in their current professions, these alumni shared how their educational journey at PVCC helped them to achieve professional and personal success.

The inspiring Panelists and their current areas of career focus:

  • Emily Andrzejewski - Senior Software Engineer at American Express
  • Isaac Jung - Intern at Intel 
  • Eric Pawelski - Program Analyst at MCCCD
  • Matthew Piccolo - Problem & Crisis Management at Farmers Insurance

Was there a key moment in time that influenced you in your career path? If so, please share. 

Emily - When I first started out, I had no idea what I wanted to do so I was just taking general classes. One of the requirements was, CIS 105, and we were asked to design a webpage. Through this assignment, I found I really enjoyed web and graphic design. Had I not been exposed to this class, I probably would not have become a software engineer.  Eight years later I am a lead software engineer. 

There are many different career paths in the Computer & Information Technology related profession. How would you advise students on how to choose their path?

Emily - Take a variety of classes and explore your interests. Look at the job outlook as well and the career path. This will help you focus on what you want to do. Find something you are interested in and passionate about.

Isaac - Talk to people, advisors, professors, students. Make connections. Don't only ask them about what career path you should pursue but ask them what their personal interests are. Find out what sort of accomplishments and projects they’ve been involved in and take an interest in what they have to say.

What do you know now that you wish you had known before you chose your career path?

Emily - You don’t have to know everything. Sometimes I found myself wondering, how will I remember all of this? Remember, there is no shame in not knowing.

Isaac - There are plenty of courses you can take; be sure to talk to your adviser for guidance as you pursue your interests.

How have your experiences at PVCC either directly or indirectly impacted the work that you do?

Emily - The support from the professors was huge. Utilize open lab time; help fellow students. Mentor others. Learn how to simplify more complicated topics and share that with others. I got an internship at American Express while at PVCC and I have been working there ever since. As a senior software engineer, the majority of my time is spent mentoring people. So learning how to teach and mentor people and understanding the fundamentals is key.

Isaac - PVCC’s smaller class sizes and more community oriented environment makes it easier to develop stronger connections with people. Making connections is one of your best means to success. Talk to your professors after class; make a connection with them and your peers.

What advice would you like to share for current students interested in the Computer & Information Technology related profession?

Eric - don’t overthink it. Take a day at a time and start slowly. Ask questions and get to know as many people as you can. Explore more while at PVCC. Find a mentor to guide you, such as a professor. I wish I had explored more in college. Explore various majors and get hands-on experience. Do multiple internships. Utilize LinkedIn as a way to connect with others; networking is key.

Is there anything you would have done differently on your educational journey?

Matthew - A lot of the information you will get will convert into certifications. Take advantage of completing these credentials as they illustrate your dedication and doing so also reflects positively on your resume.

What was your biggest challenge in your educational journey and what did you do to overcome it?

Matthew - stay positive about your education journey. I went to a conference and met a lot of amazing individuals in IT and cyber security and I did a lot of networking. I learned how much I didn’t know. You are not going to be the smartest person in the room; you just need to stay positive about yourself and how you learn and your future.

Erin - find the balance in what you are doing. Find systems that work for you and that are going to lead to where you want to be.

While you were a student, were there any internships, job shadowing, volunteering or work experience that helped you gain employment after graduation? If so, please share.

Matthew - It is so important for you to be proactive while you are a student to find those connections in the IT world. When I started, I was making pizzas; although it was fun it was not rewarding or giving me the knowledge I needed to move forward. I met Randy Babick in the Computer Commons and spoke with him and was hired to work at the help desk. This really helped me to move into the service setting. Find an outlet to get involved in the field you are interested in.

Eric - Internships do help; paid or unpaid experiences. It is not always about the money but what the experience will provide in terms of professional growth. As Matthew said, starting at the help desk gives you a lot of exposure by which to expand your knowledge.