1) Were you always interested in computer and technology? What made you decide to attend Hofstra and did you start out as a computer science major? What were your career goals at the time?
I don’t think I’ve always been interested in computers and technology. I was raised in a very poor neighborhood in Peru where having a phone or TV was an incredible luxury. I had very few toys that I remember, so most of my days were spent drawing and fiddling around with a toy music keyboard we had. I came to this country when I was 8 years old, and as I grew older, I envisioned myself either being some sort of illustrator (I loved comic books) or composer. During the end of middle school I started taking computer classes and got curious about how computers could enhance my drawings and music. By 9th grade, I was already well-versed in Photoshop and various music-creation software, and I started thinking I could be some sort of movie or video game producer. However, it wasn’t until I saw my older brother taking computer architecture classes that I was inspired to study computing itself, especially programming. The idea of creating software that powers creativity is really exciting. So I signed up for computer science, and that’s how it all started.
My old neighborhood in Lima, Peru.
I knew Hofstra was a great school with a matching reputation. Several teachers I respected went there and had wonderful things to say. I think I made the right choice.
2) What activities were you involved with as an undergraduate student? Any favorite memories?
By the end of high school I had already created a few web sites. I liked showing off my music and drawings, in addition to keeping a blog. However, I still felt there was so much to learn, so I wanted to get more exposure to move my skills forward.
I approached the computer science department chair at the time, asking if they needed any services. He gladly took me up on it and put me in charge of redesigning/programming the Hofstra computer science web site. When that project was over, I signed myself up as a student assistant web developer at McEwen Hall. Lastly, I took the “Independent Studies” CSC courses, led by a chosen professor, who guides you as you tackle a topic of your choosing. My area was databases and web development. I feel like all these activities, on top of my regular course work, created the foundation for my current role as a software developer.
My first computer book. The first book I read about
computer science that didn't make me fall asleep.
3) Are there any professors who served as mentors to you during your years as a student? How did they help you along your educational journey? What were your favorite classes?
There certainly are! To start, I have to give great thanks to Dr. John Impagliazzo. One day he glanced over my screen in the lab and saw that I was working on my website, and he asked me if I wanted to help the university. He was the one that encouraged me to approach the department chair. He also connected me to the job at the McEwen computer center, along with many other internships and job interviews. He really believed in me.
The next person is Dr. Simona Doboli. It was through the course work I did with her that I realized that I wanted to hone in on the Web and databases. My first “real” project was an e-commerce web site, where she acted as my project manager, in addition to professor and mentor. Aside from being extremely knowledgeable in databases, she was very patient and inspiring.
My favorite classes included "Algorithms and Data Structures" and "Computer Operating Systems."
This building (Adams Hall) became my second home.
4) Can you give a short description of what your responsibilities are at Ogilvy & Mather? How has your education at Hofstra helped you professionally?
5) Although technology has changed tremendously since you were a Hofstra student, what career advice would you give graduating and current students majoring in computer science? I would think that students choosing this field have to be prepared to stay flexible and keep learning throughout their working years.
Don't just do what you're told. Go beyond that. The technology market is very competitive, so you can't just get by on the basics. Besides working on your degree, look for internships or some pro bono work. If you can't find either, find a project to work on so you can apply what you learn in the classes to the real world. If you can't find a project, ask a teacher. Never stay idle and keep moving.
Whatever area you're in, stay in touch with the current trends in your field. Read a book a month related to your specialization. Listen to podcasts and follow the Twitter feeds and blogs of experts. Technology is a moving target, so don't rely on your current job as your only source of knowledge.
Check out my learning resources for some ideas.