SC&I alumnus Kevin Samaniego Calva ’20, who graduated with a degree in Information Technology and Informatics (ITI), is working as a software engineer and helping friends expand a nonprofit focused on environmental cleanup. He and ITI students Julianne Bulatao ’21 and Zach Clark ’21 are also helping bring to market an innovative COVID-19 detection app with an underlying operating system designed to maintain both the user’s privacy and data ownership. Kevin gamely answered a few questions we asked.
The IT & Informatics field is broad. How can current students figure out what aspect to pursue?
The best advice I can give is to not focus solely on the material in your course but also absorb as much as you can of the high-level skills you can learn through SC&I’s ITI program. It is great to understand the information and concepts, but if you are not able to apply it outside the classroom, it will make your future job more difficult than it should be. I wanted to be a jack-of-all-trades but I learned that it is best to work on what you are interested in and polish skills in that area. Please do try different technologies in multiple domains so no stone is left unturned; it can vary from front-end development to cybersecurity. The possibilities are endless!
What was your favorite ITI class?
My favorite class was Human-Computer Interaction with Ben Bakelaar. I was a double major in Psychology and ITI which is why I think I enjoyed this class more than my others because in a way UI design concepts include psychology concepts. This enticed me a bit more than my other classes because it allowed me to use my knowledge in both domains to my advantage. Professor Bakelaar would also become a dear mentor of mine and he has helped me in my development tremendously.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received?
“Conserve your energy at work as much as possible — don’t waste unnecessary emotions on work drama or work pressure. And second, prepare for failure, or more specifically, prepare to accept failure. If you can avoid beating yourself up for not being perfect while still holding yourself accountable and responsible, that’s magic.”
What I love most about this advice is its applicability. It resonated with me because I can apply it to both my work and my life in general, which is the beauty of it.
How did you enjoy your Rutgers I-Corps™ experience?
Rutgers I-Corps was an interesting experience because for the first time the program was going to be totally online. It was amazing to meet so many entrepreneurs and see so many people work on positive and impactful products in one space. This program prepared me for working virtually and also provided me the right foundation to get started on my own entrepreneurial efforts. Chris Pallé, Dele Atande, and the metaMe team did a great job in helping me and the other interns absorb as much as we could from the program, despite the circumstances facing the world.
What are you working on now and what are your future plans?
Currently, I am a software engineer at Tata Consultancy Services, having recently completed my training. I will be put on a project soon for a Fortune 500 company where I plan to further my skills and development. On the side, I have been helping friends with their nonprofit organization, Every Reason To Help (ERTH), which focuses on creating and setting up local environmental cleanups. My goal is to help them with outreach and expansion so anyone in the country can start a cleanup in their own community. I also remain in contact with my mentor Ben Bakelaar and assist him on his projects when I can. As for my own entrepreneurial ventures, it is in the works and I do not want to spoil anything, for now.