Navigating Career Paths: Insights from Denison Computer Science Alumni Panel

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a captivating alumni panel discussion hosted by Denison University, where graduates from the Computer Science program shared their diverse career journeys and insights. The event offered invaluable perspectives on navigating the ever-evolving landscape of technology and carving out a successful career path in the field. Let’s delve into the enriching experiences shared by these accomplished alumni:

Paul Bass ’20 | Software Engineer | Indeed

From Left to Right: Caileigh Marshall, Hayley LeBlanc,
Paul Bass, Haley Nugent, Sardor Taylakov

Paul Bass, currently thriving as a Software Engineer at Indeed, shared invaluable insights into navigating technical interviews—the gateway to entry-level positions in the tech industry. According to Paul, technical interviews are among the toughest challenges one will face as a tech professional. However, he assured that once you navigate through this phase and secure an entry-level job, it’s smooth sailing from there.

Paul’s advice on nailing technical interviews was particularly enlightening. He cautioned against merely solving LeetCode problems without understanding the underlying algorithms and approaches. Instead, Paul recommended delving deep into the essence of these problems to grasp their fundamental concepts thoroughly. Additionally, he advised aspiring candidates to research the prospective company and familiarize themselves with the types of questions typically asked during interviews. This tailored preparation can significantly enhance one’s chances of success.

Moreover, Paul emphasized the significance of networking and building meaningful connections within the tech community. He highlighted how networking opportunities can open doors to new career prospects and professional growth, echoing the sentiment that success in the tech industry often hinges on both technical ability and interpersonal relationships.

Hayley LeBlanc ’20 | PhD Student | The University of Texas at Austin

Hayley LeBlanc, currently pursuing a PhD at The University of Texas at Austin in Operating Systems, provided insightful advice for students considering graduate school in computer science. She encouraged them to take a diverse range of computer science classes during their undergraduate studies to explore various areas of interest. LeBlanc suggested that gaining industry experience before pursuing a master’s degree can be beneficial, as it provides valuable practical insights and enhances one’s application to graduate programs.

Caileigh Marshall ’19 | Senior Software Engineer | 3M

Caileigh Marshall, a Senior Software Engineer at 3M, provided valuable insights into fostering a collaborative and inclusive work culture. She stressed the importance of being open to learning and not being afraid to take on new projects. Marshall highlighted the value of teamwork and diversity in driving innovation within tech organizations. Her emphasis on embracing new challenges echoed the sentiment that growth often occurs outside one’s comfort zone. Marshall has experience working on a diverse range of projects, from architecting DynamoDB on the backend side of things to providing guidance on UX projects.

Additionally, Marshall shared internship advice for individuals preparing to intern this summer, offering guidance on how to stand out in a competitive environment. She emphasized the significance of proactivity and initiative, encouraging interns to seek out opportunities to contribute beyond their assigned tasks. Marshall suggested networking with colleagues, asking questions, and actively seeking feedback to demonstrate a strong work ethic and eagerness to learn. By showcasing a genuine enthusiasm for their work and a willingness to go above and beyond, interns can leave a lasting impression and maximize their learning experiences during their time at the company.

Haley Nugent ’18 | Senior Consultant | CGI

Haley Nugent, a Senior Consultant at CGI, emphasized the importance of adaptability in the tech industry. Drawing from her experiences, she highlighted the significance of continuously updating one’s skill set to stay relevant amidst rapid technological advancements. Furthermore, Nugent provided valuable advice on staying up to date with the industry and honing one’s skill set. She recommended leveraging a variety of resources such as YouTube channels like NeetCodeIO and Fireship, workshops, conferences, and industry publications to keep abreast of the latest trends, tools, and technologies. Additionally, she emphasized the importance of seeking out opportunities for hands-on experience and experimenting with new technologies to deepen one’s understanding and expertise. By embracing a mindset of lifelong learning and proactively seeking out new knowledge, tech professionals can position themselves for success in an ever-evolving industry landscape.

Sardor Taylakov ’19 | Senior Software Engineer | Navan

Sardor Taylakov, an Engineer at Navan, underscored the significance of perseverance and resilience. He shared anecdotes of overcoming challenges and setbacks, emphasizing how grit and determination can pave the way for success in the competitive tech landscape.

Sardor Taylakov, an Engineer at Navan, underscored the significance of perseverance and resilience. He shared anecdotes of overcoming challenges and setbacks, emphasizing how grit and determination can pave the way for success in the competitive tech landscape. Taylakov also opened up about his difficult journey of finding a job after school, particularly challenging due to being from outside of the states. However, he emphasized the transformative power of networking, highlighting how connections made during his internship ultimately led to him receiving a full-time offer.

In addition to his personal journey, Taylakov offered insightful advice to students, urging them to stay up to date with emerging technologies such as AI and Large Language Models. He emphasized the importance of incorporating these advancements into one’s skill set to remain competitive in the industry. You can stay up to date by following different tech blog forums, Linkedin, or YouTube. At Navan, Taylakov’s daily work involves implementing services in NestJS to handle travel and expense support operations, leveraging large language models such as GPT, OpenChat, Mixtral, and Claude.

By Ethan Scott '25
Ethan Scott '25 Peer Career Fellow: Technology, Data and Science