Seidenberg Alumnus Feature: Jonathan Etkin ’02

Each year, Seidenberg students graduate and move into the workforce. Graduates build their careers and hold close to the knowledge they gained at Seidenberg. When we have the chance to share the stories of alumni who’ve gone on to succeed in their fields, we jump at the opportunity. Alumnus Jonathan Etkin shared his story with us.

The Danbury, Connecticut native spent four and a half years at Pace University to obtain a master’s degree as a part-time student while also living a double life as a full-time employee and commuter. Jonathan’s path to higher education was strenuous, but he made sure to keep his eyes on the goal: a Masters of Science degree from the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.

Before his time at Pace, Jonathan got his Bachelor of Science degree in finance from SUNY Albany. While he knew he wanted to work in the technology industry, the light bulb didn’t go off for him until 1995 when he was working in NYC as an accountant and Microsoft software was becoming an office staple.

“Working in that field for a while was when I realized that I really had an aptitude and a passion for technology,” he explains. “That’s when I decided to pursue the masters at Pace.”

“The first technology I was introduced to in-work was the thing I intended to do my studies and my papers on—multidimensional databases.”

This led Jonathan to the Masters of Business Information Systems program at Pace University. From there, it took a lot of focus to keep his eye on the prize.

Jonathan set out to work full-time, study as a part-time student, plan a wedding, and juggle life as a commuter. The key was to find a flexible job. He made sure to unlock his potential by finding a job that understood the importance of the education that he was pursuing.

“It’s important to find a job that is willing to let you leave on certain days at certain times,” Jonathan expresses.

Doing this allowed him the flexibility he needed while he was commuting from work to Pace’s former White Plains campus. Jonathan’s work schedule had him leaving work 2 to 3 times a week for class. It was a wonderful opportunity for him to gain work experience while also gaining a degree that would open up more doors for him.

Jonathan was introduced to “Enterprise Performance Management” technology early in his career. This new form of multidimensional databases furthered his passion to work in the industry he dreamed of.

“Not only did I have the personal desire to go in that direction, I found the benefits and how much more efficient you could be and how much more quickly you could get things done and get them done accurately,” he explains.

Once Jonathan graduated with his master’s degree from Seidenberg in 2002, he immediately began to excel in management positions in the tech and consulting industries, implementing Oracle / Hyperion Performance Management Solutions.

In 2017, Jonathan shifted his career to become the Customer Success Director at Anaplan, a modern, cloud-based planning platform. At Anaplan, Jonathan’s team is in charge of customer implementations to ensure success.

When asked how he feels in his role at Anaplan, he explains that “it’s exciting, to be honest. It’s a new cutting edge technology. Anaplan was born to be a cloud software product, so it’s just a more modern take on the same type of technology.”

“I work with our implementation partners and our customers to make sure we are delivering on what they feel they purchased from us,” he explains.

When talking about the work he and his team members do, Jonathan explains with an example. If a company wants to track their expenses or any other possible variables, the implementation partners at Anaplan ensure that the company’s goals are met. Jonathan’s team makes sure the transition is seamless and efficient and that the customers are satisfied with the product.

“We do what we need to do to make the customers happy and successful,” he explains. “We’re pulling in all the right people to make sure we’re successful.”

As a professional successfully making moves in the technology industry, it’s safe to say that Jonathan’s advice is something to listen to. We’re proud of everything he has done since his time at Seidenberg. He wanted to leave us with some words of advice for Seidenberg students:

“One thing I’ve learned over the years is that…simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. I would advise people who are learning technology to not over-engineer solutions for their end-users,” Jonathan advises. “Your main goal as an implementer should be focused on the end-user experience. Make it simple, easy to understand, scalable, and easy to maintain.”

Three Seidenberg Students attended the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit as Scholars

When Forbes announced that the applications for scholars to attend the 2019 Forbes Under 30 Summit were open, three Seidenberg students jumped at the opportunity: Sammy Chen Li, Ezana Ćeman, and Debra Perlman. These three students were accepted to the summit and traveled to Detroit, Michigan in November to attend. We’re so proud of Sammy, Ezana, and Debra and we want to share their experiences with our community!

Both Sammy Chen Li and Ezana Ćeman are seniors who will graduate in May 2020. Sammy will graduate with a BS degree in Computer Science while Ezana will obtain one in Information Systems. Debra Perlman is a junior studying Information Systems who expects to graduate in May 2021. All three of these upperclassmen took the time to tell us about this prestigious conference.

 

Why did you apply for the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit and how did you feel when your acceptance came through?

Sammy: For the experience and exposure! I wanted to experience a conference/summit that covered many industries featuring leaders from those industries (and not simply technology). Being in a room with featured 30 under 30’s and having an opportunity to meet them was my main motivation to apply. When my acceptance came through, I was ecstatic and honored to be selected among the many students across the country/world to attend. I knew that this would be [a] once-in-a-lifetime experience as a student preparing to take on the real world. This conference, I knew, would make me meet people from a spectrum of backgrounds and that intrigued me even more.

Ezana: Last year, I was given the once in a lifetime opportunity to attend the 2018 Forbes Under 30 Summit which took place in Boston through the Under 30 Scholars Program. I applied last year [2018] right when the application came out and to date, this was the best summit/gathering of figures and role models in the world that I have ever been to. It was an amazing experience and I jumped to apply right away when I saw that the application for Forbes Under 30 Scholars for 2019 was live! I applied again due to the endless networking opportunities with both students and professionals within various industries. I was in love with this year’s selection of speakers and would truly be honored to be able to hear everybody speak about where they started out in life and how they got to where they are now. I was actually surprised when my acceptance came this year as I was unsure if Forbes would allow Scholars from last year to attend again this year. I was extremely excited and I was looking forward to meeting other people who shared the same passions as I did. 

Debra: I applied for the Forbes Under 30 Summit for a couple [of] reasons. I was looking to travel while at Pace without studying abroad, and to be honest, the conference just looked really interesting and like it would be a good time. When the Pforzheimer Honors College posted the application, I applied on a whim, not thinking I would actually get the scholarship for the Summit. When I got my acceptance, I was feeling so many emotions: shocked, thrilled, surprised, excited just to name a few. But, after the shock set in, I was determined to be in Detroit for the conference as I did not want to miss out on this amazing opportunity.

What was the summit like? Did it live up to your expectations, surpass them, or miss them entirely?

Sammy: The summit was initially overwhelming but fascinating and eye-opening. It was truly a memorable experience to have as it lived up to my expectations. I learned something new from every talk or experience, whether it was from the tech track, or from experiencing new technology, or from the world of entrepreneurship, fashion, art, or design. Hearing from accomplished entrepreneurs and celebrities and their impacts through their work were inspiring, inspiring me to realize my potential to make a difference in the world. When I experienced Cadillac’s self-driving car experience, I truly realized the calling for innovation for the future, and this conference represented that. This conference engaged its attendees by offering so much insight over the 4 days and even gave us a chance to give back to the city of Detroit, the rising hub of innovation and design.

Ezana: The 2019 Forbes Under 30 Summit took place this year in Detroit, Michigan which was quite the change from last year and overall, it was an amazing experience! There was a designated floor in the Masonic Temple just for Scholars which gave us a space for networking and Scholar-specific events such as resume workshops, interview tips and tricks, etc. The Summit lived up to my expectations as I was able to hear from a few of my actual role models which wouldn’t have happened elsewhere! Over the course of 4 days, I was able to connect with over a hundred students my age who study the same major as I do, and participate in once-in-a-lifetime experiences! 

Debra: The summit surpassed my expectations. The venue, the Masonic Temple was modern, but also felt like it had a historical significance in Detroit. The panels, sponsored events, music festival, food and other opportunities at the summit were amazing! I was given the chance to meet celebrities, successful individuals and some of my personal role models in various fields and industries. Not only did I get to network with like-minded individuals and professionals already far in their careers, but, I was able to see and meet many of those who I have aspired to for a long time.  

What was your favorite part of the summit? Can you explain what happened at this particular panel/event in detail?

Sammy: There were many amazing experiences throughout the summit, ranging from seeing Serena Williams to hearing insightful words from industry leaders to experiencing the future of self-driving cars from Cadillac to walking through the Startup Hub. My favorite part of the summit, however, was practicing yoga with Michelle Kwan, where I was able to recenter myself amongst the craziness of this summit. Having this session to practice self-care was important to me because it highlights how important it is to focus on mental and physical health while working towards future success. In addition to practicing yoga, I was able to meet Michelle Kwan, which was personally important to me as she represents success as an Asian American. Meeting her was truly inspiring and motivational to pursue my own success in my career. 

Ezana: My favorite part of the summit was being able to see and hear my lifelong role model Serena Williams talk about how she is breaking through barriers in the business world which was extremely inspirational! I played varsity tennis in high school and was and still am obsessed with her. It was extremely inspirational hearing how a woman of color who is primarily known as a championship athlete throughout the world is investing in all types of small and big businesses and creating her own fashion line. Other notable parts of the summit that I wanted to mention were: being able to drive a self-driving Cadillac on the highway, hearing Kevin Durante, Sophia Bush, and Offset speak, and try out all of the company-sponsored activities. 

Debra: I actually had two favorite parts of the event. The first one was being able to go to a panel session and do yoga with Michelle Kwan. This was a once in a lifetime experience where Michelle talked about her career as an Olympic athlete and her current political career with Joe Biden’s campaign, all while leading a group of us in a relaxing yoga session. She also after talked personally with many of the attendees, including me, and took pictures with all of us as a group and individually. The other event that was my favorite part of the summit was the panels with Sophia Bush and Nia Batts, the co-founders of Detroit Blows, a Detroit based non-toxic salon. Their company offers beauty services in the Detroit area and helps the redevelopment of the Detroit Area through their philanthropic section “Detroit Grows”. At their panels, they talked about their investment into the company, investment into Detroit Grows and about themselves in general, including their personal lives and careers which surround the business they own. This inspired me in a number of ways, making this an amazing, valuable, once in a lifetime experience!

Did you leave wanting to return to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit in 2020?

Sammy: Absolutely! It also inspired me to one day be selected on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List. I think this experience is truly special to have as a student and I encourage everyone to attend at some point within their student career. 

Ezana: As I will be graduating this upcoming May, I won’t be eligible to apply again as a Scholar unless I go to graduate school, which is still something I am thinking about! I would love to go back to Detroit in 2020 but it comes down to funding at the end of the day! I highly recommend that all Pace students apply to next year’s Forbes Under 30 Summit as it is an amazing and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Speak to your professors, your advisors, etc. and learn how to receive Pace funding for these types of events!

Debra: I definitely left wanting to go back to the Forbes Under 30 Summit in 2020! It was an amazing experience and I would love to go again and experience not only the parts I missed the first time, but take full advantage of what the Summit has to offer all over again.

We’re so proud of these incredible student leaders and newly Forbes Under 30 scholars. Make sure to apply for the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit for an experience like this!

Opportunities in Africa 2019: wrapping up the conference presented by the Seidenberg School and Wutiko

Seidenberg’s international connection continues to grow, and the conference that occurred earlier this September is proof of that. On Friday, September 27th, Seidenberg hosted Opportunities in Africa at One Pace Plaza for professionals, students, faculty, and staff. 

The day kicked off with a breakfast and transitioned to the morning ceremony for opening remarks. Dean Hill, Marvin Krislov, Dr. Scharff, and many others expressed gratitude to both the Seidenberg School and Wutiko for bringing this event to Pace University. Upon the completion of the ceremony, gifts were presented to the VIP guests, photo opportunities were had, and connections were made. The rest of the afternoon consisted of panels focused on professionals from Senegal, Mauritius, and Nigeria. Between these events, participants had the opportunity to network and converse with business representatives. Overall, it was a wonderful day for connecting brilliant minds to talk about the future of business and tech.

This event was made possible thanks to the partnership between Wutiko, a professional platform known for connecting individuals to business opportunities in Africa, and the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. 

Kémo Touré, CEO of Wutiko, and Dr. Christelle Scharff, Professor of Computer Science at Pace University, brought this networking opportunity to Seidenberg after meeting at a conference and connecting over their passion for tech and community outreach.

Speakers at the event included C.D. Glin, President and CEO of USADF; Amadou Hott, Minister of Economy, Planning and Cooperation in Senegal; Papa Amadou Sarr, Minister of DER/Senegal, and many more. Important guests ranged from government officials, CEOs, and company founders who were featured at the event. 

Africa is known for its massive economy, which is why this event was so crucial for connecting professionals in NYC to those in Africa. According to Wutiko, Mauritius is the #1 country for doing business in Africa, Nigeria is the continent’s #1 economy, and Senegal is the #1 in hospitality in Africa. Imagine the professional opportunities in the area!

Christopher Cherestal, a Seidenberg senior about to obtain a BS in Information Systems later this year, attended the Opportunities in Africa event last year and was particularly impressed by how the event has grown.

“Seeing it go from such a small space to the Schimmel Center was quite the transformation,” he explains. “It was so cool to see that upgrade.”

We’re so happy we were able to partner with Wutiko for this event. Here’s to bringing it back in 2020! If you missed the conference, you can watch the live-stream provided by Seneweb online.

 

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Building with Accessibility in Mind at Codeland 2019: a Seidenberg student’s story

Luisa Morales, a Computer Science graduate student, has a lengthy list of achievements from her academic career at the Seidenberg School of CSIS. The former Seidenberg student assistant, undergraduate economics student, and Engineering Fellow at the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity curated a resume full of achievements that any student would be proud of.  This summer Luisa went above and beyond—she hosted a workshop at Codeland 2019 titled, Building with Accessibility in Mind.

Codeland, a conference created for new and growing developers, was held in New York City on July 22. Luisa joined a fantastic lineup of workshop mentors and speakers including Avi Flombaum, Co-founder and CIO of Flatiron School, and Jasmine Greenaway, Cloud Advocate at Microsoft. 

Luisa’s workshop called attendees to “come demystify web accessibility with me and get into the nitty-gritty of what it is, how you can test for accessibility on your own, and common best practices. We’ll build an accessible website in the process that you can boast about on GitHub. You’ll also gain practical experience you can utilize to make your current, and future, projects more accessible.”

She explains that her workshop took a very collaborative and hands-on approach with attendees working on demo sites. Everyone in attendance worked in pairs to learn a variety of skills: how to use a screen-reader and keyboard to test website accessibility as well as integrating common practices for improving the accessibility of their projects. 

Asked about specific techniques she teaches her students, Luisa says “this includes things like using semantic HTML, color contrast, font sizes, and ARIA, amongst other things.”

It’s a fair assessment to say that those who learned from Luisa’s workshop earned some crucial and exciting skills to utilize in the future. But where did the idea for the workshop come from?

“The inspiration behind the workshop is my belief in the importance of making the things we produce as developers accessible to as many people as possible and demystifying the idea that it’s too difficult to do or unnecessary,” she explains. “By making a website accessible, you make it better for everyone and increase your potential market share, so I’m not sure why some people think it’s not important. At the Mayor’s Office, it’s ingrained into the development process and a lot of what I’ve learned there is influencing this workshop. I hope that attendees [came] away feeling more comfortable building with accessibility in mind and that it informs their choices as developers, designers, [and] product managers going forward.”

Luisa would like to encourage students—whether they attended her workshop or not—to attend Codeland in the future. She explains that it’s a “very inclusive environment and it’s a great opportunity to meet other people on a similar career path and potentially even your future coworkers!”

Codeland offered an opportunity for Luisa to teach others what she’s passionate about. She had the chance to improve the skills of those in attendance and explains just what that felt like for her.

“I’m proud of how curious and empathetic the workshop attendees were. Building accessible experiences, and especially testing your work with a screen reader, can be overwhelming,” Luisa explained. “Everyone in the workshop was excited to learn how to improve the experiences they created for users online. They were also keen to experience the web as visually impaired users do” by using screen-readers or only keyboards.

While she is proud of her students, Luisa took the time to acknowledge the pride she takes in her own role at Codeland.

“I’m also really proud of myself for putting together the workshop and presenting it at the conference,” she states. “It was very scary to do, but definitely worth the effort and jitters. Would do it again!”

We’re very proud of Luisa here at Seidenberg as well. Students like her who go out of their way to assist other developers to improve their skills are fantastic examples of our community. 

To make things even better, Luisa made sure that her workshop is available online for free! Anyone can access the workshop on GitHub and go through it themselves. She also makes herself available on Twitter for anyone who has questions about her workshop or web accessibility.

Curious about web accessibility? Luisa included some helpful resources for students to check out to learn more. Take a look:

  1. “YES, your site can (and should) be accessible too. Lessons learned in building FT.com” – by Laura Carvajal (https://vimeo.com/215169705)
  2. Tech Done Right Podcast Ep: “Accessibility With Luisa Morales” (https://www.techdoneright.io/49)
  3. Web Fundamentals: Accessibility by Google (https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/accessibility)
  4. What & Why Of Usability by usability.gov (https://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/index.html)

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These Seidenberg graduate students are serving tennis with a new global ranking system

Three former graduate students and current alumni from Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems intrigued Floridian officials with a paper they wrote and presented in Miami in July 2018.

The alumni in the Software Development and Engineering program, Dionysios Kakaroubas, Jesseka Farago, and Stephen Webber, wrote a research paper on the topic of tennis scoring and ranking. Dionysios started the project because of his fascination with the sport.

Dionysios Kakaroubas is standing in front of a railing while holding a bag in his hands. The background is a field with a city view behind a river.
Dionysios Kakaroubas

“I’ve been a tennis fan since I was a little kid, so I know how the system works right now and how the current ranking system is. I know that many fans and players complain about it, so I knew that there were flaws with it. I wanted to develop a new formula so I could make a new version of it to eliminate these flaws,” Dionysios explains. “If you have more losses, [with our system] you cannot be higher up in the rankings. This is happening right now and all of the fans are complaining about it.”

The team developed a new system to improve the way tennis rankings are generated. Instead of using one attribute to determine only rank and scoring, they tested their theory that using the following three attributes would make a better system: abstention, number of tournaments played, and “bonus points for multiple wins in high-level tournaments.”

“We also developed a scenario generator,” Dionysios says. “It is a piece of software that predicts the different outcomes of different rounds of a tournament.”

They presented their software and a paper titled, The Enhancement of the Tennis Ranking System: A Software Solution, in July 2018 at the International Conference of Sports and Society in Miami.

The presentation gained the attention of Mathew Ratner, Associate Director of Sports Tourism at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. Kakaroubas is currently communicating with Ratner about how to integrate the Pace group’s new ideas into Florida’s tennis ranking system.

After presenting their paper in Miami, the group decided to reach out to a conference in Kyoto, Japan. They were accepted to attend and present at the conference in November of 2018!

The photo itself is a selfie of three people in a car.

In Kyoto, the team presented the latest draft of their research paper titled, An Elaborated Software Solution: The Tennis Ranking System, at the 20th International Conference on Sport Science and Social Science in Sport.

 

“The Kyoto experience was one of a kind. We had the opportunity to meet people who are involved in organizing the Olympics’ tennis Championships for Tokyo 2020,” Dionysios exclaims. “We also discussed Japan having its own national tennis league with a separate ranking system than the World Tour one. That was great feedback for us and our publication. There is a recognition that our work could potentially have a worldwide impact and can be placed in any country, culture, and part of the world.”

The latest version of the paper adds in two more attributes for scoring and ranking: consecutive wins and consecutive losses. The team also accounts for the surface that the game is played on with three different options: clay, grass, or a hard surface. With a total of five attributes contributing to the final score and taking the playing surface into account, the team’s system is stronger than the existing tennis ranking system.

As for the future, Dionysios says that he and the rest of the team are “planning to develop this project. Not just in the paper, but to bring it to real life in a real-life project.”

The team is still in touch with contacts from both Florida and Japan. According to Dionysios, they’re looking to start a new state league within the next year in Miami.

“I am really satisfied and happy with what we have achieved so far. Our paper got and [is] still getting a lot of attention and a promising future seems to be ahead! My idea, our work ethic and efforts seem to pay off!”

As they continue to develop the software, the team will work to make the tennis ranking system better for current and future players. Keep your eyes on their names, because they’re serving the sport with a game-changing product.

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Upcoming Hackathons and Conferences to attend Summer and Fall of 2019

When you ask any technologist, scientist, or industry professional about how they kickstarted their career, they’ll almost always say this: networking. Creating a network of industry professionals, professors, and colleagues can give you better access to prestigious job/internship openings and much more. One easy (and fun) way to grow your network is through attending Hackathons and conferences!

Attending these events can be the best way for students, faculty, and staff of all ages to create a network in the technology industry. Listed below are some upcoming conferences and hackathons that could be the ticket to jumpstarting your own professional career in the world of tech.

 

HACKATHONS:

The Environmental Hackathon by AngelHack is from July 12 through July 13, located in Brooklyn, NY. You can purchase your $10 ticket on Eventbrite in order to compete in the event’s challenge for a grand prize total of $5,000. What do you have to do? Students who enter must “develop a visual machine learning model that deliver accurate alerts for a range of environmental conditions,” according to the ticket listing.

The ConsenSys NYC Hackathon by ConsenSys is a free Hackathon from July 20 through July 21. The event, which is held in Brooklyn, NY, gives the grand prize winner of the challenge $1,500 and allows them to be fast-tracked into consideration for project funding. The challenge criteria subjects are listed on their site: infrastructure L1 and L2, education and technical knowledge, social impact, security, and usability of dev tooling. Snag your free ticket here.

The Voicehacks Hackathon in Newark, NJ, is a free one-day Hackathon on July 22. The challenge is as follows: “this will be a one-day sprint-style hackathon intended to allow developers, designers, product managers, entrepreneurs, and technology enthusiasts up to innovate development in a fast-paced and fun atmosphere where attendees can bring their own ideas to life.” You can get your ticket here.

The Mount Sinai Health Hackathon is held on October 11 through October 13 in New York, NY. According to the site, “it will be an exciting 48-hour trans-disciplinary competition focused on creating novel technology solutions for problems in healthcare. This year’s theme is Artificial Intelligence – Expanding the Limits of Human Performance.” You can check out the event details here.

 

CONFERENCES:

The ICSD 2019 conference is totally free! Join in on the perfect networking opportunity from September 24 to September 25. According to the website, “the aim of the conference is to identify and share practical, evidence-based solutions that can support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” You can get your free ticket for the conference on Eventbrite.

The Silicon Harlem Next-Gen Conference has a much higher price at $75 per ticket, but the Harlem-based event sounds like a blast. On October 17,  “the 6th Annual Silicon Harlem Conference will dive into the rapidly coming new infrastructure driven by 5G technology,” according to their site details.

 

If you attend any of these conferences or hackathons, be sure to let us know how they went! We’d love to hear about your experience and possibly share your story.

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