IST alumnus and Latinx workers in tech advocate lands dream job at Twitter

Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology alumnus Noel Claudio, class of 2014, recently landed his dream job working virtually in Strategy and Operations for Twitter's Platform Engineering Team. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Growing up in Philadelphia, Noel Claudio never thought that it was possible to work for a big social media tech company unless he lived in California or New York.

But thanks to his experiences at Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology and remote work opportunities that arose during the pandemic, Claudio recently landed his dream job working virtually in Strategy and Operations for Twitter’s Platform Engineering Team.         

“It’s pretty cool knowing that I was once one of Twitter’s users in its earliest days when I was a student at Penn State a decade ago, and now I’m on the other side helping others to enjoy the platform moving forward,” he said.

According to Claudio, when Twitter had the opportunity to interview candidates virtually during the pandemic, the company’s talent pool was significantly expanded to communities across the globe — including Philadelphia — giving him the opportunity to pursue his dream job without relocating. Additionally, he said, the expanded talent pool has helped tech companies advance diversity and inclusion efforts, something that Claudio is passionate about as a Latino and first-generation college graduate.

“I hope that within the tech industry we continue to hire more people of color and from other underrepresented backgrounds,” he said. “It’s important for companies to build products with the thought of being applicable for everyone, and not just (based on) the color of their skin. You want to have people that come in with different experiences from different places around the world.”

Claudio is a strong advocate for Latinx workers in tech. He serves on the board for the Philadelphia chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals for America, through which he has organized events to bring awareness to careers in consulting and technology and has mentored underrepresented students who aspire to work in the industry. He was recently recognized on the 2021 AL DIA News Media 40 Under Forty list, highlighting the most diverse and impactful young professionals across the Philadelphia region.

“I try to show young people that they can have career paths within the tech space without necessarily being developers or programmers,” he said. “If you think that you can’t succeed in tech, that’s false; you can learn it, you can understand it, and you can become very good as a product manager, a project manager, a program manager, a scrum master, the list goes on and on for different roles that exist within every organization.”

On Sept. 15, Claudio hopes to instill that message in College of IST students when he serves on an IST Alumni Identity Talks panel celebrating Hispanic heritage. Recalling his own experience at Penn State, Claudio wants current students — especially those from Latino and other underrepresented backgrounds — to know that they, too, can reach their dreams.

“I remember sitting in classes at IST and getting excited when someone would come in that represented a big-name company and thinking ‘wow, I can do this; I’m training to be able to work for these places,’” he said. “There are so many people who aspire to be in the places that we once wanted to be in, so it starts with us as alumni [to share our experiences with the next generation].”

Blending business and tech at IST

While Claudio always had an interest in tech, he also knew that he was not a programmer. The fundamental aspects of coding intrigued him, but he never developed strong programming skills.

At IST, he found the people, organizations, and society option within the information sciences and technology major to be a perfect fit for him.

“It was all about understanding more about how people are using technology,” he said. “We came together to look at case studies and gave presentations, blending business and tech concepts together.”

Those team-building activities, along with courses that emphasized project management and data and organization, were especially influential for Claudio and his career path.

“The concept of working in teams was tremendous for me, and it was completely different than any of my friends who were in different majors and had to do a lot of independent work,” he said. “We got paired up with people we didn’t know, had to find a way to build chemistry with everyone, and produce deliverables.”

He added, “Sometimes you find great people you like to work with, and sometimes you don’t. But that’s all part of the process; it was a very good simulation of what you face in the real world.”

Claudio also benefited from what he learned from working on real-world case studies, which positioned him to help clients as a consultant at the start of his career.

“The point is to be able to help clients think about ideas and innovation and ways to solve and tackle challenges that they may not have been able to tackle themselves because they’re busy working on the primary goals of their business,” he said. “And the beauty of consulting is that you can work with one company for six months and solve a problem, then jump to an entirely different industry and do it all over again, with an entirely different set of people and a new problem scope.”

He added, “And that’s exactly how we tackled things at IST.”

Those problem-solving skills have carried over to his current position at Twitter, which he equates to strategically thinking about how to put together a 200-piece jigsaw puzzle.

“When you start putting those pieces together, and you realize they don’t always fit right away, you have to look at your next steps strategically: Do you build one side first? Do you start with the corners? Or the middle? That’s exactly what strategy and operations is like in the corporate world.”

A continuous marathon

Noel Claudio receives well-earned congratulations from his late mom on the his Penn State graduation day. His grandmother, who flew in from the Dominican Republic on her first trip to the United States to watch Claudio's commencement ceremony, is in the background. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

While Claudio is an advocate for underrepresented minorities in the industry, he also openly shares a personal story in hopes of inspiring others who may be coping with mental health issues. When he was a second-year student at Penn State Abington, his father passed away.

“That was a hard blow in the middle of my sophomore year, while I was trying to achieve something that had never been achieved in my family and knowing I wouldn’t have my dad be a part of it at the very end,” he said. “I had to make a decision: Do I let this eat me alive? Do I go down a dark path? Or do I take this in and keep my motivation and remember my conversations with my dad, talking about my dreams of working in tech?”

He added, “Some people might choose a different path, but for me it was ‘I’m going to graduate on time, I’m going to get my degree, I’m going to help my mom and younger brother out, and I’m going to honor my dad.’”

Two years later, he walked across the commencement stage while his relatives — including his 90-year-old grandmother who flew in from the Dominican Republic, her first trip to the U.S. — witnessed Claudio as the first in their family to graduate from college.

After graduation, Claudio went on to work in consulting for Deloitte. Then, three years later, life delivered another blow: His mother passed away unexpectedly.

Claudio soon found that his grief was impacting his job performance. He recognized that while he’d worked so hard to achieve so much, it was okay to take a step back and take the time he needed. Now, nearly four years later, he hopes to encourage others — especially Latinos and Latinas — to be open and transparent with themselves and others when dealing with grief and other personal matters.

“The loss of my parents undoubtedly impacted my life in many ways,” he said in a 2020 interview with Al Dia News. “In the corporate world and within the LatinX community, we often do not speak about personal matters that we are constantly battling. If you are reading this and have experienced something similar, know that you are not alone. We are all in this fight together. Success is a continuous marathon.”

IST Alumni Identity Talks — Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

Members of the IST community can hear more about Claudio’s story during IST Alumni Identity Talks – Celebrating Hispanic Heritage, from 12 to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15. Claudio will join fellow IST alumni Diana Long, class of 2004, and Jackie Sanchez, class of 2019, to share their diverse experiences and perspectives gained through their educational and professional journeys.

The IST Alumni Identity Talks series aims to inspire an open dialogue for College of IST students and alumni and to provide unique viewpoints from individuals from underrepresented backgrounds to help all attendees be better prepared to thrive in diverse professional and personal communities. Additional talks in the series this fall include LGBTQ+ Alumni Pride on Oct. 6, Disability Awareness on Oct. 27, First Generation on Nov. 10 and Military on Nov. 17.

Last Updated September 10, 2021