Lessons learned in IST translate to career success

Jason Yakencheck, 2005, helps others grow their careers through volunteer engagements

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Jason Yakencheck was among the first classes of graduates of Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology in 2005, he had no idea how the opportunities he took part in as a student would shape his career.

Jason Yakencheck '05 Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

Now, through a variety of professional and personal experiences, he is helping others find their niche, grow their careers and achieve success. 

Yakencheck has worked at IBM for the past 13 years. He recently became an associate partner within IBM’s Cybersecurity and Biometrics Practice, where his responsibilities range from project management and strategic planning to IT operations and cybersecurity.

Outside of the office, he finds satisfaction by serving as the president of the ISACA Greater Washington, D.C. Chapter. ISACA, previously known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, is a global association that provides guidance and tools for its members to gain industry-leading knowledge and practices for information systems. 

“IBM advocated that I get involved in professional organizations and use them as a learning platform," Yakencheck said. “I started volunteering (for ISACA) five years out of college. I’ve been able to work internationally and in global teams. It’s incredibly rewarding and has built my professional network.” 

Because of his dedication as president and success at IBM, Yakencheck recently received the 40 Under 40 Leadership Award from the Leadership Center of Excellence and Arlington County Chamber of Commerce in Virginia. He has also participated in multiple speaking engagements, including the Tallahassee Cybersecurity and Technology Summit in September where he presented on Security Automation and Threat Landscape. 

“What I love the most is having the ability to help other people grow in their career or show individuals how they can get started, take the next step, or just learn,” Yakencheck said. “I also like sharing industry news and trends to help people better understand technology.” 

Yakencheck does not forget where his career started and has returned to Penn State as a recruiter for IBM, as well as a guest speaker for IST classes. He also participated in a Penn State mentoring program for four years after his graduation, where he helped students transition into internships and full-time jobs. 

New beginnings in a new school  

When Yakencheck started his college career in the then-School of IST, it was only two years old at the time. Yakencheck was intrigued by this new way of teaching about technology that blended business elements and industry trends. At the time, the school offered only one major — information sciences, and technology — but he saw the potential the program and new school offered.  

“The College of IST at Penn State had a well-rounded curriculum and an interesting approach to teaching,” Yakencheck recalled. “It was also backed by a lot of research, which was why it appealed to me.” 

During his freshman year, Yakencheck lived in the IST Interest House (now the IST Special Living Option), which helped him make immediate connections with other students and build his community. 

Yakencheck also worked on the Quality Team program, where students worked with professors to gain insight on the success of the class. He led student focus groups to get feedback on what was working, and then developed a report of the recommendations to help the professor improve the class.

Yakencheck’s career began when he received a technology consulting internship with IBM. The technical skills and exploratory concepts, along with the mix of exams and groups projects, he earned in IST helped him feel prepared to take on the role. 

“The College of IST taught problem-based learning, which helps you achieve an outcome based on limited information when you need to provide value or a solution,” Yakencheck said. “It was representative of the real world, which helped me in my early and current career.” 

Finding lifelong friendships, and lessons for success 

Penn State alumni in attendance at Jason Yackencheck's wedding in 2018. Jason said, "There are 10 other IST alumni in the picture that I have been friends with since college." Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

While his professional obligations and personal responsibilities take up most of his time — he and his wife are expecting their first child this spring — he stays connected to many of the friends he met in the IST Interest House and in class. 

“My favorite part about college was spending time with my friends,” Yakencheck said. “We are all still close and see each other frequently. I cherish the friendships I made at Penn State.”  

And as he’s shared through his mentoring and in-class speaking opportunities, the best advice Yakencheck gives to current IST students is to never stop learning. He believes that it is important to always go beyond what the coursework entails to build as many skills as you can.  

“Learn and grow your own skills so you come out of college as well-rounded as possible,” Yakencheck advised, “There are so many resources at your disposal to develop your skills. It’s also important to always find time for personal growth.” 


Last Updated January 22, 2020