UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Erin McGovern, Penn State class of 2016, said she had life-changing experiences in the College of Information Sciences and Technology – from finding lifelong friends to attending a career fair that connected her with Microsoft, where she still works today as a technical account manager. These experiences are part of the reason why McGovern said she volunteers for the IST Alumni Society Board – so she can pay forward the IST experience to future generations of students and help to mentor them and prepare them for successful careers.
The College of IST recently interviewed McGovern about her experiences.
What drew you to Penn State and the College of IST as a student?
I always thought Penn State would be too big for me, but my cousin convinced me to come visit in August 2009. It was so beautiful; I felt so at home on campus and walking through downtown. After that, I visited other colleges. Some I really liked, but I kept thinking and saying "XYZ is great, but it's just not Penn State." I was so happy to find out I was accepted and I entered freshman year studying political science. While studying with friends on my floor freshman year, I learned about an intro to security and risk analysis (SRA) course my friend was taking and it sounded so interesting. I decided to take two SRA courses the following semester and after that I decided to change my major to SRA.
Which class, teacher, or lesson made the biggest impact on you, and how?
The most interesting class I took at Penn State was IST 445H, Globalization Trends and World Issues. I remember I wanted to take this class purely based on its description: A class focused on trends in globalization and their influence on U.S. policy making, as well as the role of the U.S. in international issues. Dr. Andrea Tapia was our professor; she was such an incredible teacher. I learned how technology plays an impact in the globalization of our society, and I also ended up making some great friends in my major in this class. This led me to being invited to joining the IST Diplomats Leadership Academy. Before taking this class, I was just a student in the college, but because of this course, I feel like I found a home within the school.
Talk a bit about your career path since graduation. How did the College of IST prepare you for your current position?
Thanks to the IST Career Fair, I found my first internship in Charlotte, North Carolina, after my sophomore year. That eventually led to an internship with PwC in New York City. IST gave me so many professional development opportunities, including networking events, etiquette dinners with different companies, Q&A sessions with prospective employers, etc. This is why during senior year, when I went on multiple interviews with Microsoft and eventually flew out to their headquarters in Seattle for my final interview, I felt so secure in deciding, "Yes, this is where I want to work!"
Interestingly enough, the college program that I was hired for had 120+ of us move to Dallas, Texas, to start our consulting careers. I had never been to Dallas before, but I knew this was just an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I was hired as a secure infrastructure consultant and traveled across the country and to Tokyo, Japan, working on Azure cloud projects. After this, I decided to move back to New York City and I took on a new role within Microsoft called technical account manager. I now manage the relationship between Microsoft and some of our financial services customers. I work with both our engineers and account/business strategy teams to provide a seamless support experience for these banks and capital markets customers. I truly love my job and team today and I know that without the IST Career fair, I wouldn't be working at Microsoft today.
Why do you choose to volunteer for the Alumni Society Board?
I choose to volunteer for the Alumni Society Board because since graduating, I realize there are some areas where we can lean into to better support our students. I want to help the students today have more insight into what kind of jobs are available in the technology field. I want to help mentor students so that they feel fully confident and prepared to interview for full-time jobs and continue to feel supported by other alumni once they begin their careers.
Why would you encourage other alumni to reengage with the college in their alumni years?
I always feel grateful for how much I learned, who I met and the experiences I had during my years at Penn State. Besides obtaining a full-time job, there are so many new things to handle post-college (i.e. moving out on your own, navigating career conversations with your boss, contributing to your 401(k), learning proper business communication, etc.). Having just experienced some of these big changes, I think it's important to help others who will be facing these big life changes soon too.
What is your advice to current and future students in the college?
Enjoy your free time and your busy time at Penn State. Some of my favorite memories are just hanging out with my roommates in our apartment on Sunday mornings together recapping all the fun we had the night before. Work hard freshman year so you can set a good standard for your GPA and get involved within your college. Don't be afraid to graduate; the real world isn't as scary as everyone says, and coming back to Penn State with your best friends after you graduate is such a good thing you'll always have. During your undergrad years, I think the more well-rounded experiences you have, the less regrets you have when you graduate!
Were you involved in any organizations or extracurricular activities in the college or at Penn State?
I was a sister of Alpha Chi Omega, a Dancer Relations Committee Member for THON, an IST Diplomat and a Learning Assistant.
How did they help to enhance your college experience?
These organizations gave me some of my best friends and allowed me to build relationships with professors. Also, working as a Learning Assistant was a paid opportunity, which was really helpful.
Is there any personal information you’d like to add?
I am originally from Pearl River, New York. After Penn State, I lived in Dallas, Texas for a year and I've been in New York City for the past two years. I love to go to travel, try new restaurants with friends, and hang out with my big extended family!