Amanda Rico graduated from Carthage in 2018 with a degree in computer science. She works as a software engineer at Ivanti in Minnesota, where she writes and reviews code, and discusses implementations of features with other engineers.
Ms. Rico received Carthage’s Highest Honors Merit Scholarship, a yearly scholarship given to Carthage students with 3.50-4.0 GPAs.
While at Carthage, she conducted robotics research as part of Carnegie Mellon University’s Research Experience for Undergraduates in Software Engineering program (REU-SE). The REU-SE program is an opportunity for undergraduates to work with some of the leading software engineering faculty researchers at Carnegie Mellon, the #1-ranked computer science school in the country.
What have you enjoyed most about your career?
“Ivanti is a cybersecurity company working in the domain of patching machines. Since I’m a back-end engineer, my code drives the actual patching. Doing back-end work is something that I really enjoy. It’s really cool to be working on the guts of an application and seeing how everything fits together on the inside.
“Since this is cybersecurity, the work I’m doing makes me feel like I have an important job to do. It’s also crucial that I do the very best I can because if I mess up, someone else using the application suffers. I really like feeling useful and the job is like a different puzzle every day.”
How did Carthage prepare you?
“The support I received from my professors was really helpful. Funny enough, I ask for more help in my career than I did in school, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for help if my professors hadn’t been so adamant that their doors were always open to ask a question.
“Professor Erlan Wheeler wrote me a killer recommendation letter, which helped me get into the summer research program, REU-SE, at Carnegie-Mellon University, one of the top computer science schools in the country. That REU is definitely a bright spot on my resume.
“All of my professors were very encouraging and want to see their students succeed. Of course, you have to work for that success, but having to work really hard for success prepared me for the real world.”
How has your liberal arts education benefitted you?
“I learned to attack problems from multiple angles, which is great because if I can’t actually implement an idea I had for fixing a bug, my brain will immediately come up with another angle from which to attack the problem.
“More often than not, I put fixes in the correct spots before code review because I can think fully of how it would affect the overall system if I put them anywhere else.”
Tips for current Carthage students:
“Start early, work steady, ask for help. The professors really want to see you succeed, especially if you end up writing airplane software.
“Get your resume together and apply for internships and research opportunities as soon as you can. One of the engineers at my job interview immediately recognized REU-SE on my resume because it was at a top computer science school. Do things that make your resume stand out from the others. Apply for that Google internship. Apply for that Carnegie Mellon REU-SE. You just might get it!
“Listen to [computer science] Professor Perry Kivolowitz. He gives advice on how to stack the odds in your favor. Go to his BBQs. It’s a great time to socialize and work on homework. I’m still in touch with a lot of people in my major because he encouraged us to start a group chat.
“Branch out beyond computer science for friends. Join clubs that you’re interested in. Join a fraternity or sorority. It’s good to have friends who are from other fields and majors.”
Favorite Carthage memories:
“Becoming an active member of my sorority. Finishing my thesis presentation. Eating at Red Robin’s and having a ton of appetizers after thesis presentations. Partying with the other computer science students after we were done with thesis. Working on grad caps with my non-comp sci friends. Late nights with my friends from Cosplay Club. Sitting in my car with my theatre major friend eagerly gossiping and talking about boys. Declaring computer science as a major after a year of being undecided. Those are just a few!
“I went to Carthage because it was far from home, and thought it would help me grow. I like to think it worked! I picked a major I had little knowledge in. I made some really great friends. I’m better at decision-making because I was on E-board for my sorority and Cosplay Club, so I had to get good at making decisions and following through with things. I went to Pittsburgh for a summer and got a taste of grad school through my REU. I’m definitely a more grown-up person than the nervous eighteen-year-old who showed up on campus slightly reluctant about college.”