Jon Torodash '04

JOB TITLE: Software Engineer
ORGANIZATION: Conductor, Inc.
LOCATION: New York, New York
GRADUATE DEGREE: M.A. in teaching

What was your first position after college? Immediately after leaving Trinity, I attended Vanderbilt University on a full scholarship and a stipend for a joint degree in Latin and teaching. Vanderbilt had one of the best programs like this in the nation, and it was my first choice.   

Has a liberal arts education helped you in shaping your career? Although eventually I moved from teaching into technology, my liberal arts background was extremely effective in preparing me both for education and STEM. More particularly, I would point out that majoring in classics was especially helpful for comprehending the formal language principles underlying much of computer science.

What aspects of your Trinity experience have been important to advancing your career or graduate school experience? The close attention and concern from top professors at Trinity were key. My professors were sincerely interested in my academic work, in developing my ability to research as a life skill, and improving my writing as it is essential in the professional world.

What advice would you give to Trinity students to prepare for a position in your field? You do not have to choose exclusively between what you love to study and what you think is practical. Follow your heart in picking a major and then fill out your schedule with some extra courses – at least three – in a field relevant to your occupational goals so that you can find an internship upon graduation, if not a full-time job.

As for summers, spend one doing service work or in an artistic pursuit if you’re inspired, but be sure to spend another with an agency where people are building careers around that industry if you think you might like to pursue it after school. You might be surprised about the business side.   

Think long and hard about attending graduate school right after college. Whether or not you love the subject you are studying, those years represent opportunity cost of earnings and self-awareness in the labor market. Unless you have had work experience in the field, and are receiving most if not all of your tuition and expenses covered, attending graduate school may defer important experiences and decisions in your overall personal growth. Graduate school can be a wonderful thing, but it’s definitely a more complicated choice.   

Modern software development is a collaborative process, which requires many nontechnical skills. Because code is such a fragile, abstract, and exacting medium, maturity and communication are critically important. A solid foundation in the basic skills is important, but because technology moves so quickly and the systems grow ever bigger, the ability to learn and convey your intentions clearly is paramount.

What is the biggest misconception about graduate school? Some worry that graduate school is very competitive. I found that the people at the top won’t be any smarter than your best peers at Trinity; the difference is the bottom. There won’t be anyone just hanging on, trying to fulfill credits or an unwanted requirement for the major. Everyone in your program made the decision to delve more deeply after finishing their undergraduate studies, and this lends to camaraderie quickly. You will be seen as a source of authority by undergraduates in your department, and professors will hold you to a higher standard. You will likely improve in your area of study even more than you ever thought possible.