A Homecoming: JWU Hosts Engineering and Design Alumni

Michael K. Ferranti ’15 and Carly O'Keefe ’17 speak during the event.

02/03/2020 | Familiar faces stopped by the College of Engineering & Design recently for the annual Alumni Leaders on Campus event. Throughout the day, computer science and graphic design alumni spent time with current students chatting about their experiences as students and giving tips for how to succeed out in the real world.

The visiting alumni, split up into two groups by area of focus, included:

  • Michael K. Ferranti ’15: Cyber Defense Senior Engineer, AVP, Citizens Bank
  • Carly O'Keefe ’17: Senior Software Engineer, Johnson & Johnson
  • Derek Massei ’13: Graphic Designer, Salesforce
  • Diandra Sarno ’13: Graphic Design Manager, Central Park Conservancy
  • Damian Orellana ’16: Graphic Designer, D'Addario & Company, Inc.

They spoke about how important it is for students to network, communicate well and learn to advocate for themselves, especially while completing an internship. They also focused on the value of being passionate about their work, and having their work reflect that.

Be Passionate About Your Work
“Knowing what your passion is and how you can integrate that into your career, that’s really important,” says Diandra Sarno, graphic design manager at the Central Park Conservancy.

Diandra Sarno ’13 works at Central Park Conservancy.

For Sarno, finding her path started out in Rhode Island where she started working as an intern at Wildtree, Inc., the company then hired her full-time as a junior graphic designer after she graduated from JWU. “I started as a junior print designer there and then I just continued to grow within the organization. Then I realized I wanted to move back to New York and worked remotely for the company for two years. But that’s what helped me figure out what I really wanted in life,” she says. She adds that her desire to protect the environment and care for the planet led her to Central Park Conservancy. “I had to wait until I found the perfect position that was right for me.”

I had to wait until I found the perfect position that was right for me.”

In Massei’s experience, he was also able to roll his internship into a full-time job. “I got an internship as a junior graphic designer at a small startup tech company specializing in ecommerce software for retailers,” he says, of how he got his start at Demandware, which was later acquired by Salesforce. “The senior designer who I worked under was a great mentor to me, I learned a ton. And after about a year and a few months [after I started], he left the job, and I had to essentially function as a one-man team for maybe the next two and half years. Those were crazy and formative years for learning on the fly.”

Derek Massei ’13 is a graphic designer at Salesforce.

The ability to adapt quickly to a new environment, as well as having good communication skills, helped O’Keefe succeed at Johnson & Johnson where she works as a senior software engineer.

“I was hired as an associate developer at [Johnson & Johnson], and for my first two projects I was working remotely on iOS, and at the time I was pretty new to that,” O’Keefe says. “My other team members were in New Jersey, and I had never met them in real life. So that was a big learning opportunity for me, and I had to communicate well with them. I did really well working remotely, that’s how they learned [about] who I am,” she says. O’Keefe adds that she’s earned a good reputation within the company and now whenever a new project starts, the team comes directly to her for its execution.

Carly O'Keefe ’17 is a senior software engineer at Johnson & Johnson.

Michael K. Ferranti ’15 is a cyber defense senior engineer at Citizens Bank.

Like O’Keefe, Ferranti learned about the value of networking and being good at communicating early on. While he was a student at JWU, he met Nick Tella, director of Information Security at JWU, by chance one day while pitching a Student Government Association’s proposal to have free WiFi on JWU buses. “He [Tella] was there and I went to introduce myself to him, and that’s when he said, ‘hey, do you want a job?’ and I said ‘Sure!’” It was that chance encounter, Ferranti adds; that lead to a two-year internship with JWU’s IT department — and ultimately to a career in cyber security.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know information security was a thing until I started working for Nick. I really liked the industry and started looking into it a little more. I [decided] I wanted to marry my skill sets, what I was learning in network engineering with what I was learning about information security,” he says. Today Ferranti is a cyber defense senior engineer, AVP, at Citizens Bank.

Networking is something Damian Orellana does well, and one of his favorite online platforms to do so is Dribble. He says he’s been active on Dribble for a few years and there’s nothing like it. “I couldn’t tell you the [number] of friends I’ve made online, I mean people I’ve never met [in person] in my life, but they’re very supportive. Someone told me that I inspire them every day — for me that’s amazing, I mean I’m just some kid from Connecticut.” This past May Orellana was invited to be a guest speaker at Dribble’s Hang Time, the company’s first design convention in New York City.

Damian Orellana ’16 is a graphic designer at D'Addario & Company, Inc.

“When someone is involved in the design community, like in a side hustle, it shows a lot of heart. It just shows that they’re determined to work at it every day.”

It shows that you can think outside the box.”

Orellana, who works as a graphic designer for D'Addario & Company Inc., says after he’s done for the day at his job, he puts in another four or five hours into doing what he loves, whether that means drawing or illustrating just for fun, or working on freelance projects. “It’s definitely important to have different things going on. It shows that you can think outside the box.”

Students had an opportunity to ask questions during the presentation.

Students had an opportunity to ask questions during the presentation.