Jae Grenier ’23 Programs His Way to a Dream Job

When Johnson & Wales student Jae Grenier ’23, a Computer Science major, responded to an internship opportunity texted through JWU’s Handshake app, all he noticed was how nondescript the ad was. It didn’t even mention that the employer was Freddie Mac — one of the largest enterprises in the country.

a photo of Jae Grenier '23 smiling at the camera as he works on his laptop


But it matched his interests, so he responded — and set a new course for his future.

Jae’s Journey to JWU

As a high school senior, Jae was already career-motivated and sought a college that could prepare him for the future. He was attracted to Johnson & Wales University for its high Career Outcomes rate and for its experiential foundation.

“I already knew credits earned would be allocated to experience working in the real world,” Jae shares. “I thought that would give me a competitive edge when applying for jobs.”

After visiting JWU in person, he found more to love.

“Community-wise, everyone was friendly, and the students at the Open House and on the campus tour really seemed excited to be here. That helped me get my head into JWU,” says Jae.

Getting Involved at JWU

One of Jae’s goals was upping his performance game. “I wanted to tap into the confidence of who I was as a person,” Jae recalls. He found that in a student employment position at JWU’s Admissions Office as a Collegiate Ambassador Team (CAT) member and a tour captain.

“That work experience really helped me explain myself professionally and communicate with people effectively,” Jae reflects. “The audiences listened to me. I made a lot of close friends and met my girlfriend through CAT. That job really helped me flourish socially.”

a photo of Lucia Manzo '25 and Jae Grenier '23 walking outdoors on the pedestrian bridge against a Providence skyline


It clearly worked. Without a hint of self-consciousness, Jae smiles engagingly as he shares details of his life with a stranger.

How JWU’s Academics Prepared Jae for His Future

Jae’s favorite course was his Design Project class. “It was completely student-led,” he shares. “Associate Professor Jeff Tagen served as an advisor to keep students on track, but the whole project was up to us. We developed a whole app front- to back-end.”

Design Project taught Jae how pipelines communicate with each other and how data should be stored, manipulated and used inside an app. He also appreciates how his Introduction to Database Concepts and The Legal Environment of Business classes helped him consider the importance of the structure of business. “Freddie Mac is a huge home loan company, chartered by Congress, with strict guidelines to follow promptly and properly,” Jae explains. “It’s great to master as many skills as you can in programming, but writing code is meaningless if it doesn’t adhere to your business guidelines.”

He believes his JWU courses provided him with a background in the legal precautions of running a business plus the technical background to help him understand how his employer works. “If you have 10 divisions and 6,000 employees, it can becomes noisy,” Jae states. “You need to follow everything appropriately, and I’ve learned a lot about how to do that.”

Jae says his classes shaped his trajectory as well.

“Around junior year I got very interested in machine learning and how it can recurse itself over datasets and understand logic based on that — so I got really into data analytics,” he shares. “Then I found that I loved business intelligence and how it can perform different algorithms, transform data and use the power of technology to enhance business.” He’s excited by the limitless power of technology and wants to do something bigger than building the next social media app.

Now Jae says he’s fulfilling his aspirations. “I’m working for a company that provides stability and liquidity to housing market while helping to put families into homes. That’s heartwarming. And it all ties into the business side of it things, so it feels full-circle for me.”

What a Technology Internship at Freddie Mac Looked Like

After responding to the mystery ad, Jae was contacted by a recruiter and went through a three-month process of pre-recorded and live interviews. He was excited when he got the call that he’d start his internship in the summer. “It really put my hard work into something tangible,” he acknowledges.

Jae was most anticipating learning about the overall workflow of the unique tech industry. “It’s constantly changing,” he explains. “People will work under the agile method, usually using either Scrum or Kanban. It’s very different from jobs where you see a task, do a task. Under agile, work is broken into two-week sprints, some independently, some dependently. I wanted to help manage all that work efficiently.”

He was also attracted to the communication aspect of the internship. “I wanted to hone in on value as a professional and develop my personal brand,” he states. He can summarize that brand in a few words: Failing fast but learning faster. “It’s understanding that when people give you feedback, it’s not personal. It’s because they trust you to be better,” explains Jae.

The experience opened Jae’s eyes on how the development process worked and how applications interacts with databases. “It really closed the gap for me in terms of software development,” he shares.

“It was really cool because I got to work with data analytics and also ETL (extra, transform, load),” Jae recalls. “I was able to use my coding background and also pick up some new skills. It was such a valuable experience.” - Jae Grenier '23 on his internship experience

At his internship, Jae created a data dashboard displaying agile metrics with a focus on the development lifecycle. “It was really cool because I got to work with data analytics and also ETL (extra, transform, load),” Jae recalls. “I was able to use my coding background and also pick up some new skills. It was such a valuable experience.”

Initially, Jae conducted requirements analysis to understand key metrics the dashboard needed to display and identifying outliers such as missing fields. “I examined how two different data sets related to each other, how they formed a relationship. Then I could draw a bigger analysis,” Jae reports.

Next, he moved onto gaps analysis. “I realized if I want to present a metric and the dataset doesn’t have the capability, can we ask for more data? Can we skew, bend or flex what we have?”

Freddie Mac gave Jae complete ownership of his project, where he put together the middle and end to form a comprehensive database. Working remotely had its challenges, but he overcame them. “As long as you stay motivated and keep that end goal in your mind, anything is possible,” advises Jae.

Recognition for Amazing Work

Despite the remote internship, an in-person surprise awaited Jae: He was invited to present his final project to key stakeholders, from the senior director of modern delivery to the product owner to the tech leads, at Freddie Mac’s office in McLean, Virginia.

Right now, the company is pushing Jae’s work into production, and people were eager to hear about it.

“It’s cool because people are making business decisions based on something I created — especially with a company like Freddie Mac that’s huge. Enterprise-wise, people are looking at reporting metrics I did,” Jae exclaims.

a closeup photo of Jae Grenier '23 holding his laptop while writing on a large screen in the computer science lab


He is being modest, though; his girlfriend, Lucia Manzo ’25, adds that Jae was the only one of all of Freddie Mac’s interns who was invited to present to the company’s stakeholders. It was a big deal.

Jae presented in the conference room of a “gorgeous, high-tech office,” with some stakeholders attending live and others remotely on a giant television. He arrived early to set up and test the mic, speakers, slides and database. Anyone would be nervous, but Jae knew he could do this.

“I told myself I was here for a reason,” Jae reveals. “No great person that we’ve learned about in school learned by giving up.”

The next day when Jae had his last one-on-one with his supervisor, she extended the permanent employment offer, telling Jae that he’d be a great asset to Freddie Mac.

“I was thinking this company could be such a great way to advance myself professionally and set up a life I’m proud of, and here they said *I* was a great asset!,” he exclaims.

Close with his parents, Jae called his mother first with the news. She was as excited as he was, even if he has to move from Rhode Island to Virginia for the job. “It’s going to be different living that far from my family, but they’re so proud,” says Jae.

Looking Forward

Freddie Mac has an early career program, so those who are successful in their internships are invited to start as a technology analyst. The year-long career program is styled rotationally so the new analysists can touch different sectors of the tech division and continue growing their skills to identify their next stage at Freddie Mac.

a photo of Jae Grenier '23 demonstrating some code on an overhead screen


Jae is honored that Freddie Mac’s DEV Factory team sought him out, and he’s eager to join them. “It will be similar requirements to gap analysis, but I’ll handle new implementations to the tool stack, identifying challenges with change management and mitigating risks,” Jae explains. “It takes an analytical mindset, which is a strong suit.”

Advice for Future Students

When asked what Jae would say to younger students forging their own paths, he has encouraging words about keeping their eyes on the prize.

“Don’t give up,” he advises. “There will be times when you have projects and exams and assignments, and you might feel like you’re under a lot of pressure. But you’ll come out stronger; there’s a reason for the work.”

He also cautions that comparison kills authenticity. “If you see friends getting cool internships and jobs, congratulate them, and you can invite them to sit at your table when it’s time to celebrate your accomplishments. Life is not a race. Monitor your growth and compare yourself only to yourself.”

Jae summarizes, “Don’t confine yourself to anything, because if you’re in a box, there’s no sunlight to grow. Stay positive and don’t get too down on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes — but everyone learns from them.”

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