Lifting Others as a Role Model in Tech
Whenever I get the opportunity, I want to be there for young children in my community. It’s so important to me that they realize that with a bit of help and a lot of hard work, they can become whatever they want. I’m speaking from experience, but it took me a while to figure this out.
Today, I am a Software Engineer at Comcast and – I hope! – a role model to my three amazing children. Growing up in North Philadelphia, however, with parents who worked long hours at low-paying jobs and with other family members facing challenges, I wouldn’t have guessed this is where I’d be right now.
After high school I hummed along with a series of different jobs and then enrolled in – and then dropped out of – community college. It wasn’t until my wife and I were expecting our first child that I realized I wanted to make something more of myself. But I didn’t have the next steps – my model had always been my parents who lived paycheck to paycheck. They wanted better for us but didn’t know how to do that. I knew however, that if I could build on a skill, I could create a brighter future for myself and my next generation.
It always came back to computers for me. When I wanted to procrastinate during school or unwind after work, I’d create simple websites and play around on the computer. I had learned graphic design basics in high school and kept referring back to that. I made the decision to get a computer science degree but was faced with a whole new set of challenges – difficult prerequisites, unsupportive faculty, tough decisions and even switching schools. Luckily, I had persistence and the unwavering support of my wife on my side. Finally, when I graduated, I landed a job through the Comcast NBCUniversal CORE Technology program that enabled me to rotate through three full-time positions over the course of two years.
Now, I’m working on a product I truly care about as an iOS software engineer for the Xfinity Home and xFi mobile apps. In addition to my role, I love that Comcast provides me an opportunity to volunteer. I recently joined about 20 other Comcast engineers, digital media designers and business intelligence analysts to mentor more than 100 students from Philadelphia public schools during the CS4Philly Student Experience.
The event was part of National Computer Science Education Week, exposing students to vital tech skills and helping to prepare them for post-secondary success in the digital economy.
Some of the students were from my own high school, and I couldn’t help thinking how I was once in their seat. Now on the other side of it, I’m grateful I can show them what is possible when there is someone there to help.
Breanna, one of the students I mentored, loves to bake. We talked about how she can become a great pastry chef - but with digital skills, she can also use technology to design better desserts. This piqued her interest – she started asking me questions about local colleges, how to decide which one is the right one, and how she could commute to them from home.
We all deserve the same opportunity to succeed in life, and as someone who works in technology, I especially want to garner interest in my field because it can be hard to stick with. I believe it’s so important to offer help during the challenging times. My company is committed to doing this and it makes me proud to work here at Comcast.
Alexander Rivera is a Comcast Software Engineer for Digital Home