Alumnus shares his successes with Computing Sciences students.
When Matthew Panebianco began his college career, he was studying history. His plan was to work in education like a few of his family members before him. After his first semester, everything changed.
“I realized I didn’t like writing about history as much as I thought I would,” Panebianco said, referring to his freshman year at Jamestown Community College. “I was trying to think of other things to do. I realized that I spent so much time on computers, and on the Internet, and playing around with different apps. I thought, why not try my hand at this?”
Panebianco grew up in New York State’s Southern Tier, in the small town of Allegany, which has a population that has hovered between 7,000 and 8,000 people. In his hometown — in the late 1990s and early 2000s — personal computer technology was not a part of most people’s everyday lives. The Internet allowed Panebianco to explore a world he would otherwise never see.
“When you’re from the area that I grew up in, in the middle of nowhere, the opportunity to connect personally is not always available,” Panebianco said. “Technology was a pretty big deal for me when I was growing up. It was definitely something I used every day to communicate with other people.”
When it came time to leave community college, Panebianco’s college checklist had three major needs: a good Computing Sciences Department, a pool, and a swim team.
“That was a big selling point for me,” Panebianco said on his decision to come to SUNY Brockport, State University of New York. “I am a lifelong swimmer, and I needed a school with a swim team.” He felt that swimming not only kept him active, but made him a more diligent student. “Swimming gave me an escape from academics when I needed it, but also forced me to make work/life decisions and manage my time effectively to get the most out of my day.”
Panebianco said he spent his free time talking to people on the Internet, and researching software and web application development. When it came time to make a decision, Panebianco’s sights were set on Brockport. He entered the College in 2013 as a double major in Computer Information Systems and Marketing.
“I went out of my way to find the classes that would allow me to do some more web development,” Panebianco said. “I ended up taking Computer Science classes on top of my Information Systems and Marketing classes. I think I was only one credit shy of a Computer Science minor. That was the only way to get those experiences at the time, so I branched out.”
Panebianco’s academic initiative created work-study opportunities for him at Brockport. Under the supervision of Web Manager Gian Carlo Cervone, Panebianco had a paid internship as a web technician for the College’s website.
“I was on a team with other Brockport students,” Panebianco said. “We worked to maintain, and build on top of, the website and to support apps that were used on brockport.edu. Doing that job provided great professional insight into how this stuff would work in a team setting.”
During this time, Panebianco said he was able to work on “a lot of little projects,” including touchscreen applications for departments, updating web content, and developing new ideas for the website alongside professors and department chairs.
“The job was a great fit for me,” Panebianco said. “It helped me to learn in an actual working development environment. I came in and interviewed after meeting a recruiter at a Brockport Job Fair, and I was able to work over the summer with them while I was doing my independent research.”
Panebianco’s independent research was a collaboration with Professor Mehruz Kamal investigating the emerging field of cloud computing technology and its application to small- and micro-businesses in the Rochester area. The year-long collaboration resulted in a published paper, presentations at two regional academic conferences, and a deeper appreciation for the rigors of academic research.
“I went into the research not knowing what to expect, but Dr. Kamal guided me on the journey, and I came out with a greater understanding of what it really means to do academic research. It was a great experience. There is some poetry in there about not wanting to write history papers and then ending your college career publishing and presenting an academic paper.
When the time came to start looking for postgraduate employment, Panebianco immediately got an offer from local payroll and human resource provider Paychex. He started as a developer on the product team that serviced Paychex IT products. Eight months later, he was promoted to marketing web developer.
“Right now, I work mostly on the server side, coding for Paychex’s marketing websites,” Panebianco said in May 2019. “I work on our content management system, and how we can leverage those resources to create a better user experience for our all of our visitors, from current to potential clients.”
In September 2019, Panebianco took on a new opportunity at Wegmans, working as a software developer on the full stack of the new Wegmans2Go app.
Since graduating in 2015, Panebianco has returned to the College on numerous occasions to talk with students about life as a web developer. He said that the Computing Sciences Department’s interconnectivity motivates his frequent returns.
“The department is a very tight-knit group of professors, and they communicated really well with the students,” Panebianco said. “It felt like it was much more of an involved community, rather than just a list of courses. Everybody was in it together, and we were all working together to learn and achieve our goals.”
As a recent graduate, Panebianco understands the stress that current students feel about life after graduation, and he does his best to quell those worries.
“Being less than five years out of Brockport, it’s nice to go back and reassure the students that it’s going to be all right,” he said. “I like to answer any of the questions that I had when I was in their position — to reassure them, or to help lead them to a more successful path.”
Panebianco is currently working on his Master’s Degree in Human-Computer Interaction at Rochester Institute of Technology.