When Josh Swanson ’12 started out as an intern at a small start-up called Retail Sense, he didn’t imagine he’d one day be an engineering manager for a global leader in Customer Data Science—all at the same Rochester, NY, address.
Swanson’s internship experience at Retail Sense led him to becoming a software developer there upon his graduation. And as the company grew, Swanson grew along with it.
“After the first year, my team gained confidence in me. I started to show leadership, and I started to provide input in decisions,” he said.
Eventually, the company transitioned into Aptaris Software, and Swanson was becoming more involved in the growing location’s hiring process. In 2018, Aptaris was acquired by dunnhumby, “the world’s first Customer Data Science platform” that is headquartered in London, England. Swanson was needed to take on a “larger voice in the technical direction of a product delivered by a global company,” he said.
Today, he leads a team of four engineers and participates in technical and architectural decision-making, helping to shape the product roadmap.
He says every day is a challenge—but an interesting one: “I like to think my real job is ‘problem-solving,’ and code is just my medium to get to the solution.”
Brockport to dunnhumby
As a freshman at SUNY Brockport in 2008, Swanson was part of the first Math and Science Living Learning Community cohort.
“It really started my college experience on the right foot. I was surrounded by like-minded people, as driven and determined as myself,” he said. “This led to instant friendships which I still have today.”
Later in his academic career, Swanson became a tutor for the Computing Sciences department, helping students with learning and problem-solving in the computer science realm.
“It was very rewarding to see the light on someone’s face when something clicked,” he said.
Swanson was also involved in major software development team projects during his time at Brockport. One of the products from these projects, a Christmas Tree Inventory and Sales Management system, developed for use by a Boy Scout Troop in Fairport, NY, in 2012, is still in use today. Swanson took on leadership roles in this project team, which involved international students from Turkey and Ukraine—experience that stands him in good stead today as he works at a global company.
“My professors were engaging, challenging, and supportive. From making sure I had all of my necessary courses lined out, to suggesting internships, to pushing me to do things outside of my comfort zone.”
– Josh Swanson ’12
Wise Words to Students
Swanson advises current students in the Department of Computing Sciences to follow his lead by pursuing an internship.
“There are many job opportunities out there in the computer science and engineering fields. An internship will allow you to see what you actually like about the job. When interviewing candidates, something I look for is experience working with a team in a software development life cycle,” said Swanson.
He also suggests using a version of source control on class projects, trying out a Trello board, and reading up on Agile processes in order to stand out among other candidates and grow as a professional. Swanson has returned to campus many times in the years since he graduated to convey these messages to current students. He has spoken in numerous departmental seminars, at senior send-off events, and at alumni receptions. He continues to be a “consultant” that Computing Sciences faculty can draw upon. For example, he assists the faculty by providing “real world” projects to classes, and also by attending student project demos and providing valuable feedback to the students.
Professional growth is Swanson’s ongoing goal.
“I want to learn more, improve my team, and see what comes next as part of a global company,” he said.