You may think he got a late start, but junior Juan Cerda ’16 has made the most of only a few short years in the United States, and St. Joseph’s College has played a big role.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Cerda and his family immigrated to the U.S. five years ago. In that time, he’s nearly completed his college degree at SJC, interned at Thomson Reuters and Major League Baseball, and prepared himself for a bright future in computer and data science.
“I’m the youngest of three, and we settled in Hamilton Heights in Manhattan,” Cerda said. “I enrolled at Manhattan Bridges High School, and was planning on going to SUNY Albany until I had my St. Joseph’s interview. The admissions people made me feel so welcome, and when I saw that they had the ACES [Academic Center for English Language Studies] program and the options that it provided, I changed my mind and enrolled in the fall of 2012.”
He began as a psychology major, but switched to computer information technology after his first class. “I loved the way that I could control the computer — how, based on what I put in, I could have the computer generate whatever I needed from it,” he said.
His interest in psychology remained, however, and he incorporated what he learned there into his work with computers. “Professor [Tina] Zottoli taught me how to frame an experiment, and I took that empirical mindset and use it in my work with computers and data,” Cerda said. “Although my major is more technical than most, I’m glad that I have a wide background of knowledge that I can incorporate and use to enrich my work.”
In his junior year, Cerda secured an internship with the international media firm Thomson Reuters, where he compiled data, assessed team performance and conducted audits on their internal systems infrastructure. He parlayed this experience into an internship with the commissioner’s office of Major League Baseball.
“I am one of the few interns testing EBIS (Electronic Baseball Information System), which entails modules such as player contracts and assignment transactions and scouting. I work alongside business analysts to analyze, design, implement, test and finally deliver data-driven reports that are utilized by MLB users,” he explained.
His extracurricular life at SJC has been equally rewarding. Along with his service as a student worker in the College’s Department of Information Technology Services, he recently participated in the College’s ACES spring break trip to Nicaragua.
“The trip to Nicaragua changed my perception of the world; it opened my eyes to a hidden reality, one that I can help change. It’s joyous to see that the College cares about those with scarce resources, not only in the US, but in other countries as well. I want to go back and help keep the SJC-Nicaragua connection alive.”
This summer, Juan will travel to Pleasanton, California, a suburb of San Francisco, for an internship with Workday, an HR and finance enterprise software firm. He will graduate a semester early in January 2016. After SJC, he plans to enroll in graduate school and pursue a master’s degree in computer information science.
When asked about the key to his success, Cerda cited his favorite sport:
“There are many sports where the primary goal is to remain in control of the ball,” he said. “In baseball, however, the first point of action is giving the ball to your opponent — and St. Joseph’ s has prepared me to pitch myself successfully into the world.”