Syracuse University was the first school that Salvatore Pepe toured. At the time, he was a sophomore at Yorktown High School in Westchester County. His passions for entrepreneurship, studying supply-chains, and IT fit very well into the curriculum at the iSchool, and he was immediately influenced by the energy as well. It felt more like a small community than any of the other colleges he was considering attending.
Pepe, like many of his contemporaries, grew up deeply involved with the use of computers. His mom has had a lengthy and fulfilling career with IBM, and so he knew first-hand what a career in technology could provide. But what he thought was going to be more of a passion project on the side, turned into a long-term career goal. His Information Management and Technology major in the iSchool became majorly important to his professional future.
Pepe’s interest in supply chains has proven to be surprisingly relevant in today’s economy. He laughs as he says, “Supply Chain majors, as a whole, take pride in never being talked about, because it means that we are doing our jobs effectively.” He mentions how some of the simulations that were part of his iSchool coursework are now playing out in real life. Many of these systems–which are often taken for granted by those not dedicated to studying them–are being stressed to the max, and now the general population are forced to take notice.
Seeking out new challenges
The former Eagle Scout has always been one to seek out new challenges, and enrolling in the honors program has added a new layer of academic achievement to Pepe’s educational journey. It has also opened a lot of new doors for exploration. “Honors as a whole has been a really cool experience. Just being able to take different classes that aren’t related to any of my academic majors has been really rewarding,” says Pepe.
Right now he is finishing up his honors thesis around the topic of the Social & Professional Impacts of Working Remote. He is looking at the impacts that COVID is having on digital nomads, and how workers are rapidly moving into the ranks of a remote workforce. For this project he is looking at a combination of factors. He wants to understand how working remotely has changed the dynamics of the workforce, but also what the future of work will look like while so much is changing within work environments in general.
Exploring new paths
Pepe secured his first internship at Synchrony, working in their Enterprise Operations division. The internship was entirely remote, but he still was able to be immersed and get a great feel for the actual work environment of the company. Focusing on the supply chain and IT operations of the company, he worked on the Strategies and Transformation team, identifying new technologies that they could implement into their business, or offer as products. He was responsible for testing many applications to see their viability within the Synchrony model.
This position led to a full-time offer to join their Business Leadership program for two years. In this intensive position, Pepe looks forward to the flexibility that comes with the program, but also the exposure to some of the real-world work that he ultimately hopes to be involved in.
Pepe is considering grad school after he finishes the two year program with Synchrony. He hopes that the program will help streamline his career focus, and sees it as a great opportunity to explore various potential paths for future career and educational goals.
Playing to your strengths
Pepe has also used his time at Syracuse University to explore passions outside of the classroom. In his sophomore year he joined the orchestra. An accomplished violin player, he saw this as an opportunity to meet new people and to keep his musical skills honed, he also finds that it is a great way to break up his studying schedule and exercise different muscles than are required for his traditional coursework.
“One of the really fun things about being at a school like Syracuse is that there are so many different things to get involved with, people to meet, opportunities to try, and experiences to be had.” says Pepe. He really likes that the campus contributes to the feeling of openness and opportunity. It has been a smooth transition from his medium-sized high school, the hallways of college, and now into the professional work environment.
One of Pepe’s most memorable internship experiences was directly facilitated by the iSchool. Kathleen Benjamin, the Career Service Program Manager for the iSchool, sends out several internship/work opportunities for students on a regular basis. Most of these opportunities originate through university alum or corporate partnerships, and the one that Pepe took advantage of was designed around tech consulting. He and four other students formed an internship team working for a company called Tech-CARES. The work he was performing was helping companies struggling with technical challenges brought about by the pandemic. His team would connect with these companies to identify their individual issues, and help them implement technological tools to help alleviate the stress points. He says, “It was really cool to see how business can positively impact people. Our advice really helped them increase their sales and revenues. We were able to positively change their trajectory for the year.” Pepe found that this work was both extremely rewarding, and a useful crash-course in how technology in business can be used to help business leaders facing real, and rapidly changing problems.
Reflecting on his experience in the iSchool, Pepe says, “The iSchool does the best job of making you curious and making you want to learn more. It makes you ask questions and take on a lot of independent projects. That academic curiosity can really help you find what you are interested in.” Compared to some other schools, he likes how the culture of the iSchool is less competitive between students. He notes that there is a strong environment of collaboration embedded into the very fabric of the iSchool’s approach to education.