Tech 10 Awards 2020

Meet Rhode Island’s top tech techies, as voted by their peers, in collaboration with the Tech Collective.
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Manuel Lobao. Photography by Brittany Semco.

“Do it! It’s a fulfilling and rewarding career. Be a sponge, ask questions and soak up everything that you can. Think of tech that interests you and build that thing. Then break that thing, then fix that thing. We are in an age where all of the resources we could ever need are at our fingertips. Don’t be intimidated by it. Always be learning. You are the future of the industry!” –Damian Costantino

“A lot of young people think of a career in technology where you are just behind a computer, but there is so much more beyond the screen. The reality is that there are many angles to working in technology that will be attractive to individuals with diverse strengths. If you are on the creative side, you have options to pursue a career architecting complex networking infrastructures. If you prefer constant change, technology is an ever-evolving field where you will always have access to the greatest and latest.” –Jorge E. Garcia

“I always enjoy encouraging young folks to consider a career in technology. As an educator, it is imperative for me to show students a direct path to a tech career of their choice while simultaneously introducing them to new resources and folks in industries that look like them. It is one of the top reasons why I became a technology/digital media teacher at the same school district where I was once a student.” –Juan J. Rodriguez

“A career in technology presents many exciting paths to choose from including cybersecurity, programming, web and social media development and hardware engineering, just to name a few. The most valuable piece of advice I can provide is to try travelling down several of these paths until you discover the one that you are truly passionate about. From there, acquire the education you will need to take this passion to the next level.” –Kevin Ricci

“Technology is a growing field where diverse backgrounds and mindsets can come together and thrive. We are at an inflection point, where technology as a whole permeates everything we touch and is poised to go further. I encourage you to explore, try different things to determine what you enjoy doing. Are you a strong mathematician, do you like finding patterns (order in the chaos)? Explore while reflecting inward at where your curiosity leads you; it is your inner compass.” –Manuel Lobao

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Juan Rodriguez. Photography by Brittany Semco.

How did you get involved in technology? What was the driving force?

“Ever since I can remember, I have always been fascinated with how things work. I remember opening many kitchen appliances and rendering them useless just to understand what made them work. That fascination is still with me however tempered with the value that technology delivers.” –Aditya Arora

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with figuring out how things work and how they could be improved. My parents used to think I was breaking all my toys, until a few days later they’d find them put back together. As I grew older, my interest expanded into learning more about the complex world of business, which led me to pursue a degree in business management. My driving force was to always try to blend my natural passion for technology with my growing interest in business to create a career focused on leveraging technology for greater business outcomes. Each position I’ve held has helped me develop in either of these two areas, which has ultimately led me to my dream career.” –Brandon Casey

“I certainly didn’t take the traditional route into this field. I’ve always had a passion for helping people, so I started my career at a nonprofit. While there, I found myself focusing on improving inefficiencies. I’ve always enjoyed refining process: How can we make something easier, faster, better? This passion drove me to pursue a career in the wellbeing software space. I love that my role at Virgin Pulse allows me to leverage my technical critical-thinking skills while changing lives for good.” –Caitlin Floskis

“I really became involved in technology by chance. I attended Bryant University and my initial major was accounting, which I quickly determined didn’t work for me. My older brother was also at Bryant within the CIS major at the time so I thought, why not, and switched to CIS. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. The constant changes within the technology field keep this career fresh and exciting. I love when I have developed something for a department that helps to make their job easier and more straightforward and I enjoy learning new ways of accomplishing things.” –Christine Bigwood

“In 1984 my father brought home a Tandy TRS-80 computer. We had no idea what this thing was or why it existed. One day I was in RadioShack and they had a book called 44 Programs for the TRS-80. I turned the computer into an alarm clock using code from the book and instantly fell in love. I think I’m fortunate to still possess my childhood curiosity of how things work as well, since that curiosity has really been a driving factor in my professional career.” –Damian Costantino

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Damian Costantino. Photography by Brittany Semco.

“In my late teens I had a summer job through which I met a young man with autism who used an assistive communication device to express himself. I was amazed not just by how empowering the device was for him but also by the technology itself. As I entered college, I pursued classes that included coding and programming. Since starting my professional career, I have had the opportunity to work with awesome people in the field of IT, eventually leading to my current role for the last nine years at Carousel Industries.” –Jorge E. Garcia

“I always had a passion for technology. As a child, I would often take my toys and gaming consoles apart, curious to see how they functioned. As I grew older, I became involved in different areas of technology. Over the years, my driving force has been the loss of my brother to gun violence. Also, being aware of the lack of resources when I was a student and, decades later, still noticing it, currently, for students of color.” –Juan J. Rodriguez

“My parents bought me a home computer in 1982, creating the spark that led to my passion for technology and ultimately leading me to Bryant University, where I majored in computer information systems. Upon joining the workforce, I quickly realized that a rewarding byproduct of a technology career is the incredible feeling that comes from helping others solve problems. It is this feeling that remains a driving force in my life each and every day.” –Kevin Ricci

“My curiosity of how things work drove me to technology. Growing up I was less interested in listening to the radio and far more interested in taking it apart to see how it worked. As time passed, software and firmware add layers of complexity and my curiosity grew. The greater my understanding grew, the more my curiosity turned to how I can use this technology to do something that the system was not originally intended to do. This has allowed me to continue to grow and be creative in a seemingly cold and strict occupation. The truth is far vaster and creativity-focused.” –Manuel Lobao

Next TECH Generation

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Betty Tavares, Bryant Phillips, Ray Nuñez and Leah Del Giudice. Photography courtesy of honorees.

What do you think the future of technology looks like in your field?

“Technology is constantly transforming education and employment, which means we have to be prepared as teachers to stay on top of changes and use the most dynamic and personalized tools to help improve people’s skills. Technology teachers are needed more than ever before, not only helping others become proficient in using the Internet and software applications, but also in showing how to develop critical thinking and evaluating situations in a technology-saturated society.” –Betty Tavares

“Technology continues to inhabit new areas of our lives, from network-connected cars to coffee pots. Cybersecurity professionals will need to be embedded in each new technology deployment or product being brought to market. These embedded security professions will enhance the security of these technologies by including proper security controls in this development and deployment process instead of security being an afterthought. The demand for this type of skillset will continue to grow as the demand for information security and privacy grows.” –Richard Fontaine

“The role of a database administrator has already shifted as organizations move to cloud-based database systems. Having knowledge of existing systems and being able to identify application requirements are key to successful migrations. There will be an even greater emphasis on data integrations with API, data warehouses and business intelligence tools. I see the overall data culture of organizations improving and motivated users being able to create reports and dashboards on their own.” –Bryant Phillips

“Technology has already radically shifted the way we interact with brands. The future of branding will be hyper-personalized, thanks in part to the advancement of the way we collect and share data. Design and marketing will be incredibly focused on the individual’s needs, even more so than now. We’re also inevitably going to experience an open-source revolution that will compete with the monopolies of existing design and marketing software, making professional tools more widely accessible.” –Ray Nuñez

“Simply put: In my field, the future is female and she is self-taught.” –Leah Del Giudice

Lifetime Achievement Award

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Todd Knapp.

The Tech10 Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a member of the technology community who has devoted his or her career to the improvement of the overall industry. Todd Knapp, a longtime supporter of Tech Collective, has embodied this through his professional and community efforts. A lifelong tinkerer and maker, in his first year at the University of Rhode Island, Knapp began to help other students, as well as faculty members, with their computer and technology needs. In 1998 Knapp founded Envision Technology Advisors where he offered business-focused technology solutions. Even from the earliest days of the company, Knapp wanted Envision to be a valued member of the community, from offering clients and the public complimentary technology recycling services to how-to properly dispose of E-waste, to donating time and expertise to local non-profits such as Rhode Island Foster Forward, Skills for Rhode Island, the National MS Society and the Red Cross. Through Envision and his own personal efforts, Knapp has also committed to mentoring young technology professionals and supporting alternative employment programs.

 

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