Microsoft’s 2018 book about the future of AI was notable for several reasons, but one aspect in particular burst onto social media upon its release: they endorsed the liberal arts, signaling a sudden reversal from a negative outlook shared by Bill Gates in 2011. Across the software industry, the liberal arts have been viewed in a far more positive light recently, as companies hire more and more such graduates due to their ability to communicate, think critically, and lead others. Understanding technology is important but being able to communicate the value of it to the masses requires a different kind of skillset.

From the 1980s onward, Christendom alumni have taken their Catholic liberal arts education into the software and IT industry, even shaping the field in significant ways. Alumni Steve O’Keefe, a ’93 graduate with a degree in history, and his classmate Sean Garvey, who earned a degree in political science, co-founded NovusCG, a data management company that was eventually bought out by IBM. Greg Bodoh, a 1994 theology major, is now the owner of Sole Solutions, a computer programming company, while Mike Rohan, a double-major in history and theology from the class of ’89, is now the project manager for Strategic Business Systems. The list goes on.

Alumnus Bennett Ellis (’91).

Of this ever-growing alumni group of tech specialists, Bennett Ellis ’91 and Tim Lanahan ’10 are both successful and highly motivated to encourage Christendom students to dive head first into the field as well. Ellis, now the founder of Slice, LLC, and Lanahan, who serves as a senior associate software engineer for Capital One, both returned to campus to share the secrets of their success at Christendom’s Life on Tap alumni networking series.

See Harvard Business Review – Liberal Arts in a Data Age

After Ellis graduated with a philosophy degree in 1991, he spent time discerning his career path. Initially, he did computer development for a non-profit, spending his time learning everything he could about the growing technology field. He took this knowledge into the for-profit sector, eventually becoming the chief architect for NovusCG,  and then later for IBM, first working as a software architect and later as the lead software architect for their SmartCloud Application Services.

Ellis encouraged students interested in the software field to put away gaming and social media and focus on learning instead, putting their time to good use in their studies and beyond.

“Tech runs the world,” said Ellis. “If you’re not considering a career in technology, you should be. You, in this room, are going to shape it and you’re going to help it grow and become something that’s good for mankind.”

Today, Ellis has branched out on his own with Slice, LLC, a 6-month old software company. While one might think that doing anything in software involves an aptitude for mathematics and science, Ellis disagreed. Instead, he said that philosophy and logic — key facets of a Christendom education — are what have led him to his current success.

“The technology world, while there is a lot of math involved, most of what you do in software development is logic,” said Ellis.

Lanahan, also a philosophy major, shared Ellis’ sentiments. After graduating from Christendom in 2010, he initially became a teacher, staying in that field for three years. Numerous times, Lanahan thought that he wanted nothing to do with computers but decided to dive into the field in order to boost his salary for his growing family. He went back to school, studying at George Mason while working for a government contractor in the DC area. After earning his MS in Systems Engineering, he joined Capital One, where he is today.

Alumnus Tim Lanahan (’10).

“I think anyone in this room can approach technology without fear,” said Lanahan. “I can think of every major here at Christendom and apply technology to it in some way. Natural language processing is a growing field in technology and English majors have a leg up in it. Philosophy majors do too.”

See Why Liberal Arts Degrees are Valuable in Tech

Lanahan went further, bringing up Ellis’ point again of people being initially scared of technology. Lanahan cautioned against this mentality, encouraging students to not live in ignorance but explore the technology route instead.

“What software engineering is now is basically taking parts and creating a whole. This is just like what you do in philosophy,” said Lanahan. “­­If you want to get into technology, the time is now. You have four years ahead of you where you can go ahead and incrementally fail [in technology] in order to find success by the time you graduate. If you do these things during your time at Christendom, you will be well on your way and well prepared to graduate from here and come out with a good position in technology.”

Technology rules the world, as Ellis and Lanahan said. As a result, students with a firm moral center are desperately needed in the field, especially as it only continues to grow faster and faster. Christendom graduates have been doing that before even the birth of the internet and will continue to do so long into the future.

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, famously said that “it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.” This upcoming graduation, members of the Class of 2019 will assuredly take the leap into the fields of software development and IT, going out to restore all things in Christ in the world’s biggest industry.

Watch Ellis and Lanahan’s full talk here.

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