Journey to Tech Research – Katarina Pesa ‘17

Journey to Tech Research – Katarina Pesa ‘17

Interviewed by Mateo Vazquez ‘21

MV: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I guess one of my first questions would be what were you involved in at Trinity?

KP: So I did a few intramural sports. I played tennis and softball. And I did community service my freshman year. Actually, I was a research assistant for a professor. I spent a good amount of time doing that especially towards the end of my time there.

MV: What kind of research was that?

KP: It was with Professor Laws in poli sci.

MV: Oh she was my advisor.

KP: I love her. She’s absolutely the best in bankruptcy research. She was writing a book. I don’t know what’s happened to it since. But I helped her a lot with that.

MV: Wow. Oh that’s awesome. I had my first two seminars with her and she would often give lessons and refer to research you guys were doing the year previous. So I guess my next question is what did you do after Trinity?

KP: I work at Forrester Research which is a technology focused market research company and I work as a research associate over there and in security and risk.

MV: What does it look like on a day to day for you?

MV: So actually it’s somewhat similar to being a research assistant for a professor. I do a lot of vendor outreach. I do a lot of desk research, interviews, some ghostwriting, pretty much anything that would support the team. And so basically I support a number of analysts who are industry experts and do a lot of their background work.

MV: How was that transition right out of college and into the career? Was it hard work navigating that?

KP: So I took a little bit of time off for some family things, a few months. I don’t know. I went a little stir crazy. But from college to job, it’s a little bit different. And you know it’s not like everyone is out for themselves. It is so much more of a collaborative environment even though I’m working on my own a lot. It’s a little bit like if I were to write a paper, I would want other people to use it and take my ideas and make them their own. Whereas in college you take your paper and then hide it forever so nobody could ever plagiarize you. It’s a lot less independent that way. So I’d say it’s a lot more collaboration in the workforce.

MV: How do you like working in the Boston area?

KP: Oh I love Boston. I’m originally from New York so I wanted a little bit of a smaller place in a university. I absolutely love it. There’s a million and one Trinity people here. I actually lived with a Trinity alum as well. Yeah. So I can’t escape them but I like it up here.

MV: How do you find yourself using political science within your research?

KP: So the research associate track at Forrester is basically like—you can turn it into a career. You can still do and go through the ranks of your team. Having been there for a year now they’ve started asking me what I’m more interested in. I’m actually trying to go more towards the geopolitical risk side of things which are more in line with the poli sci stuff that I’ve done in college. I find that my day to day stuff that I work on now isn’t quite in the same subject area. But it’s very similar to the dynamic I had learned.

MV: Was there any class or argument in particular that stood out at Trinity or helped you out in your career?

KP: Well obviously the research assistant thing. I think the major as a whole was still writing intensive and I cannot stress enough how important that is at least in my role. And of course I love Professor Laws so any class with her. I remember my first one with her. The way she taught really inspired me.

MV: Yeah. And then you mentioned the writing intensive. So do you find yourself writing papers every day?

KP:  I do a lot of the ghostwriting so I don’t get the credit for it. And it’s even down to the e-mails you write. You just have to know how to be concise and well written and sound competent. Especially because as a 24 year old I’m reaching out to the CEOs of big banks and everything and you need to sound somewhat intelligent doing that.

MV:  How do you like interacting with all these people in that kind of atmosphere?

KP: It’s kind of intimidating at first but you get used to it. They don’t know who you are. So they just, you know, kind of presume that you are someone important. And, so you know, you get on the phone and ask, “What do you do? What’s your research on?” They are all perfectly nice but still very intimidating just because you know they’re industry leaders.

MV: Is there anything that you’d recommend to students now in terms of wanting to pursue a poli sci career or something similar?

KP: Yes. I would say don’t panic if it feels that poli sci, specifically in subject matter, isn’t what you want to do because there are so many ways to apply the major and the skills that you learn. So many other different fields. I feel like I felt quite pigeonholed right after I graduated because I thought that I could only really do something directly applicable to my major and didn’t really see how widely it could be applied. So I guess that would be my advice.

MV: Did you find a lot of diversity in the career field?

KP: Yes and they tell you, kind of as you go along, that your major doesn’t matter as much as you might have thought when you graduated.  And then you realize the advice is true as you start your job. Because, I mean everyone I work with majored in widely diverse fields such as international relations, math, pretty much anything you could think of. No one is expecting you to be any sort of expert. They just expect for you to come in, know how to write and they’ll train you from there on. You don’t need to come in having a specific set of skills, at least if you’re doing something like I am. You just need to know how to be confident and how to have good writing skills and how to be able to communicate and work in a collaborative office environment.

MV: How do you like the career lifestyle versus the college lifestyle?

KP: Oh my gosh. I never ever took a Friday class in school ever.

MV: Oh that’s me right now.

KP: It is pretty wonderful. So that was kind of an adjustment. However my company really values fair work environments. We were consistently voted one of the best places to work in Boston. So they let us have Friday at home if we want. That was kind of nice. But college. I don’t know. It’s so different. I would do my work a lot in the very early morning and at night I was kind of a night owl. I’d get all my papers done and everything but here you’re very much forced to do like the 9 to 5 thing. Pretty big adjustment even though I have a pretty understanding manager. It’s still a very big culture swing and you don’t have as much free time as you previously had and all of a sudden now you’re waking up at 7 a.m. and there’s no way around it. But I see my college friends all the time. They all live nearby and I specifically chose Boston because they were here.

MV: Is there something you’d like all the alumni to know about you or your career in particular?

KP: Just a little bit more along the vein of you don’t need to major in something you’re going to do. I’m in tech now, the security industry. And never in a million years would I have thought that I would have any knowledge of that or be into this.

MV: Gotcha. It seems like you like the tech side.

KP:  It’s different. I took a one single computer science class in college and it was wonderful. But it did not prepare me for all of this. You know I’m sitting on a call in here talking about security and it’s over my head completely. So very big shift. But definitely interesting and definitely can’t go wrong in the career choice. Technology and the shift to security and everything is totally inevitable. So a good space to be in right now.

MV: Yeah definitely. I mean it seems like you were saying with poli sci you can do almost anything which is amazing.

KP: Definitely not something I had anticipated or seen myself doing. My boyfriend also went to Trinity and he was computer science and engineering and then he went to work for Cisco which makes sense. And he has conversations about this kind of stuff that bore me to death. I never thought that I would make such a pivot and go into tech myself. But here I am.

MV: Is there anything that you’d like us to know about or anything I didn’t cover that you’d like to share?

KP: I don’t think so. Maybe this was not so much geared towards the interview but we are hiring for people in my position. So if you know of anyone, definitely pass along that. I absolutely love my job and it’s not something I thought I would be in. So I feel like spreading the word of what I do. And the degree I got and how I got to it. It’s pretty important.

MV: Definitely. I don’t think everyone realizes where your major can take you or maybe limit you in the beginning.

KP: Yes and I definitely did. I’d come up with things like, “Oh my gosh, what do I do. I don’t want to go into politics.” But it doesn’t mean that you’re stuck in politics. It just means that you have a lot of great communication skills that you could tap into.