Alum advances Disney's financial transaction systems with skills learned at IST

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of profiles on College of IST students and alumni who are utilizing the skills and knowledge they developed at Penn State to make an impact in a variety of industries.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Countless children have a dream to spend every day at Disney World. Few have the chance to grow up and work there.

College of Information Sciences and Technology alumnus Dane Berkowitz was one of those lucky few. After completing an internship as a student with Disney Parks & Resorts, he earned a full-time job there soon after his graduation in 2014. He applied his technical background as part of Disney’s point-of-sale team, which managed cash registers for all of Disney’s parks and resorts in the United States. After two years, he transferred to a project team that implemented chip credit card processing at Disney’s U.S. parks and resorts, serving as a system engineer.

“The systems that I worked on could impact everyone in the park,” he said. “Everyone who visited Disney interacted with those systems on some scale.”

Berkowitz credits his experiences in the College of IST with helping to shape his career. Holding two bachelor’s degrees in security and risk analysis and information sciences and technology, the skills and knowledge that were developed in the classroom gave him an edge in the real world.

“I feel that cybersecurity plays a role in everything that we do,” he said. “It’s impossible to have a piece of technology without a need to integrate cybersecurity. Having that skill set has definitely been essential to my career.”

He added that group project work and diverse classes in his IST major also have helped him understand the perspectives and needs of different audiences.

“Customer service is critical to success in business,” he said. “I place value on that in everything that I do.”

While a student, Berkowitz became especially interested in crisis informatics in a course taught by Andrea Tapia, associate professor of IST. This led him to the first job of his career with Mission Critical Partners, a public safety consulting firm that specializes in networks, broadband, facilities and operations.

“What I learned in that class was interesting to me,” he said. “It partially helped me get my first job out of school.”

He then moved on to Disney, where he spent the next three years before deciding to apply his technical background to a place much closer to his heart: his family business. He recently moved back to the Philadelphia area to serve as an emerging technology and solution engineering specialist at his family’s company, Sound Systems Unlimited/Security Systems Unlimited.

“I’m of the generation that has always had a computer and been around technology,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being able to leverage that skill set in my family’s business.”

It’s quite a transition to go from working for a large global brand to a small family-owned business, but Berkowitz said that he looks forward to the opportunity.

“As technology has evolved, a lot of systems are becoming technologically advanced,” he said. “I’m looking forward to using the skills I’ve acquired in college and in my career and applying them to a new industry. It’s very interesting to see how far technology has progressed and how much the IT world is starting to converge with other industries.”

Berkowitz is no stranger to working in a number of different environments. In addition to Disney and Mission Critical Partners, he’s also worked for a school district, Campbell Soup Co., and now his family’s business. He encourages students and fellow alumni to explore a variety of industries in their careers.

“See what the different companies can offer you and what might be the best fit,” he advised. “Always pursue further education, training and certification.”

He also noted how an increasing number of companies and industries are in need of skilled professionals to manage their technology needs.

“As we move forward, tech is evolving and systems that typically never had any form of technology now somehow touch it,” he explained. “It’s important that the integrations are done correctly for customer success and security.”

Last Updated July 02, 2018