IST grad uses tech and law degrees to position retail for the future

Editor’s note: This is the seventh 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. – Angela Liberto always knew that she wanted to be an attorney. With a passion for technology, however, she took a nontraditional path to get there.

Liberto explained that while many aspiring lawyers earn their undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, she followed her interests by pursuing a major in the then School of Information Sciences and Technology. She was a member of the new program’s second graduating class when she earned her degree in 2004.

“It was really new when I got to Penn State,” she said, “but I liked the way that it was an intersection between science and business, so I explored it.”

As one of IST’s first graduates, Liberto was grateful to be a pioneer.

“It was unchartered territory; innovative and exciting,” she said.

She nurtured that spirit of innovation in her first job out of Penn State, working as a business analyst at CGI Group, Inc., a global information technology company, while attending law school at Duquesne University.

“I continued to work in tech while completing my law degree at night,” she said.

After earning her law degree, she left CGI to serve as general counsel for a small corporation, then returned to CGI where she worked her way into the Office of General Counsel, drawing on her tech background throughout.

“I have always kept a foothold in technology, even when I worked at the tax bureau,” she said. “I had a background that was really helpful to bridge the gap between law and technology, which has been helpful to advise my business partners and be a resource to translate and really let them know what complex legal issues mean to them.”

“That’s all a foundation from my IST background,” she added.

Her educational background isn’t the only IST connection that she nurtured at CGI. Liberto said that it’s where she met her husband, Josh, a fellow Penn State College of IST alumnus who graduated the year after her.

“We had some of the same professors at Penn State, but didn’t know each other,” she said. “The IST building was finished right as I was graduating. You didn’t see people other than who you were in class with.”

But the Penn State and IST connection gave the two something in common on their CGI team.

Transforming an industry for the future

Today, Liberto serves as senior corporate counsel for DICK’S Sporting Goods. She provides general legal counsel for the company’s technology business team and for the Team Sports HQ -- an all-in-one service that provides youth team sports leagues with tech solutions, equipment, team uniforms, and access to sponsorships and donations.

As many brick-and-mortar retailers are going out of business, Liberto is excited for the opportunities that lie ahead for DICK’S, as well as the role she can play in them.

“Technology is such a huge part of retail’s transformation into the future,” she said. “Those who don’t embrace it will be left behind. An organization needs to be focused on technology and needs to have the people who can properly support it.”

At DICK’S, she spends a lot of her time helping to solve problems -- many that aren’t even legal issues.

“[With a diverse background] you become a trusted adviser to the business,” she said. “You get to see really complex stuff and problem solve all the time. Those were skills that I was introduced to at Penn State.”

Like many IST alumni, Liberto also credits the soft skills gained in the college with helping her to excel in her career. She specifically recalled the many group projects as part of her coursework.

“Every day is a group project when you’re an adult,” she said. “Every project that I work on here, whether negotiating an agreement or investigating a process improvement, is done as part of a team.”

She noted that some of the downfalls to group projects, such as a team member who doesn’t show up or misses a deadline, are life learnings that students can benefit from.

“That will continue to happen throughout your career, unless you are just sitting at your desk on an island,” she explained. “All careers coming out of IST are going to require some sort of collaboration. But you don’t get to pick your business partners in life, either.”

Of all of her accomplishments, Liberto cites the transition from her technical background to proving herself in the legal field as one of the greatest -- especially as a woman.

“It’s not unusual to be the only or one of the only women in the room, particularly when you move up in the ranks,” she said. “My advice [to female IST students] would be to trust in your abilities and keep a thick skin. As a woman, you have as much of a right to be there as anyone else in the room. You deserve your seat at the table.”

Liberto encourages all IST students to consider broad career paths like hers and to explore a number of industries to find their niche.

“Technology is everywhere. It’s making the world go round,” she said. “If you narrow your sights on a few companies, you’re really limiting your opportunities.”

She concluded, “There’s no right path, but the IST degree is versatile enough that you can really do anything with it.”

Last Updated August 08, 2018