IST alumnus seeks to grow engagement between college's alumni, current students

Jessica Hallman
January 08, 2019
Luke Simonetti

Luke Simonetti '07 

IMAGE: Provided

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – “I feel that I’ve been pretty successful in my career and I want to be able to help students understand what the real world is like in terms of jobs.”

Luke Simonetti, a 2007 Penn State alumnus, understands the power of a strong professional network. While a student in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, he benefited from an internship that eventually led to a full-time job offer upon graduation. Now, he wants to help expand the professional network that supports current IST students by encouraging more of the college’s alumni to engage and share their own career experiences.

“We all created friendships as we were going through school. I created a few really good ones,” said Simonetti. “Why can’t we extend that back to the college and help to foster that relationship and that community?”

Simonetti has put this question into action, serving as president-elect of the College of IST’s Alumni Society Board. The society’s mission, said Simonetti, is to make alumni aware that the college wants them to be engaged and to connect with existing students and fellow graduates.

“There are so many things you can do when you come out of school, in many different industries,” he said. “Helping students understand the variety of things you can do when you graduate, from someone who has lived it, is very powerful.”

He knows from experience. Since graduating from Penn State he has worked in commercial consulting at PwC and in public sector consulting with Booz Allen Hamilton. Now, he leads the North American security and risk management consulting practice at Gartner — where he presents to senior executives and boards of directors of multibillion-dollar organizations.

He credits IST with positioning him for success along the way.

“[At IST,] I quickly picked up and understood that understanding your audience, crafting the presentation in the right way to educate and persuade the audience into your idea or the point you are trying to convey,” he said. “This skill alone has been extremely valuable, especially in my current role.”

He also cited the college’s emphasis on continued education with driving his success.

“That lifelong learning element has benefited me quite dramatically,” he said. “I’ve easily been able to pick up new things and learn them fairly quickly. Learning that through the college rocketed me in my career at Gartner and allowed me to challenge some of the best analysts in the world.”

An affinity for tech leads to IST

Even though he was a talented football player in high school and received several scholarship offers from other schools, Simonetti — who grew up just over the mountain from Penn State — had always bled blue and white.

“I chose Penn State as I knew that while playing football would be fun [at those other schools], I wasn’t going to be a star player nor have a shot at making the NFL,” he said. 

His path to the College of IST was a bit more coincidental. Originally studying aerospace engineering, Simonetti opted to change his major in his sophomore year and was debating between management information systems (MIS) and IST.

“Given my technical nature I chose IST, as it allowed me to get in and get my hands dirty,” he said. “IST is the perfect balance between MIS and computer science, so I knew that I was truly going to come out with a well-rounded education.”

He also may have gotten a little influence from his brother, Zach, who graduated from the College of IST in 2005.

“I didn’t necessarily follow in his footsteps,,” Simonetti said. “But we had always had an affinity for tech in that golden age of Apple 2Gs and the IBM Command line. It was easy for us to pick it up. We had taken computing classes in high school, and IST seemed like a natural transition from that.”

By the way, Simonetti did ultimately end up on the football field at Beaver Stadium, but not as a player.

“I chose Penn State over a college football career but that doesn’t mean I didn’t play a college sport,” he said. “I actually ended up still going to the games albeit in a different manner: as a cheerleader.”

The cheerleading experience is how Simonetti met his wife, Michelle, whose aunt was one of his cheerleading coaches and set the two up on a blind date.

“Needless to say, we hit it off and celebrated our 10th anniversary this year,” he said.

The couple has four children, Valerie, Isabella, Anthony and Rosalie, and live just outside State College.

'Every little bit helps'

Having worked his way up from a consultant to now leading a global security practice, Simonetti knows the importance of perseverance and hard work. He now wants to share those lessons with future generations of IST graduates.

“I want to enable them to come out [of college] with their eyes wide open,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard work when you come out.”

He also wants fellow alumni to know that, even with demanding jobs and family commitments and other responsibilities, they can make an impact on current and future students in the College of IST.

“You don’t have to give hours upon hours. Every little bit helps,” he said. “If we get enough alumni to give back in a small way in whatever way they can, it all benefits the students and the college in some way.”

“Technology isn’t going away. I think we’d all agree the pace of change in this space is only increasing so if you’re looking for a major that’s fun, challenging and gives you a great foundation, IST is the place for you.”

— Luke Simonetti, 2007 College of IST alumnus 

In addition to serving on the IST Alumni Society board of directors, Simonetti has mentored students, spoken in classes and sat on panels.

“It goes without question that there are a lot of fantastic students who go into the program and come out to do fantastic things,” he said.

As the college’s enrollment continues to grow, Simonetti says that the ever-changing curriculum and world-class instruction shows that the college understands where the world is going and what companies are looking for in skilled employees.

“Technology isn’t going away,” he said. “I think we’d all agree the pace of change in this space is only increasing so if you’re looking for a major that’s fun, challenging and gives you a great foundation, IST is the place for you.”

Last Updated January 15, 2019