Following footsteps on the IST path

Megan Gent
April 21, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Being apart from family is a tough part of college for many students, but Kelly and Kevin Costello are two Penn Staters who were able to spend two years in Happy Valley together — not only on the Penn State campus, but in the College of Information Sciences and Technology.

With their mom also being a Penn State alumna, both siblings knew they wanted to attend the University since they were young. But it was the stories that Kevin would tell about his Penn State experience that really inspired Kelly to take the IST path.

“I knew Kevin was enjoying his IST classes and professors,” said Kelly, a 2017 graduate. “He would come home during holiday breaks, talking at the dinner table about all the new technology and tools he was learning about, and I was definitely intrigued.”

She added, “Our parents are also both IT professionals, so ‘nerd talk’ over the latest and greatest new releases and technology was always something we both grew up around. IST made sense for me.”

Kevin, a 2015 graduate, first was exposed to the College of IST from his uncle’s nephew, on the other side of his family, who was a student in the college.

“Hearing about three-letter agencies and being on the front lines of security was intriguing to me,” said Kevin “I participated in a security risk analysis summer session, and that really solidified it for me.”

Kevin said he didn’t knowingly encourage Kelly to join him at IST, but he was pleasantly surprised when she committed. They have both enjoyed how much of a special place Happy Valley has become for their family since.

“Kevin encouraged me to come to Penn State but was supportive of whatever major I wanted to explore,” said Kelly. Although I think he was definitely biased toward the IST experience.”

She added, “I remember Kevin telling me that because the College of IST is one of the smaller colleges, and that majoring in information sciences and technology or security and risk analysis  was a great way to make a big school feel small and meet friends with similar interests.”

Making a large campus feel like home

While each sibling was involved with their own extracurricular activities on campus and at IST, hanging out together helped to make a large University feel like home, Kelly said.  The two made the most of their time together, from family tailgates to IST professional development events.

"When I was a freshman and Kevin was a junior, we joined a team for PwC’s fall case study and ended up winning,” Kelly said. “Kevin has always been really skilled in technical projects, so getting to work with him in that setting at the beginning of my IST journey was a really neat experience.”

Though their curriculum rarely overlapped, both Kelly and Kevin said they were happy to be there for each other if needed — with Kevin leading the way for his sister.

“I sometimes helped Kelly with Java and a few other assignments. Kelly is way smarter than me she didn’t need much help to begin with,” he said. “What I was able to help her with was getting into the online learning assistant program — which we both ended up working on together for extra spending money.”

Setting off on different paths

Originally from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and after spending a few years together in Happy Valley, the siblings’ career paths have now put them hundreds of miles apart. Kevin’s junior-year internship with PwC turned into a full-time offer, and he has been working for them in New York City as manager of cybersecurity and privacy. He is currently the leader of PwC’s ethical hacking team, which does all firm penetration tests and red team engagements nationally.

After graduating in 2017, Kelly joined General Electric’s Digital Technology Leadership Program where she rotated between four roles within different areas of IT over two years. In Atlanta, she now is part of the data protection team as GE Power’s mobile data loss prevention leader and is part of the insider detection team where she investigates potential data loss from inside the company to protect GE’s intellectual property. 

Both said the College of IST prepared them for success in these future careers.

“Most of the classes in the College of IST have a team-based project. I think this was the best preparation for the professional world,” Kelly said. “Learning to work with individuals of different communication styles and coordinating schedules was great experience to bring into my career.”

Kevin added, “IST gave me the fundamentals to be able to quickly understand and implement what I learned from on the job training. I definitely noticed a difference between the folks that came from IST and others in my start class at PwC. Having the basics of networking and other system administration was very important when I was a new hire; I was able to use these skills as a base to build on, which has definitely enabled me to succeed professionally.”

Last Updated April 22, 2020