Editor’s Note: To further connect alumni to current students, The College Voice is working to create a consistent Alumni Spotlight column, featuring alumni from all walks of life. If you are a Connecticut College graduate and are interested in being interviewed by one of our writers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I wanted a school where I could do everything,” said Phoebe Bakanas ’10 when discussing her initial decision to attend Connecticut College. As a musician, athlete and student of computer science, Bakanas wanted a liberal arts college where she would be supported in the exploration of all of her academic, athletic and extracurricular interests. In her time at the College, Phoebe studied as a double major in Computer Science and Music Technology and received a certificate through the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology (CAT).
As Bakanas described, it was this very interdisciplinary, liberal arts education that has shaped her current career working for Denodo, a software company located in Palo Alto, California, which specializes in data virtualization.
Bakanas detailed that in her three years working for the small company, her role has evolved significantly. She described her current position as a service engineer, which involves consulting, professional services, support and training. Within this role, she primarily works as a consultant, responsible for debunking issues and developing company-wide best practices for development.
Bakanas explained, “You need to have a wide variety of abilities in this type of position. You need to know engineering and technology, but you also have to be able to work really well with others and have strong communication and interpersonal skills with clients. Playing water polo, studying computer science and participating in the orchestra allowed me to master and practice all of these skills in a variety of different settings.”
Bakanas also emphasized that her drive to succeed as a woman has similarly propelled her in the field. “As a female, I have a drive to feel like I can do something,” she described. While Bakanas believed that her gender has provided her with many opportunities, especially considering the current demand for more women in the field, she also acknowledges the gender bias that continues to prevail. “Sometimes there are these conceptions that women are incompetent or get frustrated easily,” Bakanas explained. “I’ve had people pat me on the head when I’m having a problem or trying to figure things out.” Although she does not often feel that this patronization is intentional, such behaviors are often more subconsciously embedded within the professional culture.
When discussing her advice for prospective Conn students interested in the field of science and technology, Bakanas emphasized the importance of confidence. “It can be a really intimidating field at times, but you can’t let other people’s knowledge intimidate you,” she asserted. Bakanas reflected on her time studying in England, where she received her Master’s degree at the University of Leeds. Since liberal arts education is practically non-existent in the country, many of her peers knew their specific field to a tee.
Bakanas explained, however, that although her colleagues’ area knowledge could be intimidating at times, she was ultimately able to utilize her broad and interdisciplinary educational perspective to best support her work and research: “One of the most important things in technology is to step back and see the big picture and solve it, which a liberal arts education definitely supports. Whenever you feel stressed and feel like you can’t do it, step back and remember that technology is logical,” Bakanas advised.
Looking forward, Bakanas hopes to be able to predict the future of data virtualization. “I would love to be able to see in the future where data virtualization should go. This means seeing what people will need and what problems they may need solved before they’re even confronted with them. I hope to gain more experience to take the next step and be able to not just solve today’s problems, but also to predict the challenges of the future, even those that we don’t know exist yet.” •