Professional Development
Career development / Education / Products / Q&As / STEM

Career changes, calls to service: Why these 4 Pittsburgh technologists chose their specialities

Max Dennison felt his education background could translate well into teaching tech, while Molly Urbina wanted to combine her love of robotics and art. Read about why some of our RealLIST Engineers choose their respective fields.

Keep your skills sharp. (Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels)

This editorial article is a part of How I Got Here Month of's editorial calendar.

There are a million and one ways to enter the tech world. Some pros even go through a few different careers before landing on the right one.

As we at wrap How I Got Here Month, we wanted to know why technologists chose the areas of tech they’re currently working in. And who better to ask than some of the folks you might recognize from our 2022 RealLIST Engineers?

Sometimes the answer was a call to service, while others named a desire to bring art and science together. Below, four Pittsburgh technologists answered’s questions about why they chose their areas of expertise, what they enjoy most about their positions, and if they ever considered a different path.


Why did you choose to work in the area of tech that you’re currently working in?

Amil Cook, director of technology programs and curriculum at Community Forge: I got into tech education, media and tech for community empowerment  because of my passion for being of service to improve the realities and outcomes for humanity and especially historically marginalized communities like the BIPOC community I descend from.

Max Dennison, digital inclusion specialist for the City of Pittsburgh and coordinator for the Rec2Tech program: I chose to work with youth because my background is in education and I have always worked with youth. I also think the future belongs to the young people. If we can help shape their minds, I would like to be a part of that conversation.

Molly Urbina, mechanical design engineer II at Deeplocal: I’m currently in the creative technology and experience design field and it is the perfect match of engineering and art for me. I love the ability to create machines that prioritize human and machine interaction while making them meet the necessary engineering requirements.

Yvette Menase, senior project manager at Libsyn: I chose to work in product management because I wanted a larger scope of influence than I would have as an engineer. I loved engineering because I could drill into a problem, solve it, and take on another, but it was a grind I couldn’t see myself doing indefinitely. I feel less restricted and have more autonomy in product management. I know I can make an impact by being a reasonable product manager, as well. Some product managers are unreasonable with their expectations from developers — and oversell to other stakeholders — I do not do either of these and I like to think I’m part of the solution.

Rec2Tech students. (Courtesy photo.)

Did you ever consider a different specialty?

Amil Cook: Surely, but only in passing. I thought about being an international diplomat, international NGO staff member and of course a hip-hop thespian and renaissance man. All of which could very well still happen, so keep an eye out.

Max Dennison: The other specialty for me would be creating my own startup. Myself being a programmer, I still have ideas and things I think about that I would like to create.

Molly Urbina: For a long time, I was in the field of robotics and 3D printing. In my current position, I’m able to still work with both fields while exploring new opportunities.

Yvette Menase: I strongly wanted to go into dev management or devrel [developer relations], because I enjoy advocating for others, especially those who don’t have the confidence or professional privilege to do so. I am also able to relate to people, see their skills, give constructive feedback, and have difficult conversations. I can also work with “difficult people” pretty well, and can see the big picture while being detail-oriented. I didn’t go down this route as I learned that it would likely take more years doing engineering at the IC level than I had wanted to spend.

Molly Urbina. (Courtesy photo)

What aspect of your current position do you enjoy the most?

Amil Cook: I enjoy inspiring and assisting people in my community, providing them with resources, hope and support that they may not have known was available. Encouraging people in my community to not give up on their hopes and dreams gives me a lot of joy.

Max Dennison: What I enjoy the most about my position is I get to go to work everyday and feel like I am making a difference. I feel like we are making change. That humbles me, and allows me to feel connected to my work and I feel like I am making a difference.

Molly Urbina: The diversity of projects! I love the ability to work on a whole range of things and the pace of work. It keeps everyday exciting and there is always something to look forward to.

Yvette Menase: At Libsyn, a podcast recording, hosting, publishing and advertising company, I am very fortunate to work with some extremely reasonable yet adventurous people at all levels of the organization. Assuming I come to the table with my data, documentation and metrics, I’m given the space to drive my products in a direction I think will benefit them, the engineers, and the company. Additionally, working in media has been pretty exciting, especially with public products where I can talk to the consumers in real-time and work with them to develop engaging and exciting products.

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Series: How I Got Here Month 2022

Knowledge is power!

Subscribe for free today and stay up to date with news and tips you need to grow your career and connect with our vibrant tech community.


How to respond when a long-tenured employee quits? With grace

The opportunity cost of fear: Underfunding Black founders hurts the US economy

RealLIST Startups 2024: Meet Pittsburgh’s most promising early-stage tech companies

Call for AI startups: Unlock partnership opportunities with the Vertical AI accelerator from Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs

Technically Media