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Alumnus Combines Degree, Military Experience in Programming Position


Joseph Melillo ’16 of North Adams, Mass., discovered he had a knack for programming in high school when he earned his highest grades ever in his computer classes. He quickly realized a career in software development was the obvious choice.

“I didn't put much effort into anything during high school, so it surprised everyone when I got good grades. I couldn't imagine a better sign as to what path to follow,” Melillo said.

Now, “The thing I love most about computer science is watching lines of code I write come to life. Creating useful applications is such a rewarding experience.”

Already on the job as a software engineer at General Dynamics in Pittsfield, the new alumnus is well on his way to a great future. The position, which was waiting for him upon his graduation from MCLA last month, was offered to Melillo after company officials observed his work during an internship there last summer, during which he worked on weapon control systems.

A veteran of the U.S. Army, Melillo’s military background makes working at General Dynamics all the more interesting for him. His service included training in Germany, after which he was deployed to Iraq for 15 months. During that time he earned a Combat Infantryman's Badge, an Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device, and an Iraq Campaign Medal.

At General Dynamics, “I get to work in a very military-friendly environment alongside other veterans and people with similar backgrounds,” Melillo said.   

MCLA prepared him for the position, Melillo said, by ensuring that he completed multiple internships.

“There are tons of students completing their degrees in this field, and in order to stand out to managers, we need experience,” he explained. “MCLA promotes internships, and even goes so far as to give students scholarships to promote internships, as well as complete them.”

Melillo continued, “The Computer Science program is great. It covers multiple programming languages, including Java, C++, HTML, CSS, JS, and also keeps up to date with newer technologies as they become more relevant in the real world.”

Along with programming languages, computer science students are taught the required theory with regard to data structures and algorithms, “one of the most important aspects of this career choice,” Melillo said. “The professors we have are great and make sure they are doing their best to teach us what we need to know to succeed in this line of work.”

Melillo said he would “absolutely recommend” MCLA and its computer science program.

“We have such a strong computer science program, and a liberal arts education better prepares students for the real world,” he explained. “This career choice isn't just writing code; communication is a huge part. Programmers are a dime a dozen. Ones who can communicate and interact with customers, team members, and other employees are the people that will stand out to hiring managers.”

Melillo spent a good deal of time at MCLA’s Veteran's Resource Center, where he did his homework and met with other student veterans.

“Being a veteran and going to school so much later on in life poses some very different challenges, so having the Veteran’s Resource Center and other veterans so close was essential to these past few years going smoothly, and was very healthy for my mindset,” he said.

One day, Melillo would like to go to graduate school to continue his computer studies. “General Dynamics encourages their employees to attend, and in most cases pays for us to take classes, so I plan on taking full advantage of that.”