By Abby Weingarten
Like many 2020 graduates, New College alum Kyle Dennison worried about securing a post-graduation job during a pandemic. But, only 10 days after earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science, Dennison was fortuitously hired on May 25—by another New College alum.
Chris Deam ’95 selected Dennison to be a remote software developer for his 2009-founded company, Prodigy Information Technologies, in Spring Hill, Florida—a leading provider of medical imaging solutions, healthcare software and business IT support.
“The addition of Kyle is exciting. Because we do software development, we need to get code out faster and market products faster, and he has the perfect skillset for that,” said Deam, adding that the connection began when Dennison sent him a message on LinkedIn.
Deam also studied computer science at New College, graduated in 1999 and launched his first software company in 2005.
“As an entrepreneur, New College instilled in me that your professors are there to teach and help you along, but it’s up to you to want to seek the knowledge and find your way,” Deam said.
With this in mind, it was a no-brainer for Deam to consider a fellow Novo Collegian as an employee. Dennison, he knew, would be a self-starter. But he ended up being so much more.
Dennison came to Prodigy proficient in Java, Python, C#, Unity, Android Studio, Scheme, Git, R, Apache Hadoop, MySQL, HTML5 and Linux. Some of his Independent Study Projects (ISPs) at New College included Exploring Robotics with Python and Modeling an Electric Vehicle Using Java. And his senior thesis involved studying 24 papers on aesthetic properties to create more visually professional and useful Java Integrated Development Environment (IDE) software. All of this expertise made Dennison a tremendous asset to Prodigy.
“Writing Java code is like solving a really tough puzzle, and they always give me interesting problems to solve here. I’m always thinking critically,” said Dennison, who lives in Gainesville and is originally from Fort Myers. “I know lots of people from my senior class are still struggling to find any kind of position, and I always tell them to reach out to the alumni network. I found Mr. Deam and it ended up being incidental that he had an open position ready, but he never would have sought me out. I made that initial connection because we had a shared background, and that’s how I got my foot in the door.”
Dennison is beyond grateful for the opportunity, considering the economic circumstances.
“I was feeling pretty disheartened as we were getting into early May because, when the virus started to spread, all of these job positions kind of disappeared. I didn’t think I had any hope of getting a job lined up,” Dennison said. “I was so relieved to get this job and it feels like a huge boulder has been taken off my shoulders.”
Dwayne Peterson, the director of the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) at New College, was Dennison’s mentor through the process—showing him how to network with alumni and make potential career connections.
“I have so many things I could say about Dwayne,” Dennison said. “If he had not joined New College my senior year, I don’t think I would have done half the things I did.”
Dennison also credits the Computer Science program with equipping him with the talents—and the critical-thinking abilities—to thrive in his current field.
“I feel like the Computer Science program at New College doesn’t get enough credit. I’ve done research at UF and FIU, and it has shown me how different our program really is. A lot of big schools teach you languages but they don’t show you how to learn them (they just give you the information),” Dennison said. “At New College, you really learned how to actually figure this stuff out, recognize the patterns and become an independent developer. We weren’t reliant on manuals. We were taught how to think for ourselves.”
Deam had a similar experience.
“I’ve always felt that New College gave me an opportunity I probably wouldn’t have had at a larger, more structured university. Because there was no formal, standardized computer curriculum, they allowed me to use resources in a pretty unfettered way,” Deam said. “If I’d gone to a larger university, I would have been just another student. I am very thankful that New College had an environment that let me do my thing.”
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.