A&M-Central Texas Grad Becomes Software Programmer at Trideum

December 15, 2022

A&M-Central Texas Grad Becomes Software Programmer at Trideum

Andrew Cadran, 23, Copperas Cove resident, son, and brother, became an alumnus of A&M-Central Texas less than 10 days ago when he crossed the stage at commencement. Even before that momentous occasion, he already knew that another long-awaited goal would add another title: full-time Trideum employee and junior software developer.

It wasn’t that long ago, he says, when he had a very different kind of job. He wasn’t coding software, analyzing database files, or managing complex IT systems. But he was earning $16 per hour, and that, he says, was paying for his tuition and giving him the chance to learn some real-world life lessons – even if it meant working at the deli counter and not behind a computer.

He was, he says, a food service representative, working at the local HEB. His parents, he added, had paid for his first three years of college, and he was funding the final year. He liked the camaraderie there, the reliable hours, and friendly management. Even though, every now and then, he said, he would encounter a situation that required a little extra effort.

“A customer was upset because the roasted chicken we normally sold was out of stock,” he began. “There had been a weather-related emergency at the supply level and there wasn’t a roasted chicken to be had in the store.”

As anyone in the service industry will no doubt attest, they see the best – and sometimes the worst – of human nature. But nothing about the episodic difficulties of his job changed his philosophy of what it means to work and to do a job well.

In fact, if anything, it solidified what he had already been brought up to believe: that is, everyone deserves respect, as much patience as one can muster, and equal parts of logic and humor.

He grew up the youngest child in a family of five. His dad worked in software, and his mom became a teacher, and he had been fascinated with computers even at the tender age of six or seven.

“I was 13 when I got my own computer, and it had a game on it that let users modify the code and make it do different things in the context of the game,” he said. “I plunged right in and never looked back.”

Over the years, he said, he attended traditional public school until ninth grade when his mother offered him the option of home schooling to which he readily agreed. He didn’t miss any of the traditional high school experiences, he says, owing to a community of home-schooling parents who banded together to provide social events and additional learning activities for their students. Years later, after graduating, he enrolled at Central Texas College in the Fall of 2018, taking courses fulltime and completing the general studies required for transfer.

There was just one thing: he knew what he wanted, but he wasn’t yet convinced he could make it happen.

“I was interested in programming, so I paid attention to the job market,” he explained. “The market seemed soft at times, and I had heard that people with programming degrees were having to take jobs as customer service representatives and doing work in the field, sometimes waiting years to break into an actual programming position.”

He maintained an honorable 3.4 grade point average of which he is proud – given the difficulty of some of the coursework. But he did well in the technology-based courses. The liberal arts coursework, he chuckled, was a different story. His hardest class, he admitted, was the dreaded Composition II.

By Fall of 2020, he was taking a full slate of computer information studies coursework. For someone who had always dreamed of becoming a programmer, he found his passion for the subject reinforced by what he was learning and the experiences of his instructors that deepened his appreciation for technology. As a result, he said, he could feel his concern about his future as a programmer give way to something fundamentally certain.

“I guess I had always known how much I love technology, especially programming,” he began. “And I was lucky because a lot of people around me – parents, grandparents, best friends’ parents – all told me that I could do it.”

“And I had a lot of really inspired teachers, and I am super grateful for that,” he said. “My favorite was Mr. Emmett Gray. He wants so much more from you than quizzes and memorization. He wants to share his work-related experiences with his students, so that when we are in future positions, we not only know what is in the textbook and best practice, but we also know how to make leadership decisions.”

Surprisingly, he said, fate intervened. He had been checking his emails from the University, noticing among the dozens of other messages, a note from another professor, Dr. Marita Esposito. She was announcing the availability of a software development internship at Trideum Corporation, a defense engineering company on the campus and a part of the on-going development of a research park led by the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.

“I dropped everything, and responded immediately,” he said. “It was everything I ever wanted to do, and it was right here on campus.”

A few days later, he says, he received a reply, telling him that he had been selected. He was so shocked, he added, that he sat there in stunned disbelief, reading and re-reading the message just to be sure he had read it right.

And still, he says, he kept his job at the deli counter, balancing his advanced coursework, and the Trideum internship – without sacrificing one for the other.

“I will never forget my first few weeks there,” he said, his voice remaining steady, but the words tumbling out as if in the same excited cadence as the speaker.

“A lot of people think ‘internship,’ and they think of just doing odd jobs or getting coffee, and not really being able to do much, but I had plenty to do from day one, and they made sure I knew I was part of the professional team and welcomed and appreciated.”

He had access to everything he needed, he said, describing the accoutrement of administrative permissions, code bases, industry standard software, and an actual desk.

“Within three weeks, I was already working on developing software for the Department of Defense and creating tools to assist Fort Hood’s operational testing. Of course, nothing is high level security, but I was there – actually working in tandem with the other programmers and leadership – and I was so invested in what I was doing.”

And, in the ways things sometimes do, what began as a welcome opportunity developed into more.

“I had mentioned that if I fit in and worked well, I’d like to stay,” he said. “And about a month before the end of the semester, I received an offer, and I was thrilled to accept.”

Full circle now, Cadran’s gratitude for the Trideum co-workers and leadership is obvious. In fact, his smile is so large, he looks like he might have slept with a coat hanger in his mouth.

“These folks have been extraordinary. I mean how does a person stand here literally with everything they’ve ever wanted and thought maybe wouldn’t have, and here it is. I’m holding it. It’s real.”

The same camaraderie he enjoyed at HEB, he says, is very present at his new job, too. The week of commencement, he said, the company leadership presented him with not one – but two – graduation cakes. One for him to share with his new colleagues at the office, and one for him to share with his family.

Andrew’s experience as an intern becoming a fulltime programmer is exactly what the company hopes to repeat in the future, says, Ron McNamara, Texas Operations Manager at Trideum.

“Our goal is to develop an enduring workforce in the research and technology industry here in Central Texas, aligning higher education and certifications to tech-related job opportunities for local students and transitioning soldiers.”

The partnership between the University and Trideum, provides students like Andrew two opportunities: paid internships as software developers, software programmers, or software engineers while they take their coursework, and potentially full-time employment in the computer science career field upon graduation.

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