Critical Connections

April 22, 2021
young woman sitting at a computer

Computer science major Mackenzie Dolishny ’20 had no coding experience when she first came to Pace. She worked hard to catch up, landing internships at the likes of IBM and American Express, and even a full-time job at Microsoft.

Mackenzie Dolishny ’20 is passionate about facilitating connections between people. It’s why, she said, she decided to pursue a career in the STEM field despite having no coding experience when she applied to colleges. “In the beginning of my first programming class at Pace, I did not do well on the first few assignments,” she told us. “I wallowed in self-pity for a few days and then put my head in the books. I spent countless hours reading the textbook, developing different projects, and doing challenges on HackerRank.”

She not only learned how to code, but she worked her way up to the top of her class—with a 3.99 GPA, no less. Talk about serious dedication. “My advice to incoming students would be not to confuse movement with progress,” Dolishny said. “Many times, we complete assignments and finish tests with good grades. However, I challenge every student to ask themselves: are you actually learning? Are you actually improving?”

In an effort to improve and hone her skills, Dolishny added a mathematics minor to her busy schedule, as she says, “computer science is heavily rooted in calculus and probability.” She even included an economics minor! “[It] has broadened my education beyond engineering and math and has made me a more well-rounded individual.”

“This big picture thinking completely redefined the goals I have for myself and redefined the way I perceive the world around me.”

It really comes as no surprise, then, that Dolishny’s drive attracted the attention of a Seidenberg professor who offered her a position as lead developer on the Pace University Multi-School Environmental Sensors Project. “An opportunity like [that] won’t find you in a classroom of 400 students in a big lecture hall,” she explained. “Working on this project as lead developer helped me attain interviews and internships further down the line that completely changed my career path. If I hadn’t gone to Pace, I would not have been as successful as I was.”

Since then, Dolishny’s internships have been numerous: data analyst at Seidenberg, application development at IBM, software engineering at American Express, and most recently, a full-time position in software engineering at Microsoft in Seattle come Fall 2020. But like all exceptionally successful people, Dolishny initially struggled with imposter syndrome. “In the beginning of my internship [at IBM], I was worried that I didn’t know enough to be working for such a great company and I was nervous that I wouldn’t do well,” she told us. “I realized during that internship that so many of the skills we use at work, we learn on the job. This gave me more confidence and that confidence carried into future internships.”

Dolishny is also a Grace Hopper Scholar, having been selected to participate in the Challenge Based Innovation Project, which allowed her to study abroad. “I had the opportunity to work with renowned physicists at CERN in Switzerland, which is home to the world’s largest science experiment, the Large Hadron Collider,” Dolishny explained. “This big picture thinking completely redefined the goals I have for myself and redefined the way I perceive the world around me.”

That level of knowledge and experience has opened doors for her even beyond Pace. In her sophomore year, Dolishny was asked to guest lecture a graduate class at NYU on big data and non-relational databases. “I felt so honored to be teaching such intelligent and brilliant students. It made me realize that one of my greatest passions is giving back and teaching others,” she told us.

As Dolishny climbs to even greater heights in her career, she’s also reaching for the sky in other ways, too. Did you know she parasails? “I parasail frequently with my family on summer vacation,” she said, in addition to playing basketball, softball, volleyball, dodgeball, and a variety of other sports, including skiing and snowboarding in the winter months. “I love to stay active and play sports in my free time,” Dolishny explained.