Andrew Iadevaia, ’23 (BS Computer Science) loves working with computer systems. When he first arrived at Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, he only knew one programming language: Java. Knowing that, to succeed, he needed to expand his knowledge and experience, he started joining student teams.
In his first semester Andrew joined the student-run BergCyberSec’s National Cyber League (NCL) and National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) teams, as well as the Blue Colab’s water monitoring team. By the end of the semester, he was an indispensable member of them all.
Andrew learns a great deal working with clubs and teams. He has picked up experience in programming, cybersecurity, networking, operating systems, communication, competition, and of course, teamwork. He has learned cyber defense, Python, SQL, Java, C, C++, C#, FastAPI and more.
Teams and Clubs
The Pace Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) team competes against teams across the Northeastern US in Cybersecurity competitions. They defend (Blue Team) or attack (Red Team) the resources of a hypothetical company or organization. In his first year on the CCDC team, Andrew competed with the Blue Team, documenting injects. This meant he was responsible for keeping a record of every action the team took in their efforts to defend their system against attack. Andrew explains: “So I would write to [a hypothetical director or CEO] explaining what we did, why we did it, and how we did it and I put it into words that they could understand, not super technical.” To do this well, he had to understand “the overall picture, every part of the system: networking, hardware, and software” as well as the current security landscape and communicate that in an easy to understand way to a non-technical actor.
Pace CCDC has qualified to compete at regionals the two years Andrew has been part of the team. Why are they doing so well? Andrew thinks it’s because of the people. Everyone on the team is ambitious and eager to learn. In competition, “it’s a team effort; you have a duty you need to do and so does everyone else. Everyone does their part.” He says the competitions can be stressful, but “competition makes you want to be the best, that's what encourages you to learn things.”
Andrew also competes with the National Cyber League (NCL) team in Capture the Flag (CTF) competitions. It wasn’t until he joined the Seidenberg community at Pace that he participated in his first CTF . Being part of these competitions has taught him about “red teaming, privilege escalation, security auditing, and overall cybersecurity.” When asked how he does in competition he says “I've qualified for the gold bracket every season I participated, which is pretty good. Last season [as a sophomore] I ranked 42 out of 6,072 [in the US].”
Andrew is the Backend Software Engineer and Data Manager for the Blue Colab team on Pace University’s Pleasantville Campus. The Blue Colab is Seidenberg’s collaborative STEM laboratory that advances innovation in real-time water monitoring for the protection of human and environmental health. Andrew says that working with this team has taught him a lot about how combined systems work. In his role with the Blue Colab, he regularly works with databases, APIs, and web servers. Before he started, he didn’t know how any of those systems worked. He says, “I find it mind-blowing sometimes because I went from not knowing how to write a SQL statement to literally running the database and API.”
Learn By Doing
Andrew believes the best way to learn something is by doing hands-on projects. “You can't just go and read documentation like you would read a textbook for history class. You have to use the code, make a connection to the database, play around with it. That’s where projects come in.” When working on projects, chances are that you’ll slip up every now and then. But mistakes are another opportunity to learn. “There's always going to be errors, especially when developing your project, and that's when you actually learn.” To sum it all up, he says “Until you've done it, you haven't fully learned it. That's my belief.”
The project Andrew is most proud of is a database converter program written for the Blue Colab team. The goal of the program is to take data from text files, parse it using an Artificial Intelligence Engine, and insert it in a database based on certain conditions. Andrew wrote the program in Java. He says, “I'm proud of the database converter because it was something I’d never worked on before.” Putting together database operations, SQL, and Java was a new experience for him. “It was a big learning curve for me, but once I figured it out, I was able to actually take what I learned from the database converter and use it in other projects. Now, I'm able to comfortably read and write to databases.”
What advice would Andrew like to give Seidenberg students? “To get the most out of Seidenberg, a key thing is to join extracurricular activities. Clubs and teams are just a swimming pool of knowledge that's not given to you in a classroom setting.” Your teammates will “get you out of your comfortable zone and [help you] learn other things.” For students interested in programming he adds, “There's no programmer in the world who can remember perfect syntax and stuff like that. You're always going to have to look something up.” And the most important thing to remember while programming? “KISS: Keep it simple, stupid.”
Andrew would like to spend the rest of his time at Seidenberg taking on more leadership roles in the clubs and teams he works with. He has big plans for his teams. As data manager for the Blue Colab, he wants to find a solution for some of the issues the team is facing. He wants “more flexibility in the way that we're able to input data and save it and use it.” Andrew hopes his experience with these projects will help him find internships with technology companies. He looks forward to working in DevOps (Development Operations) where he can use his knowledge of IT systems and software development together to work with all the pieces of a system. “And just have a good time,” he adds. That’s important!