"I have a lot of aspirations, so I’ve got to stay competitive."
– Christopher “Topher” Cherestal, Class of 2020

Christopher Cherestal, better known as “Topher” around the Seidenberg School, has made quite a positive impact on the computer science and information systems community. With his sincere and excitable personality, he’s bound to bring a smile to the face of anyone in the building. He has made the Seidenberg community a more welcoming environment simply by being here.

As a junior Information Systems major, Topher is excited to finish up his final year and graduate from Pace University. Throughout his tenure at Pace, he has risen up the ranks to be where he is today – but first he had to find his way through the clutter of his varied dreams.

Topher didn’t always want to be an information systems major—he started out with a passion for fashion and business. As a former Marc Jacobs Specialist, he dreamed of going to college to study fashion, but eventually found his path lay elsewhere. He tried accounting, but it, too, was a no go. Around the same time, Topher noticed the trend of fashion merging with technology and decided to find the intersection of his interests: product management.

“I’ve had so many different lives and career paths,” he explains. “But I’ve always loved the business aspect of whatever I did, and that’s why I love bringing a product to market.”

His love of developing products introduced him to the field of information systems. Upon discovery of this new and intriguing industry, Topher knew that this field was the right fit for him. This established his new career within the Seidenberg School. He dove into his major and got involved with the plethora of activities taking place at Seidenberg, establishing a goal of becoming a great product manager. Now, years later and settled on his major, Topher is eagerly looking at the finish line. Where one journey ends, another begins, though – the starting line of his career is just over the horizon.

Topher has his hands in numerous projects. He has participated in Nexus Maximus and Rat Relay two hackathons with the NYC Design Factory. Currently, he’s working on a research project with Dr. Christelle Scharff, interning with paywaz, programming at the student-led group Seidenberg Creative Labs (SCL), and creating as part of the Product Innovation Project (PiP) team within the Design Factory.

At Nexus Maximus (Philadelphia, PA), an annual, weekend-long Design Factory hackathon, Topher and his team designed a solution to help more kids graduate high school in a specific zip code area of Philadelphia. The solution they proposed was an aptitude test, “Philly N’ Me,” that matched students to the best after-school program based on their strengths.

Nexus Maximus was a great opportunity for Topher to showcase his product development skills, but his project with Dr. Scharff captures his imagination the most. This opportunity might be taking him on a trip to Africa!

While students in Senegal may speak many different sub-African languages, they’re taught in French, which furthers their literacy in French instead of their native language. This discrepancy between what is taught in school and what is spoken at home creates a language barrier between the students and their parental figures. As a potential solution, Topher is thinking about creating a bridge with a mobile app that helps parents learn French alongside their children.

This means that alongside everything else he has on his plate, Topher will also be learning French.

“I have a lot of aspirations, so I’ve got to stay competitive,” he says.

As well as the potential for travel to Africa, the NYC Design Factory has already taken Topher to another country. Through the CS398W Product Development course, Topher and his team travelled to Austria to collaborate with students at Graz University on a project for voestalpine, an aerospace company.

The tools and technique learned through the Design Factory help Topher “create innovative solutions that can make peoples’ lives easier.”

His team is currently in the stages of developing a prototype for their client in Austria. At the end of the semester, they will present their solution to the client in hopes that it can be used by the company. Stay tuned on the Seidenberg blog for how that goes, and if you’re interested in the program, speak to your academic advisor.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, Topher’s also honing his product management skills at financial technology (fintech) start-up, paywaz. As a product innovation intern, Topher assists in building innovative alternative payment methods that will soon be brought to market. “Learning about fintech is my new favorite passion project. I love gaining the understanding about various alternatives to traditional banking and how millennials are forcing companies to reimagine financial services,” he explains.

Topher has successfully immersed himself in the Seidenberg culture. If there’s any piece of advice he has for others, it’s this: “As long as you stick around, speak up and say you want to be a part of something, you can be part of something. There’s a lot of opportunity here”

When Topher spoke up, he found how his passions connected with technology, and pushed himself to do and be better. His career is just starting and it’s looking bright. “I’m ecstatic to bring my first product to market and see how it improves the lives it touches,” he says. Whether he focuses in e-commerce, fashion, technology, or payment services, he’s going to do what motivates him to do his best. His dreams are varied and grand: like many Seidenberg students, he’d like to start his own company; work for American Express; or move to Paris to work for LVMH. Knowing Topher, there’s a good chance he’ll do all of them at some point – so if you’re ever in Paris and find yourself needing a friendly face to grab coffee with, be sure to give Topher a “bonjour!”

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