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José Alvarado BA’13 is a software entrepreneur who is paying it forward

by Sophie Cipolla,

José Alvarado BA’13 had a job offer in hand three days after applying for positions at top engineering companies in San Francisco. It’s a post-grad scenario everyone dreams of, but given his achievement and experiences at Willamette, Alvarado’s immediate success after graduation was no surprise.

Alvarado already had impressive accomplishments under his belt before graduation: while a full-time student, he created and published two apps on the Apple iOS app store, which served as examples of his software engineering skills when he was applying for jobs.

In addition to being a Computer Science major with a heavy course load, Alvarado was an active and engaged student. He was president of Alianza, the campus Latinx club, and president of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He loved the sense of instant brotherhood he found in Phi Delta Theta, and it was an opportunity from one of his fraternity brothers that laid the groundwork for his career to take off.

This friend recruited Alvarado to build apps for students in an after-school coding course. That real-world project, in addition to mentoring from faculty members, set Alvarado apart in the professional world. “If it wasn't for that experience, it would have been significantly harder to find my footing after graduation. To already have proof of expertise in building apps was huge.”

“The professors in the Computer Science Department were all amazing, and I still stay in touch with them,” he shared. Alvarado also noted that since the Computer Science and Math departments were on the same floor, it was common to see professors playing chess or board games with students between classes, which contributed to the palpable sense of community he felt at Willamette.

His faculty mentors were key in his decision to pursue a Masters in Computer Science with a special emphasis in entrepreneurship at the University of San Francisco. That program was the catalyst for Alvarado starting his own software agency, called SF Dev Shop. He initially focused on developing software for other companies until he decided to go back to his entrepreneurial roots and create his own startups.

Now, in addition to being a full time software engineer at Autolist and running the SF Dev agency, Alvarado teaches a course at USF. Throughout the course, Alvarado mentors students and gives them the opportunity to do what he organically did as an undergraduate: build a portfolio showcasing their capabilities.

“Now I’m looking for my next big idea to work on. I’m sponsoring a couple of projects this semester and seeing if I want to help students take the next step on any of them,” he shared. “The people who stand out the most in the real world have side projects like this that they’re really passionate about, that they can show to recruiters.”

The community Alvarado found at Willamette made it possible for him to do just that. Now, he helps students stand out on their own career journeys.

Alvarado advises students to expand themselves well beyond their coursework. “In a world full of generalists, the best thing you can do is be involved and create a niche for yourself.”

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