Distinguished alumna Angela Allen gives presentation to ECU students

Computer science, technology and business students at East Carolina University received some career advice from a distinguished alumna during a meeting of the Association of Computing Machinery.

Angela Allen, a 1982 computer science graduate and a retired executive at IBM, told students that she remembered being in their seats decades ago and that they’re in good positions to launch their careers.

“This is one of the best professions you can get into,” she said. “You can take your career anywhere you want to go.”

Angela Allen answers questions from students during her presentation.

Her career included climbing the ladder to a vice presidential position at IBM as well as a master’s in business administration from Harvard. And, she said her success would not have been possible without ECU.

“I look at ECU as the foundation,” said Allen, who grew up in rural Greene County not far from Greenville. “I always give ECU credit. I put my skills up against people around the world. … “That’s what ECU does. It’s confidence. You know your stuff.”

Allen asked students about their motivations and encouraged them to follow their passions. For example, if they care about the environment, they could use their skills to support those efforts in a rewarding career.

 “When you can take that passion and get paid, that’s the dream,” she said.

And she told them their paths to success may not be like anyone else’s journey.

“It may not be a straight path,” Allen said. “Think about where you want to go and put the pieces together. You may have to zig-zag. And that’s OK. … Your path to success, you have to map it out based on your passions and what your interests are.”

She cited her keys to success: education and training, dedication and long hours, getting outside your comfort zone, helping others and getting help, and building relationships. And she told students that education doesn’t end with a degree.

“You have to love being a life-long learner,” she said. “Getting your degree is just the start. In this profession, you cannot stay stagnant and expect to grow.”

Allen answered questions from students, including one about the challenges in the computer science and technology industry. One of those she mentioned was the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and ChatGPT.

“AI is exciting and scary,” she said. “The technology is moving so fast that it’s not keeping up with the human side and the policies.”

Allen has been a long-time supporter of the computer science program, the College of Engineering and Technology and ECU. She established a scholarship for computer science students and is part of the college’s advancement council. She received a Distinguished Service Award from the ECU Alumni Association in 2014 and continues to be a presence at college and ECU events.