Nick Mangano

Ph.D. Information and Computer Science, 2013

Why did you choose this degree?

I wanted to work on something challenging, something that I believed in.
Near the end of my undergraduate degree, I had worked in software development and QA jobs, but the work was isolated and didn’t offer me the chance to work with people. I sought out advice from professors at UC Irvine and that led me to find Andre, who offered me the chance to do a PhD that involved both building software, and studying how it impacted people’s lives. The Informatics program was an ideal place to do that work.

What has been your career path since graduating with a Ph.D.

Along with a colleague I met at UCI, I co-founded a startup called SketchTogether, which is taking the lessons that I learned from my research and turning it into a real product. My co-founder was a visiting student from Padua, Italy, who worked on Calico, the collaborative sketching tool that was my dissertation. Since graduation, we set out to turn that vision into an actual product that people and companies can use.

What do you enjoy most about your current position?

The opportunity to improve people’s lives through the work that I do, and the opportunity to use the full skillset that the PhD has taught me. As a two person startup, we have our hands on everything, from building the technology, to meeting with customers, to giving presentations about our vision.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Start work at 6AM to collaborate with my colleague in Europe, and see where the day takes me from there. There is no typical work day, but rather I work on what needs to be done. I might be indoors writing developing software, or outdoors making presentations about our product and working with customers.

What was the best part of your experience at UCI?

Hands down the people I met while working at UCI. No other time in my life will I be surrounded by such a diverse, passionate, and high quality group of people. Every meeting, chance to share a coffee, and chat in the hallway were opportunities for serendipity, solving some problem, or coming up with a new project. The week-long seminar in Milan, the five month research trip in Brazil, and the dozens of other trips to conferences I made throughout my PhD career gave me the chance to learn and exchange ideas with a great group of people from all over the world.

In what way(s) did your studies prepare you for your career to date?

It’s different for every person, but the PhD put me in a good position upon graduation to embark on a startup. It taught me to think critically, write and present my ideas well, and, through internships and working on a multi-year project, how to be a software developer.

What would be your advice to incoming students who might want to follow a similar career path?

I have major two pieces of advice to incoming students: (1) pick a project your first year and dedicate yourself to it. Chances are, you won’t know what you’re truly passionate about until your second or third year, but by focusing on a project your first year, you’ll gain valuable applied experience. Also, (2) get out there and socialize with your peers. In grad school you’re given a rare opportunity to surround yourself with a high quality group of people, and it’ll be place where life-long friendships will be made.


“Along with a colleague I met at UCI, I co-founded a startup called SketchTogether, which is taking the lessons that I learned from my research and turning it into a real product.”