Alum Spotlight: Rosario Arias

We spoke with Rosario Arias (‘87), a seasoned professional in the tech industry, to discuss her remarkable journey from pioneering online banking in the ’80s to navigating today’s rapidly evolving AI landscape. With a background in computer science from UVM, Rosario reflects on the invaluable lessons she learned as an international student and the collaborative spirit that defined her early career. As a woman of color in a field historically lacking diversity, she shares her strategies for overcoming imposter syndrome and emphasizes the importance of seeking out opportunities for growth and mentorship.

Could you give me some background about yourself: name, pronouns, what you studied at UVM?
My name is Rosario Arias, and I’m she/her pronouns. I studied computer science with a minor in, what was called, Information Management from the Business School back in the ‘80s at UVM. Through the years, there’s been a decline in women participating in this career; however, my cohort had a lot of women in it back then. 

After graduation I worked as a programmer for a bank in Miami, FL and developing sort of what you would say is an online banking system for them without the internet existing yet. It was more of a snapshot where the customer would dial into their account and be able to see an image of their current transactions and balance every morning.  The thought existed as a concept for people to be able to do online banking, so it was pretty innovative in a sense and pretty exciting to be part of that!

And at the same time, I was part of a small group working on that and many of the engineers were much older than I was so that was my training ground and intro into the business world the first three years after graduating from college. I decided I wanted to move back to the Northeast and again, there’s no Internet, so it was very hard to figure out what companies were hiring so I went back to UVM and I asked for help. 

Back then, there was a Career Center, so through the Career Center, they were able to connect me with different companies that were hiring, and one of them happened to be a company that was headquartered in Vermont. I went through the interview process and got hired, so I ended up moving back to Vermont. That was not the plan that I had originally, but that’s where life took me. In a sense, that was great because I already knew the area but, I was coming back in a different mode, now as a person living in the community, not as a student. 

I got hired by this small company whose focus was in software development for products that were used by hospitals, clinics and radiology groups. They were homegrown but became really big so, when the owners decided that they wanted to retire they sold the company to General Electric healthcare; therefore, I became GE employee. We worked as part of the healthcare for 12 years, I believe, and then GE decided to break apart. I ended up now working for a different company called Athena Health, still working on the development side and still in the same area which is healthcare and revenue cycle management. I’ve been in my latest role for 10 years now.

What is difference between me and the other person that might go for [an opportunity]? Why not me? If you feel you have the qualifications to do something and the ability to do it, why not you?

Rosario Arias (‘87)

We are all working on new technologies and new languages in modernizing our software.

So that’s been the latest stuff that we’ve been doing is we’ve been taking this legacy code that we brought from the old GE/IDX and now modernizing it all.

In your experience at UVM, was there certain clubs, courses, professors, any specific things that you feel helped guide you in your career pathway and prepare you for the workforce?
I came to UVM as an international student and back then, I was part of this cohort, and they were very supportive in providing me with ways of feeling comfortable in this new country and new environment. That’s what’s excellent – that UVM provided that back then. In terms of computer science, it was very focused on electrical engineering – something that I don’t see nowadays as part of the current curriculum. It was very math intensive as well, which is one aspect of the major that was very different then. Also, the fact that there was no internet made my cohort work together a lot. It taught us a lot about teamwork and helping each other because we would work in these computer labs and we would be there for hours.

During your time at UVM you said there was a lot of women in your cohort and in your classes; has the same remained true for your jobs/project teams?
Yeah, there were a lot of women in information science back then. Comparing that for example to where I work right now, we have QA engineers on top of the development engineers and they have documenters, but the development engineers, we’re only three women. So that’s the scenario that you are facing most likely, you might be the only female engineer in your group.

That’s something to keep in mind when you go out there and are looking at employers and jobs.

As both a woman and person of color in a field that has historically excluded women of color, how do you navigate imposter syndrome and building confidence within your profession?
Since my days at UVM I have always been involved in some group or leading some kind of group doing activities that provided me not just with something more to do, but a feeling of satisfaction and contentment, and that allowed me to build my network of support outside of just my working group. I feel that has always played a very strong role in making me feel confident at work and that I was just not there doing stuff with my working group.

One of the things that helped me to deal with the imposter syndrome too is I took a leadership course and one of the lessons that I learned there was about imposter syndrome. It’s, you know, how most of us feel, especially women. Some of the questions they said may come up are: who am I to volunteer? or who am I to say this/that? Who am I to lead that group or who am I to go for the promotion? 

And that was the lesson: why not me? What is difference between me and the other person that might go for [an opportunity]? Why not me? If you feel you have the qualifications to do something and the ability to do it, why not you? Why can it not be you; and I always say that to myself.

Either way it will provide you a lesson. Either yes, you’re a good fit or you’re not, and it might just lead you to something better. This doesn’t mean you’re always gonna get it right or get what you want, but why not try for it and just be involved in different things?

What is your take on A.I advancements/changes your field of work since you’ve graduated? How has it been impacting your line of work?
AI is such a big thing right now, and workers are asking how we use chat GPT. That’s the new thing we’re being pushed to figure out – how we can take advantage of that technology to make our software even more attractive to customers or to provide new features. So it always keeps improving, innovating and changing. Even though I’ve been working for so many years, my knowledge and career keeps shifting. And just so you know, to give you an incentive, wherever you start, it’s not going to stay the same. Hopefully students will be working on something that will keep innovating, challenging and pushing them to learn new stuff.”

Have you been learning how to use AI at your company and integrate it into your work for your benefit?

I’m not learning any of it yet, it was more: let’s explore what it means and how it could be used.

Like where it would be the right place for us to apply that technology in our software. So it’s very, very new for us. I don’t know where that’s going to lead us, but you know, here it is!”

How do you feel about this new shift of everyone in this sort of AI craze?
Everything must be coded, right? So, you know, like the way my group saw it, if we have other things that were precursors to this AI idea, that’s what we could use AI for. I’m very open minded; it could be applied to different areas, but we still are trying to figure out exactly where to use it and, at the same time, you have to always be careful about security and privacy because we deal with a lot of private healthcare information from individuals, so that also comes into play.

It just keeps you challenged, and it is exciting because you don’t feel like you’re just stuck and not learning; well, it also depends on employer.

So, do you feel the reason why you’ve been able to stick with one employer for so long is because you’ve never felt stationary or unchallenged by your job?
Correct, exactly that. That has been the main reason, the challenge was always there.

I never felt that I was stuck in something, that there was no going upward movement or experiencing/learning something new.. Had that been the case, I would have been looking for a different job.

What do you recommend students do to build skill and confidence outside of just courses?
You just gotta keep trying different things, dipping your feet in different projects or initiatives.

Ask yourself, in any new involvement, where is this going to lead you? Is it going to open up a door for you? There’s nothing you do that will not be useful for you to use in your future. You know, another female in engineer called me ‘the real deal’ the other day and I said, what do you mean that I’m the real deal? 

She said, well, you’ve had so many years of working in the field as a software engineer.

There are so few people like that, women like that. And then she started asking me questions like how did I do it? How did I raise a family while working and stay in the industry?

When I was working for GE I was able to maintain my full employee status and keep working about 25 hours a week, and that allowed me time to be able to also have, raise and be involved with my kids. One huge benefit from the pandemic was the open-mindedness of companies to allow for remote work. However, if you end up in a position where you are working remotely most of the time, I would encourage you to find ways of connecting with people somehow.

There are many ways of connecting online and breaking barriers and just being able to connect with people as if you had some interaction in the office, face to face.

As a seasoned professional in a STEM career; what advice do you have for students who may be questioning their abilities being new to their field of study?
You know, that feeling doesn’t go away. I mean, even after all these years, like this week, I was working on a project that involved new stuff that I wasn’t familiar with or very knowledgeable about. I felt so stupid. But then a coworker who knows more about it kind of guided me and, at the end, and it was not that hard to learn!

Would you be OK for like mentoring or speaking with students after this?
Sure, sure, of course! Remember you can do whatever you want!

Salary Negotiation: The Worth of Your Work

Negotiating Your Salary: Handshake Image

You did it! You wowed your interviewers with your cover letter, work history, and interview. They want you to join their team. It’s exciting to be paid for your work, but is the pay worth it? Too many people don’t get paid what they’re worth for one simple reason – they don’t ask! 

Salary negotiations are not just common, they’re expected. One survey from Career Builder found 53% of employers are willing to negotiate salary for entry level workers. However, only 42% of workers aged 18-34 negotiate for better pay when offered a job. Additionally, pay inequities persist. According to PayScale’s The State of the Gender Pay Gap 2020 women earn $0.81 for every dollar a man earns. Women of Color, meanwhile, earn $0.75 for every dollar a White man earns. 

So now you know you should negotiate your salary. Let’s look at how to do it. 

Do Your Research 

Assess The Market 

The Vermont Department of Labor provides information on salaries across various occupations and locations. You can also use crowd-sourced services like Glassdoor or Payscale to get an idea of the salary range for similar jobs in your location. Research salaries for similar positions in the organization (some institutions even publish salary data).  

Determine Your Cost of Living 

According to, Cost of Living continues to increase across the country, so it’s important to create a monthly budget to determine what salary you will need. The amount of money needed to live comfortably can vary widely from city to city. NerdWallet offers a free salary comparison calculator. You might also consider using UVMConnect to reach out to an alum who lives in that city for a firsthand account of the costs.  

Understand Your Compensation 

The total value of your compensation package is greater than the dollar amount of your salary. Do some research to understand other benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, 401k matching, gym membership, etc. Check out this guide to common benefits. These benefits might also be up for negotiation.  

Set a Range 

Your range will be based on the market, cost of living, total compensation, and your worth. Reflect on your skills and acumen that will meet the needs of the organization and your years of experience. Weigh these against the minimum requirements for the position; the more relevant skills and experience you have the stronger your case is. As this is a negotiation, approach the conversation with a pay range you’re willing to accept instead of a hard number. 

Be ready when the call comes, know your range and be ready to negotiate. 

Salary Negotiation for Women 

As vexing as it is, wage inequity still exists. Our society still has a long way to go in recognizing equal pay for equal work. The truth about salary negotiation for black women offers 5 useful pro tips from

Negotiate the Offer 

Once an offer is made (and if you are indeed interested in the job), be sure to demonstrate enthusiasm. After thanking the employer, ask if there is room for negotiation.  

  • If the answer is yes, you will likely be asked what salary you have in mind. Remember the range you determined. Start the conversation at your high end knowing that they might not meet you there. Use your research to mention the skills and experience that you would bring to the organization as a rationale for the salary you request. Be prepared for some back and forth. 
  • If the compensation is firm, make sure you understand the whole benefits package. You might ask about merit-based increases, room for growth in the company, professional development opportunities, schedule flexibility, or the possibility for remote work – these are additional ways that you can negotiate compensation. 
  • If you’re happy with the offer, feel free to accept on the spot! If you’re unsure, thank the employer and ask for some time to consider the offer. They will likely ask for your decision within 3-5 business days. You may find it helpful to talk through the offer with a trusted source (eg. parents, mentor). Remember: it’s ok to say no to an offer that just doesn’t meet your needs. 
  • Also: do you have more than one job offer? Check out this article from on Tips for handling multiple job offers
  • Want more? Check out these 37(!) strategies for how to approach negotiations
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Final Thoughts 

Like interviewing, negotiating is something we don’t normally do – practicing is always a good idea. And remember, negotiating is always in your best interest. Future raises will probably be based on a percentage of your current pay, so if you start off at a lower number, your salary will grow more slowly. A successful negotiation is a win-win. 

Confident Interviewing

Preparation and practice are key strategies to increase your confidence for any interview.

Senior Series 2022 Image Interviewing with confidence
  • Research the organization. Check out their website, social media pages, and do a quick Google search. Learning about them will help you tailor your answers to their mission and help you predict what they might want to ask about. Employee reviews on sites like Indeed or Glassdoor can also lend key insights. If you know who is interviewing you, you could also look them up on LinkedIn to learn a bit about where they are coming from.
  • Ask about what to expect. Ask who you’ll be meeting with (could be one person, may be several) and if there is anything you should prepare. There are several kinds of interviews – visit the Prepare section of our Blackboard site to learn more about Technical Interviews (common for IT and engineering positions) and Case Interviews (common in consulting and management positions).
  • Prepare your questions.  Every interview goes both ways, you are interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. Think about what you’d want to know about the position, the organization, the culture, measures of success, potential challenges, etc. Thoughtful questions will not only aide you in making an informed decision but can also effectively demonstrate your understanding of the position. Here are a few sample questions.
  • Plan your outfit: You’ll want to dress to impress, but that does not mean the same thing in all fields, nor is it required that you confirm to outdated gender roles. Do some research about what is appropriate, and then focus on a polished and thoughtful ensemble. If in doubt seek advice from a trusted source, like your career center 😉
  • Know where you are going.
    • In Person: Consider visiting the building ahead of your interview so that you know where to park and how long it takes to get there.
    • VirtualMake sure your technology is up-to-date and you know how to use the platform required. Do a practice call with a friend to familiarize yourself with the layout.  Seek out a quiet space with minimal distractions (don’t forget to tell others in your house about your interview).  And declutter your background. There is nothing more distracting than an unmade bed. Tidy up, adjust what can be seen in frame and consider a blurred background.  Pro Tip: lighting should come from in front of you, not behind.
      • If your interviewer is a few minutes late, just wait: They may be wrapping things up with someone else. After 5 minutes, chat, email or call them.

Remember that you’re interviewing because they saw promise in you.

While it’s normal to feel nervous, we hope these steps can help you feel calm, confident, and curious during your interview. Remember that these future coworkers want to get to know you as a human so don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat a question, elaborate on the question, or, after you answer, ask “Did I answer your question completely?” 

Go in with 3 key things you want to be sure to convey

Consider your strengths (and areas for growth – you’ll probably be asked about that) and look for opportunities to highlight these skills. The NACE Competencies can help you focus on strengths sought by employers in all industries.

Tell concise stories

Prepare a couple good stories using the STAR method to answer questions in a concise, thoughtful and memorable way. Don’t assume that everyone has read your resume – in fact you may want to bring copies – so do make sure you are explaining your relevant experience as you answer questions. The goal is tell the story of who you are and how you’ve developed skills/experiences that prepare you for the position.

Send Thank You notes

Always. For real. To everyone who interviewed you. A short thank you note (often via email) is a demonstration of your interest, appreciation, and professionalism. Don’t wait, send it out 24-36 hours after your interview. It’s a great opportunity to mention anything that you forgot to mention in the interview or highlight a topic from the interview discussion you considered noteworthy. Check out some example thank you emails.

Take Care

Whew, you made it! Take a few more deep breaths (hopefully you’ve been breathing throughout!) and, if your interviewer asked for references as a next step, be sure let them know to expect a call. 

Now you get to practice selfcare and patience. Decisions can take longer than you think. That said, if the time frame the employer gave you for a decision has passed, it is perfectly fine to reach out to them with short, courteous email to continue the conversation. Example: “I’m writing to follow up on the timeline for (job title). I wanted to inquire about updates on the process and restate my interest in the position. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any additional information.”

You Have Options!

Chalk Drawing What's Next Image

What’s next? That’s the question many seniors are asking themselves as their undergraduate education is winding down. Remember, you have many options when it comes to approaching life after college, such as:

Work Immediately

If you are looking to work immediately after graduation, Handshake is a great place to find jobs available right now. If you need help crafting your resume and cover letter, see last week’s post to get you started.

  • Start your Own Business – Have a great idea? A passion you want to turn into a company? Consider starting your own business. Venture for America is one organization that can help you get started. This 12-step guide is a good way to start thinking about it.

Grad School

Graduate or Professional School might make sense for your degree and career path, or it may be unnecessary. To help make the decision and learn more about the process of applying, check out the Graduate and Professional School page.

  • Be a Research Assistant – Reach out to professors you know or check UVM job listings to explore possibilities. You might be surprised by the various fields that offer research possibilities.

Service Possibilities

Volunteering your time and effort is a perfect way to make a lasting impact on the world around you. As an added benefit, many employers value public service and volunteer experience from candidates in a job search.

  • Peace Corps – Peace Corps volunteers engage in hands-on service projects all around the world. You will immerse yourself within a community working alongside community members to tackle some of the greatest problems facing the world. 
  • AmeriCorps – members receive a stipend while volunteering to serve directly with nonprofit organizations across America to tackle our nation’s most pressing challenges. There are a wide variety of programs to choose from, including City Year & Teach for America.
  • Search online for additional national and international service opportunities.

Work Abroad

Interested in working outside the US? UVM Students have access to GoinGlobal – a robust resource filled with insider tips from local experts and career guides with up-to-date career and employment information for 120+ locations worldwide – log in through Handshake.

  • Teach English as a Second Language (ESL): Many countries offer opportunities for native-English speakers with little or no teaching experience to teach abroad (like Japan’s JET program), here’s a good starter list of Popular job boards as well as board to avoid.  

Take a Growth Year

You may be more familiar with the term “Gap Year,” but we’re not big fans of this term. It sounds like something is missing or absent during this chapter, when this relatively short period can lead to some of the most valuable experiences in your lifetime. Choosing a growth year can be an incredibly rewarding experience in which you…well, grow.

You might choose to: 

  • Travel – If you can, consider taking advantage of being untethered and take in the world’s incredible splendor. Become that annoying person at parties who constantly talks about backpacking all over the world (the writer of this blog is aware that he is one such annoying person). 
  • WWOOF – Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a worldwide movement to link visitors with organic farmers, promote a cultural and educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming and sustainability practices
  • Pursue a Professional Certification – Whether you are a Psychology major who wants to learn to code or a business major who wants to become a certified yoga instructor, pursuing your interest can benefit you both personally and professionally. 
  • Take additional coursework to fill in knowledge gaps. UVM’s Professional and Continuing Education offers courses. You might also consider online platforms such as Coursera or LinkedIn.
  • Any number of things that don’t fit neatly into the above categories – For example, you might try creating art, writing software, starting a podcast, launching a local campaign advocating for a special cause, etc. Taking the initiative to be a self-starter is a desirable quality for any future job candidate. 

Whatever you choose for your growth year, remember that these experiences have value – both for you, and for your next employer. Don’t be afraid to list these experiences on a resume or talk about them in a job interview.

Senior Series 2023

The bottom line is that you have options. Like, a lot of them. This is exciting but choosing one (or several!) is not always easy. This cute video lays out a simple step-by-step process you can use when making decisions. And as always, consult your loved ones and mentors for different perspectives. 

Remember: Your email won’t last forever so be sure to:

  • Add your personal email to Handshake to maintain access to all the opportunities there (Learn how).
  • Create or update your UVMConnect account with a personal email to engage with a robust network of alums. 

Next: Confident Interviewing (in person & virtual)

You Are Your Own Brand: Application Materials

Graduation is just around the corner!

In last week’s Senior Series 2023 installment last week, we discussed getting started from scratch with the job search – what to think about, resources available to Catamounts, and how to search for the job that suits you best. In this week’s installment, we’ll discuss tips on: 

  • Resumes & Cover Letters
  • Crafting Your Online Profile


Your resume and cover letter should be tailored to each position you apply to. The job description is your cheat code. Use it as a checklist to make sure you are addressing as many requirements as possible.  Consult our Guide to Resumes webpage for tips and examples.

Check out this video from a previous Career Center workshop on resumes:

Cover Letters

Your cover letter is your chance to showcase your personality, goals and passions that might not be obvious from your resume. In addition, you can elaborate on how your experiences have made you the person you are. Your resume answers who, what, when, and where. The cover letter fills in the why. See our Guide to Cover Letters for more tips and examples.

Check out this video from a previous Career Center workshop on cover letters:

Crafting Your Online Profile Having a LinkedIn profile is highly recommended – think of it like an extension of your resume. (And include your personalized LinkedIn URL on your resume) You do not have to be very active, but establishing an online presence allows you to present the professional “you” to potential employers. 

This video on LinkedIn shows you how to set one up and start to use it for researching career paths and looking for jobs:

Senior Series 2023

Remember: Your email

Your email won’t last forever so be sure to:

  • Add your personal email to Handshake to maintain access to all the opportunities there (Learn how).
  • Create or update your UVMConnect account with a personal email to engage with a robust network of alums. 

Your career journey requires a lot of independent work and initiative but know that you’re not alone. Collaborate with Career Center staff, employers, alums and fellow graduates in this week-long series of workshops. 

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