Las Vegas local Daniel Alvarez (‘16 BS and ‘20 MS Computer Science) always had an interest in technology. But an undergraduate class about software development changed everything for him, opening doors for a career at his alma mater.
He landed a full-time job on the digital strategy and transformation team in the office of information technology using Salesforce to develop and automate UNLV business processes after working with the team as a graduate assistant. Now, the associate Salesforce developer is finding ways to improve the undergraduate admission process.
In his spare time, Alvarez also enjoys taking in the beauty of his hometown and cooking for loved ones, letting us know if a hot dog is truly considered a sandwich.
What inspired you to get into your field?
I knew I wanted to do some kind of software programming or hardware design since childhood. The specific role in those fields has evolved over time.
Generally, in programming, I was inspired by video games, particularly when a friend would modify Halo 2 custom games to do amazingly fun changes that could not be done through normal configurations.
Specifically in Salesforce, I had my first exposure to it as an undergraduate elective class. There, I learned the platform offers an interesting and unique take on how software products should be developed and delivered.
Tell me about an a-ha moment in your career.
The most impactful moment was during my time working in tech support. Helping folks with their network and computer issues got me over much of the anxiety I felt when talking with people and helped me understand just how much I knew. Since then, I’ve tried to keep my confidence at a level with the knowledge I have, and it has guided every decision up to where I am today.
How do you explain your work to people?
Usually, I say that I make tools that are used in UNLV’s digital processes, such as online applications and scheduling. It’s a short, not nuanced, and not a super technical explanation. Any more words and I usually end up rambling, and nobody wants to hear that.
What’s the last big project you completed?
The last big project was moving the undergraduate admissions application from an older software framework to a newer one. This enables more flexible designs that can run more efficiently and speed up processes. We needed to complete this step to start making improvements for a better user experience.
What other improvements do you hope to make?
I am improving our development process so our team can collaborate and deliver changes more easily. Also, I want to go through the undergraduate admissions process and make it more mobile-friendly, as some parts don’t work well for phones.
What’s a lesson you learned as a student attending UNLV?
The best lesson I learned — and I’m sure it has been answered many times in this way — is budgeting time. As a college student, your time is in strict demand, and budgeting helps maintain sanity.
What’s the most underrated part of campus?
It has to be the cats. Throughout my time at UNLV, as a student and an employee, I’ve seen cats hanging around various areas on campus. I always stop to say hello to them, and they add a great mood boost seeing them around.
As someone who grew up in Las Vegas, what’s your favorite memory?
During my high school years I was out biking with some friends, and we explored all around the east side. We ended at the base of Sunrise Mountain, which had a great view of the city. We watched the sunset on the opposite side of the valley. A beautiful day.
What do you do in your spare time?
My spare time is spent largely with my girlfriend, Katrina. We like outdoor activities like visiting the Las Vegas Wash and hiking at Red Rock. I also love cooking and baking, especially making sweets for family and friends’ birthdays. I’m not great at it, but I enjoy the activity and hope to consistently make folks happy with my food.
As an aspiring chef, is a hot dog a sandwich?
Some would try to defer their answer to the definition of a sandwich. I cannot allow this! Food is not about definitions; it's about the gut. If I were shown a series of 20 pictures of sandwiches in quick succession, and three hot dogs were among them, my gut would send some alarms every time a hot dog was shown. This is the essence that indicates a hot dog is not a sandwich.