LAS Week Alumni Feature

CATEGORIES: Alumni, News
Decorative image, LAS Week 2021 Alumni Feature

Thank you to our LAS Week 2021 sponsors Kingland, Principal and Meredith! Meet some of the LAS alumni who went from the classroom to a career at one of these leading Iowa companies.

Decorative image, photo of LAS alumnus

Mohit Baskota, MS ’19 computer science

When Mohit Baskota joined Kingland as an advanced software intern, he was given the chance to write real working code for real projects. That trust continued when he was hired full-time as a software engineer in fall 2019.

“I started working in the critical parts of the project, which is exciting and challenging at the same time,” he said. “The work culture [at Kingland] is great. You are valued and appreciated a lot for the work that you do at Kingland. You can easily approach designers, architects and other teammates for help and collaborate to solve various challenging problems.”

Today, Baskota’s focus is in data management, discovery and analysis. He starts his day by reviewing peers’ code and talking with teammates about the features of their project. The rest of the day involves the design and implementation of new features that are planned for “the sprint,” a set time during which the team brainstorms, designs and implements a scalable solution for a challenging problem.

“Those days are mostly ‘heads down and coding’ with some whiteboard discussions with teammates for the ideas,” Baskota said.

While code is his strength, Baskota said writing design documents is his weakness. He recently celebrated completing a design for a feature.

“Being involved in the initial design process and seeing it come alive at the later stage of the software lifecycle was actually a proud moment for me,” he said. “I was mentoring a number of interns for that work and it was very challenging. I am really happy that I was able to help and guide them.”

For students looking to join the industry, Baskota said networking is important. He encourages students to interact with companies presenting on campus and be active in other areas, too. In fact, he got his internship when his student poster presentation caught the eye of Kingland.

“Be good at academics, but at the same time try to gain as many software development skills as possible,” he said.

Favorite ISU memory: “Just one word, ‘Friends.’”

Favorite ISU class: “COMS 511 was one of the hardest but the most favorite one for me. The assignments were hard yet interesting. This course tests your limit but it helps you enhance your problem-solving skills which comes in very handy when you start developing software on a large scale.”

Decorative image, photo of LAS alumna

Brandy Sexton, ’99 journalism and mass communication

Brandy Sexton uses her Iowa State journalism degree every day — as the voice of a Fortune 500 company.

A senior brand management strategist with Principal, Sexton focuses on external communications. She makes sure the company has a consistent message and brand voice for everything from social media posts and sponsorships to executive leaders’ messages and enterprise content communications plans.

“I love seeing my ideas and messages come to life and seeing what works well and what doesn’t,” she said. “I also enjoy the market research. I like learning about people’s likes and dislikes and what makes them tick.”

That knowledge, she said, allows Principal to help customers make progress on their financial goals so they can have the futures they dream about.

“Principal truly does care about people and doing the right thing in the right ways and it feels good to know you are working for an organization that enables you to contribute to helping people,” she said.

One of Sexton’s recent projects was particularly meaningful: completing a messaging platform for their diversity and inclusion team.

“I work closely with our diversity and inclusion team on their strategies and initiatives and it’s such important work,” she said. “I’m proud of the things we’re committing to as an organization and of helping to shine a light on the things we’re doing, to bring it the attention needed to drive success in our organization and in our communities.”

While at Iowa State, Sexton explored her career options by participating in student organizations like the Advertising Club. She enjoyed the opportunity to visit advertising agencies in larger cities.

“This was helpful for me in determining where I wanted to live and what direction I wanted to go in for my emphasis,” she said.

She also learned it’s good to pursue your passions—you never know where that LAS elective class may lead!

“I took anthropology as an elective early on and loved it so much that I kept taking anthropology classes and it ended up becoming my minor,” she said. “I love learning about other people and cultures. I guess this explains why I like the market research component of my job so much!”

Favorite ISU memory: “Watching ISU basketball games in Hilton. I went as a kid and it’s one of the main reasons I chose Iowa State! There’s nothing like the energy and excitement you get being in Hilton for a conference game!” 

One piece of advice: “I worked multiple jobs while going to Iowa State, and I wish I would have spent more time enjoying college life. And I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I thought I would be rich when I graduated college so I wasn’t concerned about student loans and credit card debt. Give some thought to how you will pay the bills if it takes time to find a job!”