People-Friendly Programming Magazine 2023

by Caylie Cox ’21

John Panos

Growing up on the outskirts of Silicon Valley, JOHN PANOS ’23 developed an interest in technology and computers. When he worked on an inventory system for his high school robotics team, he discovered something exciting: technology can help people. “Realizing that software can make people’s lives easier inspired me,” he says.

Then John visited Westmont and heard computer science professor Don Patterson talk about protecting the privacy of users and seeing them as people rather than objects. “That connected with me on a personal level and factored into my decision to come to Westmont,” he says.

Intent on helping people, John majored in computer science and balanced theory and practice by working on projects for the campus community. He spent summers with the Center for Applied Technology (CATLab) as one of the student researchers developing programs for Westmont’s admissions and advancement offices. He contributed to the myWestmont student portal, created the internal calendar for scheduling campus events, revitalized Westmont’s mobile app and worked on a site for prospective students. The college benefits from the efforts of highly skilled students like John, who gain valuable experience that helps them find jobs after graduating.

“CATLab gave me a unique perspective and the ability to ask what kind of tools I wanted as a student,” John says. “I quizzed my friends and bounced ideas off of people. It was the first time I had built something technical and had to think about usability.”

John also found a space where he could fail and grow. “CATLab was a good learning experience,” he says. “Even though it was difficult, it was awesome working as a member of a team and admitting when I was wrong. I could then move forward within a non-judgmental framework. I grew professionally by figuring out when to step back and lean on others. I really appreciated the camaraderie with all the CATLab teams and making lifelong friends.”

“Realizing that software can make people’s lives easier inspired me.”

In addition to gaining technological expertise, John developed his interpersonal skills and says he frequently uses what he learned from CATLab’s staff and students. He encourages other students to participate in this summer program, which has opened so many doors for him.

John graduated in May and joined the staff at AppFolio in Santa Barbara as a software developer. Jon Walker ’91, the company’s founder and former chief technology officer, has recruited dozens of fellow Westmont alums to work for him developing real estate software. As a recent college student, John brings relevant experience to his current project: student-housing software.

“I love writing software and helping people save time,” he says. “A lot of computer scientists want to keep you ON a product, but I want to keep you OFF the computer, which is supposed to save you time.”

People-Friendly Programming Magazine Fall 2023

John also valued his academic work in computer science, especially studying ethics and incorporating Christianity into his classes. One day, he hopes to start a nonprofit technology company, perhaps a social media site committed to transparency and access. Whatever he does, he’ll seek ways to use technology to help others.