Grad Discovers his Code to Success in Coeur d’Alene
A burgeoning Lake City engineering program has allowed Alex Parenti to turn his lifelong passions for art and math into a rewarding career.
From high above the streets of downtown Coeur d’Alene, Alex Parenti works to perfect his senior project, monitoring prime parking spots through a mobile app.
The experience of completing a second bachelor’s degree at the University of Idaho might inspire déjà vu for Parenti, if not for this lakeside city and the wisdom that comes only with experience.
Parenti will graduate in spring 2019 with a degree in computer science after developing the Park-My-Ride app with fellow student Amanda Ward. Their system tracks open parking spaces through a rooftop computer that sends data to a mobile app. For now, Park-My-Ride is limited to one parking lot and is not yet public, but the strides Ward and Parenti have made will allow incoming students to build upon their research.
Navigating North in Pursuit of Dreams
A Boise native, Parenti moved to Moscow after high school to pursue a career in architecture. Early on, his affinity for both art and technology drew Parenti to virtual technology and design. He earned his bachelor’s degree from U of I’s College of Art and Architecture in 2012.
A tech startup job brought Parenti to Coeur d’Alene. Designing alongside computer programmers, Parenti found himself leaning into the development side whenever possible and creating apps in his free time after work.
“My off-time hobby was learning C# and making simple games in Unity because that’s what I enjoyed doing,” he said.
Parenti put his original passion for architecture and his design skills together when he landed a job with Chief Architect, a Coeur d’Alene-based developer of 3D home design software. It felt like the right place — but not the right role — for the long term. Away from work, his skills in coding grew. He published two apps and made a decision.
“If this is what I’m doing for fun, this is what I should be doing for a career,” he said, “It pays better, and I’m more interested in it.”
If this is what I’m doing for fun, this is what I should be doing for a career. It pays better, and I’m more interested in it. Alex Parenti
Opportunity Arises at Home
Happy at Chief Architect, Parenti started looking for ways to earn a computer science degree without having to move. A year into his search, with a newborn and toddler at home, he discovered U of I would soon launch that exact program in Coeur d’Alene.
“I almost started at a different school that would have been fully online, but I’m glad I didn’t,” he said. “This was a lot nicer, especially since I’d already graduated from U of I.”
The computer science program was established to help meet the needs of the growing tech presence in North Idaho. Department faculty and their expanding library of robots made a home at the downtown Innovation Den, where education and business startups work side by side.
“We practice hands-on engineering and project-oriented learning,” said John Shovic, U of I computer science faculty. “Being a relatively new program, students get a lot of one-on-one interaction, advice and challenges from professors.”
Alex’s creativity shows up because he thinks outside the box. He innovates beyond what’s required and continuously surprises me with his insights. John Shovic, U of I Computer Science Faculty
Design Shines Through in Programs
Parenti’s expertise in design was evident in class projects, according to his professor.
“Alex’s creativity shows up because he thinks outside the box,” Shovic said. “He innovates beyond what’s required and continuously surprises me with his insights.”
Sticking to his passions of art, mathematics and technology — as well as the places that felt like home — paid off. Two days after earning his degree, Parenti officially turns his hobby into a career as a software engineer at Chief Architect, the company he’s been with since 2014.
“I’m taking ideas and making them come to life,” he said. “In art, you bring your designs to life visually. With code, you see your designs come to life in a different way.”
Article and photography by Katie Marshall, University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene
Published May 2019.