Donnie Santos 1 28 15

Host: Hannaneh Hamrahian


Donnie Santos earned his bachelors degree in computer science from John Carroll University in 2001. He earned his masters degree in computer science from Case Western Reserve University in 2005.

Work Experience
Donnie Santos has been working at Progressive Insurance as a software developer for the last ten years. He has played a part in every development phase of Progressive's mobile application as well as playing a role in every major web acquisition initiative. In addition, he and another developer re-wrote Progressive's insurance quoting application from scratch using C# and flash techniques (Can be seen here:

His latest project which has been working on Progressive Mobile is an application for Android and iOS. The app supports all three major aspects of Progressive's business: Quoting, Servicing, and Claims.

Teaching Experience
Has worked at Cuyahoga Community College and Lakeland Community College for eight years. He teaches C#, Web Development, and Game Programming.

C# / .NET Framework / C / C++ / Visual Basic / HTML5 / CSS3 / SASS / JavaScript / JQuery / Angular / Objective-C / Java / Android / Flash / ActionScript-3 / MVC4 / ASP.NET / .NET WebAPI / SQL Server

His resume:


Santos will be discussing his technical experiences in the industry and will be providing advice on how to best make the transition from academia to the real world of software development.


  • Stated that his John Carroll education was very theory based in a positive way. Credits his ability to pick up a language quickly due to his classes here at JCU.
  • When talking about grad school, he stated that he does know whether grad school for computer science is beneficial. He took some difficult classes and aided a faculty member in the research he/she was doing.
  • He began working at Progressive right after grad school, and was placed on the Quoting team.

XML Experience

  • He began his job by pretty much only writing XML conditional statements that would then be delivered to a server.
  • He did this for three years, and found that he had an eagerness to find out how everything worked as the majority of people did not know what was happening behind the scenes with the XML they were writing.
  • So Donnie started learning how the in-house meta data frameworks worked and started teaching others how they worked as well.

Flash Experience

  • Progressive then decided that they no longer wanted their website to be just HTML, they wanted users to have a flash experience.
  • This posed a problem as the servers couldn't read the information off of the flash. The other developers tried to find a solution to the problem but they were unsuccessful in finding a solution that was not too complex.
  • Donnie and his friend decided they would try and come up with a solution themselves by working on it during the evenings and weekends.

Flash Quoting Project

  • They realized that the best solution was to toss out the existing program and to start from scratch.
  • They programmed in C# while the client-side was in Flash.
  • Their vision for the program was that it would be very simple. They wanted recent college graduates to be able to look at the program and understand what was going on right away.
  • When their project reached completion, they brought the program into Progressive to show their managers. However, no one was interested so Donnie and his friend had to show their program to people higher up in the company.
  • People agreed to listen to him so Donnie and his friend gave a presentation to Progressive's architects. The architects were impressed and it was put into production.

Interesting Point: Development jobs are 90% interacting with others and 10% coding.


1.) How has Progressive dealt with the decline in Flash?

  • The desktop version of Progressive's website still gives users a flash experience. However, for Progressive's mobile application they had to find an alternative solution as iPhones and iPads do not support flash. So the mobile application provides users with a responsive HTML experience. Donnie has been working and is still currently working on this project.

2.) What was your interview experience at Progressive like?

  • Four interviews which were each one hour long. There were no technical questions, it was mostly behavioral.

3.) How does one get into doing research and higher level development in a non-IT company versus just being in charge of maintaining existing programs?

  • Progressive is a software company. It is the bad programmers that get stuck with maintenance in a company.

4.) Was it like having multiple managers and having to jump from team to team?

  • It is not as traumatic as you would think. If you do not like jumping to different teams, most companies are considerate enough to take your personal preference into consideration.

5.) Did you masters degree make you gain more knowledge as a programmer?

  • He had difficultly answering whether it made him a better programmer, but he said it taught him to try hard. "You can't be a good programmer if you don't love it. Like being a musician, you can't expect to be a good guitar player if you don't love playing the guitar."

6.) Should you be worried if the job you are applying to involves a language that one if unfamiliar with?

  • No, you should not let that hinder you from applying to a job.

7.) Do you experience the business side of the company changing their mind about how things should work while you are working on a project?

  • Yes. Sometimes the people higher up in the company fight among themselves and you don't know who to listen to.

8.) What are deadline expectations like at Progressive?

  • They are not too harsh. Sometimes you will get a pep talk. The important part is to be working hard.

9.) Can you talk about the R&D aspects at Progressive?

  • They are trying to do more industry standard development vs. in-house development. Every once in a while they do R&D in the planning phase of the business side. They also engage in prototyping and have a user lab in which outsiders try to use a website/mobile application to see which areas they found easy to work with and which areas they found difficult.

Follow-Up Questions

1.) Is it typical for Progressive's interviews to be mainly behavioral questions?

  • "For college hires at Progressive, the interview questions we ask are overwhelmingly behavior based, but we do obviously notice technical experience on a resume and could throw in a few technical questions."

2.) When would you be interested in coming back at John Carroll as a recruiter?

  • "My plan is to personally hold an info session myself to recruit Juniors and Seniors in the Fall of 2015. Between now and that time, I’ll be in touch with Dr. Palmer."