A young girl falls to the bottom of a dark cave and stumbles upon a magical red cape. When she dons it, gravity flips, complicating her quest to navigate the cave’s twisting tunnels and return to the surface.
That is the plot of Arise, a two-dimensional, side-scrolling video game Josh Fratis created during his first semester at Pitt, when the pandemic kept him mostly confined to his house. Building that pixelated world inspired Fratis to pursue a career in gaming.
The only problem? He had no idea where to begin. So, when he received an email last year from the School of Computing and Information announcing a new alumni mentoring program, he immediately signed up and got matched with Chris Caruso.
Caruso (SCI ’81) and fellow SCI Alumni Board member Amelius Carrillo (SCI ’13) launched the mentoring program in the spring of 2022. Though the men graduated decades apart, they share a passion for Pitt and a desire to support SCI students, particularly those who are underrepresented in the field.
The program pairs students and recent graduates with industry veterans via Pitt Commons, the online community where job seekers can make professional connections. About 70 students signed up for the program’s inaugural year and were matched based on their preferred criteria, including career interests. But the true value of the program happens outside those parameters.
“We offer help that goes beyond the specifics of our particular experience,” Caruso says. “It’s about learning how to pursue opportunities.”
That’s a lesson he quickly imparted on Fratis. Having spent his career in manufacturing, Caruso knew little of the gaming world, but he did understand how to network. So, he used LinkedIn to find Ken Hilf (SCI ’02), a senior software engineer with Blizzard Entertainment who was happy to share his gaming insight with an industry hopeful.
That single contact opened Fratis to new opportunities and a network of local game designers — all because his Pitt mentor was willing to reach out on his behalf.
“I’m grateful to Chris for being so supportive,” Fratis says. “He makes everything achievable.”
See what Pitt Commons can do for you. Visit commons.pitt.edu.
This story was published on May 5, 2023. It is part of Pitt Magazine's Spring 2023 issue.