Serena Nuccio set out on a mission to show what she was made of.
“I felt like I’d never proven anyone wrong,” says Nuccio, 23, and the director of marketing at Progressive Innovation & Automation in Plainfield, IL. “I’d see others get acknowledged for their intelligence, but no one acknowledged me when I did a good job. I wanted to be recognized.” She focused her efforts on making that happen, reaping rewards along the way.
When I ended up [almost earning] top honors in college, my dad said he was proud of me and he almost cried,” she says. “He’s very proud of everything I’ve done.”
She’s done a lot, beginning her studies at DeVry University at the age of 17, after meeting with a recruiter at her high school. That meeting turned her interest in web design into a full-blown pursuit of success.
Two very special aunts also motivated her. “My aunt Barb is actually a user experience designer for Cars.com and she brought me to her office numerous times to observe. My aunt Bonnie was diagnosed with cancer and passed away right before I graduated. She was a huge motivation for me,” Nuccio says. “Growing up, teachers weren’t always nice because I was a slow learner. [Bonnie] would tell me to prove them wrong, prove a point. She pushed me to aspire to grow bigger and do anything I wanted to do.”
What To Do: Design Or Tech?
First, Nuccio shifted from possibly not going to college to getting her undergraduate degree with honors in Multimedia Design and Development, then obtaining her MBA with a concentration in marketing at DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management.
She started by taking web design classes, fell in love with design programs like Illustrator and Photoshop, and showed aptitude for graphic design. As she continued her education, she took her first coding class and one day, everything sort of clicked, Nuccio says. She fell in love with coding.
“I was 19 years old, soon to have my undergraduate degree in hand, and interning for a company where I could apply both code and design,” she says. “That was critical, because where I work now, I switch between code and design on a weekly basis. My preference, though, is coding. I like that it’s concrete whereas with design everyone has a different viewpoint.”
She does that at Progressive Innovation & Automation, an innovative company that works to expedite processes in warehouses, shops and the like. “We create software for manufacturing execution systems and manufacturing intelligence,” says Nuccio. “We expedite processes in warehouses and shops, whether they’re manufacturing food, material, cars, or whatever.
“There’s really no one working on the shop floor. The software will route production from point A to point B, then recognize C and D are down, and will jump to F, so there’s no pause in the overall process,” Nuccio says. “The products made from this innovative, flexible assembly line approach include everything from windows and doors to [sorting and processing] vegetables and fruits.”
There, she does front-end web development, coding custom software and produces materials for company initiatives, trade shows, and more. “I wear many hats at work, and I like it that way.”
How She Found DeVry/Keller … and Gained Respect
Nuccio worked multiple jobs and three internships while an undergraduate student. “My first internship I was a web designer, and I hated it. I went to my professor for advice and she said, ‘Either leave or figure it out. Not every job is going to be your favorite or what you love to do.’”
She took that advice, left the internship, and started a new one at a design/print shop. She gained hands-on experience in design, marketing, even cold calling. “I learned so much from that job and they ended up hiring me part-time.”
Nuccio gives her professors a lot of credit for turnaround as a student and later in her career. “That’s DeVry helping me learn how to write,” she says. “Professor Michael Dufresne helped me learn to construct papers, then I’d turn them in ahead of time and work on them based on his feedback.
“I never felt as though I was treated as a service, that it was their duty to teach me. My teachers genuinely wanted to be there and were engaged in the class,” she says. “That’s why I’ve convinced so many people to go to DeVry, by highlighting how great DeVry treated me as a student.”
“My favorite part about DeVry from the time I started to finish, four years, every professor cared,” Nuccio says. “Every professor learned my name within a week, engaged with me throughout the session, addressed and corrected me if I did something wrong. Professors like Linda Jorth, Michael Shugarman and Dufresne took time to help me fix my mistakes. I learned from everything I did wrong and was able to improve right then and there.”
Nuccio gives a special nod to DeVry’s national dean of faculty. “I succeeded in school because I was active on campus, joining groups, and got introduced to Lynn Burks, my internship professor,” Nuccio says. “She inspired me so much in my career field, taught me how to apply school to work, and work to school.”
For her part, looking back, Burks is surprised that Nuccio ever considered herself an underachiever. “I never asked her about her high school experience. I assumed she was high-performing because she came to DeVry and was a rock star. She came in with energy, willingness, and the grit to overcome challenges,” Burks says. “She got to DeVry and was taking classes like crazy, running student groups, taking advantage of all the programs available to her.”
Looking Toward The Future
Nuccio says she brings the same motivation and dedication to her work that she did to her education. “Your job should include doing what you love, no matter how much money you make,” Nuccio says. “Even in coding and web design, the goal isn’t just to make money. It’s to make people feel unique and present on the web, then the money will come.”
Her goals are set: “Five years from now, I’d like to be helping this company grow. There’s a lot of pressure on me to do [day-to-day] tasks now, but I want to develop a marketing team that can help take this company even further,” she says. “There is so much knowledge, ability and experience here, and I want the world to know about it. Ten years from now, I’d love to own my own design company to help small businesses compete online and bring them into the modern world.”
When not taking on one challenge or another, Nuccio visits family in Arizona and loves hiking the desert there to “clear my mind.” She’s also taken up the habit of working out mornings, Monday through Friday, and does yoga on the weekends. “When I started waking up early and going to the gym, I felt better immediately. It’s like all the stress melts away.” Living and learning, it’s what Nuccio does.
We’ll stay in touch with Serena and keep you updated on her success, as well as new challenges she faces — and overcomes.