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Alumni Hit The Ground Running, Help Texas Company Succeed in Big Data Computing Market

March 19, 2014

Kevin Risden

Visualizing Big Data: Kevin Risden, a 2012 computer science alumnus, helped Avalon Consulting colleague Andy Kruth (2011 software engineering graduate) used Hadoop software, Google Maps JS API V3, and JavaScript to create the heatmap that visualized traffic to the Patheos.com website from the day of and day after Pope Francis’ election last year.

When Avalon Consulting, LLC wanted to visualize Big Data concepts in an interesting way, they called upon the expertise of two of its youngest staff consultants: computer science and software engineering alumni Andy Kruth and Kevin Risden.

A few days before Pope Francis’ election in March, 2013, the two came up with the idea to track the traffic patterns at Patheos.com, the world’s leading website for religion and spirituality news, to assess the impact the announcement of the new pope would have on a global basis for Internet traffic.

A heatmap visualization was created from about four gigabytes of log data compiled in two separate files from the day of and day after the pope’s election, through Hadoop software.

The results were astonishing, and showcase how Rose-Hulman alumni can make immediate contributions to their companies. After all, Risden accomplished this project within six month of graduating in November, 2012. Kruth earned his degree in 2011 and was Avalon Consulting’s first collegiate hire ever.

Risden has also served as a technical lead in several Hadoop implementations, developed an impressive demo (processing 1.2 million e-mails in about 10 minutes), and given presentations to partners and prospective clients for Avalon, based in Plano, Texas. He also was among an elite group of developers worldwide invited to participate in a Hadoop Bootcamp last fall.

Avalon, whose staff in 2011 averaged roughly 15 years in enterprise implementation experience, initially had concerns as to whether a new college graduate (Kruth) would be able to survive being thrown into such a senior environment. Kruth’s performance quickly eliminated those fears. He has now managed  and developed large-scale content management and enterprise web systems for Patheos.com and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He is now a part of the firm’s leading Hadoop implementation practice.

"Patheos is a unique and fast-paced website with an innovative cloud-based architecture that makes it one of the world's most heavily trafficked sites. Thanks to his experiences at Rose-Hulman, Andy has been well equipped to deal with our daily challenges, as well as bursts in international demand that require dynamic thinking and complex problem-solving skills," says Leo Brunnick, Patheos’ chief executive officer.

Doug Mann, a 2012 computer science, software engineering, and mathematics alumnus joined Avalon in late 2013. Trey Cahill, a 2013 computer science alumnus, starts this month, while software engineering student Adam Westerman comes on board in  July after earning his diploma on May 31.

“Rose-Hulman graduates hit the ground running, which is important for a high-tech company in a competitive marketplace,” says Casey Green, Avalon's executive vice president of business development. The company usually hires employees with 10-or-more years of industry experience. “Employees from Rose-Hulman make an immediate impact. They have a set of skills that’s rare in the entry-level workforce.”