November 9, 2020
Las Vegas, N.M. – Three brothers who are New Mexico Highlands University alumni grew up with a passion for computer science and technology, developing video games together as children. All three have built successful professional careers based upon this early computer interest and their Highlands education.
Eric Alarid, 45, Jason Alarid, 43, and Shaun Alarid, 42, all found their niche in the computer science and technology world.
The brothers said that growing up in poverty, primarily in Northern New Mexico, made them more resilient, determined and resourceful. They moved often, lived briefly in homeless shelters, did yard work and ranch work for gas a grocery money, and wore donated clothes to school.
Eric Alarid is the co-owner of DesertGate Internet in Las Vegas, New Mexico, a company he established in 2002 with business partners Shannon and Ron Doss. DesertGate was the first local broadband provider in Las Vegas, starting with dial-up access for residents and small businesses. Today, DesertGate provides wireless broadband service to more than 3,000 customers in San Miguel and Mora counties.
“My objective with DesertGate Internet was to serve the underserved communities that the big telecommunication companies didn’t see as profitable and we still hold to this purpose, pushing out continuously to rural areas,” Eric said. “With a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Highlands in 2002 and humble beginnings, I started DesertGate the same year with Shannon and Ron Doss. DesertGate gives me the opportunity to combine my love of computers with cutting-edge technology that serves people.”
Jason Alarid said their mother, Joyce Anne Alarid, took computer science classes at Highlands and encouraged her young sons to pursue their natural interest in technology.
“Our mother bought a computer with money she borrowed from our grandmother and I learned how to program when I was nine,” Jason said. “Even back then, I knew I wanted to be a computer scientist. Over the years, I have worked in many institutions and businesses including the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Microsoft and Lockheed Martin.”
In 2000, Jason was the first of the brothers to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Highlands. Today, Jason lives in Seattle and is the 2020 co-founder and engineer for the startup company ProMinute, which developed a mobile app for higher education. Isaac Roybal, a fellow Highlands alumnus and friend, is Jason’s business partner at ProMinute.
Since 2012, Shaun Alarid, the youngest brother, has been the director of the Information Technology Department at the United World College – USA in Montezuma, New Mexico, near Las Vegas. He first graduated from Highlands in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in management information systems and went on to earn a master’s degree in media arts and computer science in 2010.
“I chose a career in technology because I have always been very interested in computers and it provides me with the opportunity to develop advanced skills while building something I can be proud of,” Shaun said. “At the United World College, I am responsible for integrating and maintaining all campus technology. This includes all technology learning systems, campus communications and software platforms as well as the school’s security systems and data infrastructure.”
The brothers all took advantage of professional opportunities when they were students at Highlands, including working with the university’s Information Technology Services (ITS).
Eric landed two computer science internships at Sandia National Laboratory and traveled four times to Africa to complete research and computer networking projects for academic departments at Highlands. Jason created a machine learning system in partnership with the then Electrical Engineering Department at Highlands, presenting his work at a NASA conference. Shaun gained networking experience at ITS and developed web production skills in his media arts graduate program that he uses daily.
The brothers said the excellent education they received at Highlands prepared them to succeed in the technical world.
“Being in the tight-knit Computer Science Department at Highlands was like being part of a big supportive family,” Jason said. “This was especially important to us because our mother died in 1998.”