The devastating events of September 11, 2001, completely and undeniably changed the lives of millions of Americans. A country reeling from loss, shaken by uncertainty, was catapulted into a war on terror. Americans were angry and many stepped up to help however they could. Stash Noga ’94 felt that same sense of duty. With his skills as a software engineer and preexisting security clearance, the best way he felt he could contribute to the country’s defense was by working as a civilian contractor for the Department of Defense Intelligence Community.
Stash earned degrees in computer engineering and mathematics from the University of South Florida in December of 2000, after switching majors from mechanical engineering and transferring from Virginia Tech. He’d been working for a small web consulting firm in Orlando when 9/11 happened and the Computer Sciences Corporation called asking if he could help. “It was an all-hands-on-deck scenario,” he explains. “Anyone with skills and clearance was put to work trying to figure out what had happened and how it happened. I spent the next 11 years working to prevent it from happening again.”
As a civilian contractor in signals intelligence, Stash was tasked with writing software that would alert analysts to particular behavior or events that occurred over monitored communication channels. Later, he focused on geospatial applications that correlated actions, events, and messages to particular places on the map. That data was then compiled into intelligence reports that the State Department used in evacuations or counter attacks.
“It was challenging work, but it was not work that had to be used solely for counterterrorism. So, after we got bin Laden, I decided I wanted to go do something else,” Stash says.
“Something else” just so happened to be landing a job at the very company he’d fallen in love with as a child: Disney. Stash has been to Walt Disney World every year since 1976. In the summer of 1996, he took part in the Walt Disney World College Program, which, along with being closer to his now-wife Melissa, is what inspired him to transfer to USF to finish his degrees. He so enjoyed his experience as an intern that when the opportunity arose in July 2012 to join Walt Disney World Scientific Systems as a senior software engineer, he didn’t have to think twice.
“Scientific Systems is the group that supports Walt Disney Imagineering at the theme park level, meaning we take over ownership once the creative product is delivered and installed,” Stash explains. “While Imagineering is focused on delivering high-quality attractions and experiences, Scientific Systems is in the business of making things ultrareliable.”
During his six years with Scientific Systems, Stash created a custom software framework that made it easier for other engineers to build tools and dashboards to monitor their attractions. He also wrote the theme park exit counter application that could count guests as they left when the parks switched over from turnstiles to MagicBands. “It took about six months to develop the entire exit infrastructure, but it has been in operation without fault for over seven years, which is something I am extremely proud of,” he says.
In 2018, Stash was invited to join Walt Disney Imagineering. “This was the dream job of my youth, realized,” he says. He took over the installation, testing, and software integration of all interactive attractions at the NBA Experience in Disney Springs. “Ironically, basketball is the only sport I ever asked to quit. I thank my parents for making me honor the commitment to the team and finish the season. There is a lesson there for sure.”
Stash took over the NBA Experience at “crunch time,” with just six months before it was to be turned over to the Operations Cast. “It takes commitment and a lot of sleepless nights to deliver a Disney attraction, let alone 13 separate attractions under one roof,” he recalls. “I could not have pulled it off were it not for the team I surrounded myself with.” One of his proudest moments was taking his parents to the public opening of the attraction and watching them play the interactive games he’d worked so hard on.
Stash was in the process of developing the hardware and software infrastructure for the Play! Pavilion at EPCOT Center when COVID-19 hit pause on the project. Play! Pavilion is another interactive arena with one-of-a-kind games, photos, and play places that all had to be designed, integrated, and tested before opening to the public. It is expected to open summer 2021.
Stash recently took on a new challenge, accepting a position as a solutions architect in security engineering at the video game company Electronic Arts Inc. (EA). In his new role, he protects game code from theft or leaks. The position uses all of Stash's acquired knowledge from software development as well as critical analysis of vendor offerings in the Cloud marketplace.
“In a nutshell, I have spent enough time as a developer, integrator, and reliability engineer that I have earned the respect of my peers to pick solutions for the entire team,” Stash explains. “I do not spend nearly as much time developing solutions as I do negotiating, making partnerships between internal teams to share cloud data storage, and convincing leadership that escalating budgets are in expected ranges and normal in the course of the business. Creative problem solving and thinking outside the box are a part of my every day.”
Though he sometimes misses the high-pressure, hands-on work of an Imagineer, Stash looks forward to what is in store for him in this next chapter.