B.S., Computer Science 2006
How did you become interested in your field?
I’ve always had an interest and affinity for technology, plus I LOVE problem-solving, brain-teasers, and other such mental exercises. Initially, I wanted to major in math, but then thought it might be better to pick something a little more practical. I decided to jump on the Bureau of labor statistics website to look for jobs in a technical field with a lot of growth, and software engineer was right there at the top. As it turns out, I really enjoyed the work and the curriculum so it worked out very well for me.
What do you do for a living now? What do you enjoy most about your current career position?
I am currently Vice President of a mid-size software company (~100 employees). I have a staff of about 30 working for me in various client services positions from implementations, installations, and support to custom module design and development to meet client needs. While it may not be the software engineering position that I had thought I’d be in, I find that the skills that I learned starting out as a software engineer and from my CS curriculum help me create tools to improve and manage workflow, as well as understand client issues and needs and how best to resolve them. I love that aspect of my job – coming up with solutions to complex problems.
What have been the biggest challenges in your career?
The biggest challenge that I faced in my career thus far is learning how to delegate tasks to other employees. One of the problems with having CS degree is that I know how to develop the solutions to the problems my clients are facing, and I found, especially early on, that letting go of that control and placing it in the hands of others can be very difficult.
What is the best professional lesson you learned from the Computer Science Department?
The best lesson that the CS department taught me was how to make use of the resources around me. There’s always a solution to a problem out there, you just have to know how to look for it. There were many classes where I felt as though I didn’t have enough information to understand a language, or to complete project, or to debug an error, but as long as I looked hard enough and long enough I was always able to find it. That was an invaluable skill as a developer, and even more invaluable as a manager – it allows me to ensure that the solutions we come upon are not just adequate, but the best possible solutions we can develop to meet our clients’ needs.
What was the best class you took? Did you have a favorite Professor?
The best class I took was Algorithms and their Analysis with Professor Tarokh. It was a very difficult class and one that I worked especially hard at. However, it was a class that taught me the value of hard work, and helped me form some strong bonds with other people in the program. The best professors/lecturers I had were Root, Riggins, and Leonard. Root brought an enthusiasm and theoretical approach to the classes that was very refreshing. He brought up topics that I never even though of, and reinvigorated my interest in computer science and math at a time when I had become bored. Riggins was a serious man that took his class seriously. He expected a lot of out of his students and in doing so I got a lot out of his class. Leonard brought some real world experience to class as well as some humor. His assignments were difficult and required a lot of research, but the challenge was rewarding.
What is your favorite memory from the time spent in the department?
My favorite memory of the CS department was spending every Saturday and sometimes Sundays from 10 – 5 working on the problems from the Algorithms and there analysis class. Me, one other undergraduate, and 3 graduate students would find an empty classroom in the BAM building and work on the problems all day long, drawing them out on the chalkboard and hashing it out until we got them right. My other favorite thing was during finals when I’d spend all-nighters cramming for tests, drinking XL coffees from 7/11 like a mad man.
What advice do you have for our current students?
Be open to the many avenues that a degree in computer science offers you. As a CS degree holder, you have a skill that many do not, and is in high demand. It’s not the only skill you have though, and it’s not the only ability you should hone. Also work on your social skills, your writing ability, your public speaking ability, your ability to communicate efficiently, and your ability to explain complex ideas to people with dissimilar backgrounds. These skills combined with your technical ability will make you invaluable to a company, and will basically give you the keys to the kingdom. Basically, pay attention in your writing classes, maybe even take a few extras (I recommend the art of the informal essay, if that class is still available), and work hard in the few speech classes that you are required to take.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, work with someone on your resume before you send it out. I am now responsible for reviewing resumes, and I can’t tell you how important it is. If your resume is not succinct, is not formatted correctly, or contains any obvious misspellings, you will immediately be discounted. I receive about 80 resumes at a time and spend a maximum of 5 seconds on each of them in my first round of reviews – consider that when you’re sending your resume out. Use the resources that the school makes available to you.
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