University of Chicago Masters Program in Computer Science alumni push boundaries and innovate across many facets of industry. Whether it’s developing seamless UX interfaces, engineering software at fortune 500 companies, working in big data or keeping networks secure; our esteemed alumni use their applied skills education from MPCS to problem-solve, create, and elevate the computer science field. Learn from their stories and discover how a CS background can prepare you for cutting edge careers and leadership roles.
Alex Tsu, Class of 2015, is an Associate Product Manager at Foursquare. Alex shares his experience building an iOS app for the first time, tells what motivated him to join to the University of Chicago and gives insight into the daily life of a Product Manager.
Did you come to MPCS with a computer science background?
Yes, I had taken a number of Computer Science classes as an undergrad, but my major was in Economics.
What motivated you to join the MPCS?
By the time I was a senior in college, I knew that I wanted to work in the technology sector. I had taken a fair number of math and computer science classes, but I didn’t hold a formal technical degree. I loved that the MPCS offered the combination of CS fundamentals and classes that could be directly applicable to the workplace.
What was your favorite MPCS course? Why?
My favorite class was Andrew Binkowski’s iOS development class. I came into his class with no knowledge of iOS development. Yet, in just ten weeks, I gained the skills to build an App Store-ready app. Andrew didn’t just teach me the intricacies of an UITableViewController, he helped to instill a passion for coding and product development.
What is your favorite memory from your time spent as a MPCS student?
My favorite memory was presenting Yolotrip, an iOS app built with MPCS classmate Matthias Meier, at the conclusion of Andrew Binkowski’s iOS class. Through his class, Matthias and I learned to leverage Yelp’s public API to build an app that showcased nearby restaurants in a Tinder-inspired interface. We went from knowing nothing about iOS development to launching apps on the iTunes App Store.
How has your MPCS education impacted your career?
Without a Masters in Computer Science degree, I’m confident to say that I would not be a product manager now. The PM role may not require one to code, but great PMs need to understand how long a development task will take, what obstacles lie in a software engineer’s way, and how to be a translator between engineering and business stakeholders. My MPCS education set the foundations for me to be acquire those skills.
What does a great day at work look like for you?
The role of product manager can best be summarized as being the glue that binds the various stakeholders together in order to create a product that delights our users. A great day at work would include productive interactions with two key teams.
With our engineering team, I would discuss the feasibility of a new feature request, check on the status of existing tasks, and input any updates in our internal project management software.
With our business development team, I would document any feedback the BD team received from our clients and estimate when/if these new features can be integrated into our product.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
As a PM, I enjoy the chance to turn an idea into a tangible product. In particular, three moments during the development process stand out.
The first instance comes when your all-star engineers have finished coding a feature you specced out. The second instance comes when that feature or product is at last released to external users after months of toiling. The third instance comes when that product meets or exceeds our success metrics.
Would you recommend MPCS to others? If so, why?
Absolutely. Whether you’re looking to transition into a technical role or you’re looking to augment Computer Science knowledge you learned as an undergrad or at work, the MPCS program offers a fantastic education in the fundamentals of computer science and technology used in the industry.