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.
Andrew Melis, Class of 2013, is a Software Engineer at Raise. Andrew gives advice for those looking to enter the field of Computer Science, shares what motivated him to apply to the University of Chicago and tells how his non-CS background proved to be an asset when starting his MPCS journey.
Did you come to MPCS with a computer science background?
I majored in Economics, Psychology, and English as an undergraduate. While I certainly did not learn to code while studying those fields, I believe those experiences help me better understand non-technical domains and translate those ideas into software solutions.
What motivated you to apply and enroll in MPCS?
After completing my undergraduate degree, I got a job in a hospital entering data into software that was unbelievably painful to use. I quickly realized I wanted to create good software instead of using bad software.
What was your favorite MPCS course? Why?
My favorite course was Web Development with Jeff Cohen. Jeff, with both his curriculum and their demeanor, was the first to make me feel confident that I could actually build things in this industry. The class was taught at 1871; and the tremendous amount of energy and excitement in the shared workspace was infectious as I was beginning my career in software.
What is your favorite memory from your time spent as a MPCS student?
While a few lectures and assignments stand out, the best part of being in MPCS was being surrounded by brilliant, motivated, and energetic classmates. Everyone was there to improve each and every day, and I've tried to carry that attitude into my professional career.
How has your MPCS education helped you achieve your professional goals?
I feel completely equipped to grow and improve. The whiteboarding problem given to me at my first technical interview was taught in Gerry Brady's very first Algorithms lecture, and I reference my notes and textbooks frequently. I could not be more thrilled with the trajectory of my career after receiving my Masters in Computer Science from The University of Chicago.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I like to begin the morning with a creative exercise, like an informal exploration of a solution to a problem the team has been grappling with, preferably somewhere other than my desk. It helps me get engaged while relaxing concerns about edge cases and production-readiness. After a daily stand-up meeting where the team syncs up, I try to block the day into solving two or three meaningful problems, usually pair-programming with a teammate. Solving problems often means spending time with stakeholders more than it does hacking away at code. As the evening approaches, I drift into more of a refine-and-polish approach to complete the day's work.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
Writing software is extremely creative, especially in an environment with extremely bright people in our industry. I love working towards elegant solutions, layering ideas until they click into place, and building answers to meaningful business problems.
Would you recommend MPCS to others? If so, why?
Absolutely. The MPCS builds solid fundamentals and a passion for growth. The program exposes students to a breadth of subjects and prepares students to contribute immediately with training in current technologies and tools. More importantly, students are prepared to keep up with the rapidly changing industry. They are taught to recognize and leverage similarities across technology stacks--enabling targeted learning on key differences.
What is a piece of advice you’d give someone considering applying to UChicago’s Masters Program in Computer Science?
Write a little piece code that does something; then imagine a career where you work towards that feeling of exultation every single day. MPCS can help you get there.
At a more practical level, I can’t stress enough the importance of finding an apprenticeship, internship, or some setting to work with professional software developers (ask if you could "pair" with them for a day) before graduating from the program. You will see not only what to expect from your career, but also learn what employers expect from software professionals.
Finally, once you have started your career, find the good developers (either within your organization or in the community) and engage them. Adopt their good habits, learn their favorite tools, and ask them to review code you have written for work and at home.Read more alumni profiles here or learn about MPCS program and application process.